The New England Patriots traded out of their 23rd overall position in the first round of this year’s draft, acquiring two additional picks on Day Two in the process. One of them — the 37th overall selection — was invested in a small-school safety: Kyle Dugger out of Lenoir-Rhyne. While coming from a Division-II school, Dugger was one of the most intriguing defensive backs in the draft due to his versatile skillset and impressive athletic profile.
That said, he does not come without some questions. For one, he will face a rather steep learning curve upon entering the NFL and playing against vastly superior competition than the one he faced at Lenoir-Rhyne. Furthermore, Dugger has some injury issues on his résumé that we will now take a closer look at.
2016 (redshirt sophomore): Dugger had already established himself as a starter on the Bears’ defense by the 2016 season, but his redshirt sophomore campaign came to an end after only one in-game appearance. During a practice drill at light speed in September, he tore his meniscus while making a cut. The injury forced him to take a medical redshirt and miss the remainder of the season.
2019 (sixth-year senior): After returning from his meniscus injury, Dugger went on to start 31 straight games between 2017 and 2019. However, his senior season came to a premature end just seven games in when he suffered a finger injury in October. “I did miss time with a finger, but it’s almost 100 percent. The mobility is there. Everything is completely back to normal almost, so things are really good,” he said about the injury during his introductory media conference call last week.
What this means for the Patriots
Even though he suffered two de facto season-ending injuries in his six years at Lenoir-Rhyne, Dugger should not be seen as an injury-prone player. Both the knee and the hand injury he suffered should be seen more as freak accidents rather than proof that he enters the NFL with any true medical red flags. If that were the case, the Patriots would likely not have drafted him in Round Two at the behest of their medical personnel.
Speaking of the Patriots: while Dugger’s meniscus injury will not have an impact on his preparation for the 2020 season, the finger injury he might have. As he noted in his conference call, it is “almost 100 percent” which means there is still some room for improvement, even though it is possible Dugger may not have spoken from a medical position of knowledge but rather made his statement based his feel on the situation.
Nevertheless, New England will keep a closer eye on the finger heading into offseason workouts. When it comes to training camp and the regular season, though, the injury will likely not have any impact on the rookie and his usage whatsoever.