In the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected safety Patrick Chung, who, after some growing pains and a brief stint in Philadelphia, became one of the most important defensive backs of the Bill Belichick era.
In the decade that followed, the Patriots used second-round draft picks on six additional DBs, including one in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. To say they failed to reach Chung’s heights would be an understatement.
New England on Friday drafted a seventh: Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger (37th overall).
Dugger, who unlike some other Patriots safeties previously drafted in this range, was projected as a Day 2 pick and considered one of the top players at his position in this year’s draft, despite his small-school pedigree. The onus will be on him to snap this unfortunate trend:
Ras-I Dowling, CB (2010, No. 33 overall): Drafted with the first pick in the second round, Dowling appeared in just nine games for the Patriots over two seasons, tallying one pass breakup and no interceptions.
Tavon Wilson, S (2012, No. 48): Viewed as a major reach at the time, Wilson had a solid rookie season (four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, four starts, 16 games), then hardly played outside of special teams for the rest of his Patriots tenure.
Jordan Richards, S (2015, No. 64): Projected as a late Day 3 pick entering the draft, Richards played like one during his three seasons with the Patriots. He never looked comfortable on defense and, after struggling mightily in Super Bowl LII, was traded for a seventh-round pick.
Cyrus Jones, CB (2016, No. 60): Drafted as much for his return ability as his defensive prowess, Jones’ rookie season was marked by poor ball security and equally poor on-field decision-making, resulting in a string of healthy scratches to end the year. He missed the 2017 season due to a torn ACL, then was cut the following summer.
Duke Dawson, CB (2018, No. 56): Dawson, whom the Patriots traded up to acquire, didn’t see the field as a rookie despite being activated off injured reserve in November, then was traded before his second season. He’s the only first- or second-round pick in the Belichick era to never appear in a regular-season game for New England.
Joejuan Williams, CB (2019, No. 52): It’s too early to write off Williams, but he was buried at the bottom of a stacked depth chart last season, playing just 8 percent of New England’s defensive snaps.
Dugger primarily played free safety at Lenoir-Rhyne but has the size (6-foot-1, 217 pounds) to fill a hybrid linebacker role at the NFL level. He also brings punt-return ability, returning six for touchdowns in college.