New England Patriots Rookie Profile: Kyle Dugger

A deep look at one of the Patriots' second round picks of the 2020 NFL Draft.
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  • Position: Safety
  • Age: 24
  • Hometown: Decatur, GA
  • College: Lenoir-Rhyne

Measurables

  • Height: 6-foot-1
  • Weight: 217 pounds
  • Arms: 32 7/8 inches
  • Hands: 10 3/8 inches

Combine Results

  • 40-yard dash: 4.49 seconds
  • Bench press: 17 reps
  • Vertical jump: 42.0 inches
  • Broad jump: 134.0 inches

Kyle Dugger is the first player to be drafted from Div. 2 Lenoir-Rhyne since 2000. In 2019, he battled through a hand injury that forced him to start only seven games, but the injury didn't cause his production to dip at all. In those seven games, Dugger recorded 31 tackles, two interceptions and one tackle for loss. He allowed only 35% of passes thrown into his coverage to be completed, which helped him earn a 76.7 coverage grade from PFF. He was named second-team All-American and got first-team All-South Atlantic honors as a defensive back last season. 

Dugger does much more than just cover, though. Along with earning a 81.7 run defense grade from PFF, the Div. 2 standout also excelled as a return specialist. In 2019, he returned 12 punts for 175 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 14.6 yards per return, with a long of 68 yards. In his career at Lenoir-Rhyne (five seasons) he reeled in 67 punt returns and totaled 929 yards and six touchdowns on those returns. 

The biggest question surrounding Dugger is how he would stack up against higher-level competition after playing against Div. 2 talent his entire collegiate career. At the Senior Bowl he did very well in 1-on-1 drills, forcing two incompletions. But in-game he struggled in coverage, allowing two touchdowns. However, the Patriots saw enough from him that week to think he can still excel against better competition. 

"Big, he's tough, he's fast, he's smart," Director of player personnel Nick Caserio said of Dugger following Day 2 of the NFL Draft. "He has some four-down type elements. Return to playing in the kicking game. Played well at his level of competition. Held his own at the Senior Bowl against better competition. One of the things you like to see or you look for is the player like that with that background to see how they hold up in that environment. He acquitted himself fairly well. A fairly mature kid."

Because of his skill set, Dugger at some point is expected to fill the role that is currently filled by veteran Patrick Chung. Dugger's run defense grade shows how he excels as a box safety, and his measurables and coverage grade show that he can stack up against bigger-bodied receivers and tight ends in coverage, which are the same things Chung does in his role in New England's defense. 

At 32 years old, Chung showed a decline in overall production last season (he earned a 54.9 overall PFF grade in 2019 compared to 68.7 in 2018) which hints at his best days on the football field being behind him. That's likely why the Patriots drafted Dugger, so he could learn behind Chung for the 2020 season, play a limited role, and potentially take over in 2021. 

Being a situational player on defense is likely in the works for Dugger in his rookie season, but being a return specialist could be his most prominent role in 2020. Wideout Gunner Olszewski was the primary punt returner for New England last season before being place on IR in November. However, with a fierce competition set to play out at receiver this summer, there's a chance Olszewski may not make the team this year. Because of that, Dugger could be slotted as the primary punt returner in 2020.