Patriots draft safety Kyle Dugger: Bill Belichick fills sneaky need, adds heir to Patrick Chung

It’s all right if you were scratching your head when the Patriots selected safety Kyle Dugger out of Lenoir–Rhyne. After all, the 6-foot-1, 217 pounder played his college ball at the D-II level, so he wasn’t as accessible to the common college football fan as the likes of fellow safely Xavier McKinney out of Alabama, who was selected just ahead of New England being on the clock. That said, Dugger does have the potential to become a household name in Foxborough if things fall the right way as CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso gives the selection an A grade

Right off the jump, Dugger fills a couple of needs as the club is looking to get faster across the board and needs some depth at the safety spot. They traded away Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions and, while they were able to re-sign captain Devin McCourty and have Patrick Chung on the roster for 2020, both of those safeties will begin next season at age 33. With the addition of Dugger, they have a player who possesses the rare combination of size, speed and is a freak athlete, who turned in a 40 time of 4.49 seconds. 

Specifically, Dugger should be looked at as a potential heir to Patrick Chung as New England’s box safety/linebacker type thanks to that size and physicality. Bill Belichick has admitted in the past that the Patriots didn’t exactly use Chung properly during his first stint (2009-12) with the team as he was mainly used as a free safety. Upon his return to the club (2014-present) following a year spent with the Eagles, Chung was moved to his now familiar strong/box safety spot. While it’s impossible to say that Chung and Dugger are carbon copies of one another, those trial and errors with Chung could now become beneficial for Dugger as he enters a franchise that has a specific role in their secondary that can play to his strengths. 

He can play in high zone coverage and is particularly strong in run support. If he fills the Chung role, he’ll be deployed against tight ends from time-to-time. At Lenoir–Rhyne, Dugger won the Cliff Harris Award, which is the Defensive Player of the Year award for D-II. He played in just seven games last year due to a hand injury, but finished with 31 tackles, six passes defended and two picks. He really popped on NFL radars during the spring with his impressive testing — including a 42-inch vertical — and a solid Senior Bowl. 

Because of the lower-level competition he played against, there will unquestionably be a learning curve and a drastic speed increase for Dugger at the NFL level. Luckily for New England, it doesn’t need him to jump into the mix right away. The Pats have the ability to develop his rare combination of talent behind leaders like Chung and McCourty to eventually take the mantel in the seasons to come. 

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