The New England Patriots dipped into the Division II ranks to find their first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.
After trading out of the first round Thursday night, the Patriots used the 37th overall pick on Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger.
Dugger is a big (6-foot-1, 217 pounds), athletic, small-school prospect who primarily played free safety in college but has hybrid linebacker potential at the NFL level.
The 24-year-old led all defensive backs at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 42-inch vertical jump and ranked second among safeties with a 134-inch broad jump. He also ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash and boasted the longest arms of any safety at the combine (32 7/8 inches).
Dugger, who impressed against top-tier competition at the Senior Bowl, won the Cliff Harris Award as the top defensive player in Division II last season despite suffering a season-ending wrist injury just seven games in. He tallied 10 interceptions and 36 passes defended in 42 collegiate games and also is an accomplished punt returner, running six back for touchdowns at Lenoir-Rhyne.
Here’s what Lance Zierlein wrote in Dugger’s NFL.com draft profile:
“It’s rare to find a safety with elite size, speed, explosiveness and production at a Power 5 school and almost impossible to find one at a Division II school. Dugger crammed the stat sheet full and used those elite traits to dominate the opposition. At times, he seems bored with his level of competition, but his engagement can be instant and urgent when it needs to be. He plays with controlled violence and carries an alpha demeanor on the field. He has soft hands and is rangy, but needs to train his eyes and improve his fundamentals before he’s coverage-ready. Dugger is a versatile, scheme-friendly safety who helps immediately on special teams and could develop into a talented NFL starter.”
Dugger is the highest-drafted player in Lenior-Rhyne history, supplanting defensive end John Milem (150th overall, 2000).
The Patriots acquired this pick by trading No. 23 overall to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a second-rounder (No. 37) and a third-rounder (No. 71). They chose Dugger over safeties like Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr., Southern Illinois’ Jeremy Chinn, Cal’s Ashtyn Davis, LSU’s Grant Delpit and Utah’s Terrell Burgess.
The New York Giants selected Alabama safety Xavier McKinney one pick earlier.