By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — We’re about to go on a journey — together. Because you’re probably wondering the same thing as us right now: Who the heck is Kyle Dugger, and why did the Patriots use a second-round pick on him?
We should all know by now that Bill Belichick loves to draft unconventional defensive backs in the second round. Unfortunately, those picks don’t have the best track record of working out. But Dugger, who comes to the NFL from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, could buck that trend.
With Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung another year older, the Patriots needed to get a bit younger at safety. Dugger will now have the luxury of learning from one of the best in the business in McCourty, and could find some immediate playing time should Chung get dinged up again.
Here’s what you need to know about New England’s first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft:
– Dugger stands at 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, and will likely play free safety in the NFL. In addition to being a fast, hard-hitting safety, he’s also a solid punt returner, scoring six touchdowns for the Bears.
– He’s the first player to be drafted from Lenoir-Rhyne University since John Milem was drafted in the fifth round by San Francisco in 2000. Overall, Dugger is the ninth player to ever be drafted from the North Carolina school.
– Dugger was born on March 22, 1996 and is from Fayetteville, Georgia. He was an All-County pick at Whitewater High School in both football and basketball.
– After red-shirting his first year at Lenoir-Rhyne, he started 10 games for the Bears in 2015. He totaled 43 total tackles (28 solo and 15 assisted) and led the team with six pass breakups and four interceptions, which earned him South Atlantic Conference Defensive Freshman of the Year.
– He had to redshirt again in 2016 after suffering a meniscus injury in the Bears opener. He was back in 2017 though, recording 87 tackles, an interception and 10 passes defended in 10 games, earning Second Team All-Conference honors. He also returned 20 punts, including one for a touchdown.
– Dugger really broke out in his junior year, earning First Team All-SAC honors at both safety and return specialist. He played in all 14 games at safety and recorded 76 total tackles, three interceptions (a career-best) while also forcing a pair of fumbles and picking up three fumble recoveries.
– He returned two punts for touchdowns in the same game against Newberry during his junior season, finding paydirt from 69 and 64 yards out. He was second in the nation that year with 534 punt return yards.
– A hand injury limited Dugger to just seven games as a senior in 2019, but he still made a big enough impact to win the Cliff Harris Award, given to the best defensive player in Division II. He had a 30-yard pick-six in the 2019 opener, one of his two interceptions that day, and finished the year with 31 tackles and four pass breakups.
– He had another two-touchdown game on special teams as a senior, returning a pair of punts against UVA-Wise. That afternoon, Dugger became the Lenoir-Rhyne all-time leader in punt return yardage with 929.
– Overall during his college career, Dugger registered 237 tackles (152 of which were solo tackles), 10 interceptions, 36 passes defended, six forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, and two blocked kicks over 42 games.
– He is super motivated to prove he belongs in the NFL. On his conference call after being drafted, he said that not getting any Division I offers left “a mountain on my shoulder” that will never leave him.
You probably want to see this kid in action. Well, here he is making some big picks, big hits, and some truly absurd returns. There’s also a highlight package provided by the Patriots above:
CLNS Media’s Evan Lazar also has a great thread of what Dugger had to offer in school and at the Senior Bowl:
Dugger also had six career punt return TDs and projects as a core special teamer in kick coverage as well. Most of his punt returns had a lot of D2 guys standing no chance against him in the open field. Still, he has the feel for it and vision as a ball carrier. pic.twitter.com/pa6FFlaPcm
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 8, 2020
Defensive backs taken in the second round have been a bit of a roller coaster for the Patriots, but we’ll see if Dugger can break that trend.