The New England Patriots’ veteran-laden safety group received an injection of young talent on Day 2 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
After trading out of the first round, the Patriots used their top pick (37th overall) on Kyle Dugger, a versatile, hyper-athletic, hard-hitting safety out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne.
Devin McCourty, the leader of New England’s secondary, expects Dugger to wear multiple hats for the Patriots.
“I’m excited to just get him in our defense,” the veteran safety and longtime co-captain said Sunday on his “Double Coverage” live stream. “As athletic as he is, I know he’ll be able to be that chess piece moving all over the defense, so it’ll be fun.”
Dugger primarily played free safety in college but has the size (6-foot-1, 217 pounds) to fill a box safety/hybrid linebacker role at the NFL level. He played both positions in the 2020 Senior Bowl.
Though he was considered one of the top safeties in this year’s draft class, selecting Dugger with the fifth pick of the second round prompted some consternation among Patriots fans. But McCourty views Dugger’s D-II background as a positive, believing it’ll heighten his motivation to prove doubters wrong.
“It’s exciting, man,” McCourty said. “Obviously, we don’t know a lot of the guys when they come out of college, but once we drafted him, just seeing his combine results (and that he’s a) small-school guy, so he’s going to have a huge chip on his shoulder. I think he’s going to fit right in. …
“Coming in as a small-school guy, coming in as a guy that when you get drafted, people are like, ‘Why’d they pick him?’ — I love getting guys like that. I felt like I was the same way coming into the league (as the 27th overall pick in 2010), and I’m sure he’ll be like that. … Anytime you get young guys in there that just want to learn and play, it’s so exciting watching them develop, so he’s going to be like the rest of those guys, I’m sure — eager to get going.”
The Patriots’ depth chart currently consists of McCourty, Patrick Chung, Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Terrence Brooks, Cody Davis, Malik Gant and Adarius Pickett. McCourty and Chung — starting safeties since 2013 and 2014, respectively — both will be 33 when the 2020 season begins.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images