It’s too early to say for certain, but it seems like the New England Patriots selected a pretty good draft class this spring.
Top pick Kyle Dugger has taken on a starting role in the Patriots’ defense, covering tight ends and playing a hybrid role as a safety/linebacker. Fellow second-rounder Josh Uche has provided a boost for the Patriots’ pass rush in recent weeks. Third-round pick Anfernee Jennings has been steady as a run defender at inside linebacker and pass rusher on the edge. Sixth-rounder Mike Onwenu has been the cream of the crop as one of the best right tackles in the NFL this season. Fellow sixth-rounder Justin Herron also has played well as a fill-in at left and right tackle. He’s currently rotating with Jermaine Eluemunor to replace Isaiah Wynn at left tackle.
The middle of the Patriots’ draft class, third-round tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene and fifth-round kicker Justin Rohrwasser, has yet to significantly contribute this season.
Dugger hasn’t played less than 72 percent of defensive snaps since Week 9 as he’s earned a starting role. That’s given him a confidence boost.
“It’s been huge just knowing that my teammates and my coaches have trust and confidence in me to start the game,” Dugger said. “It’s definitely been huge for me and also made me lock in even more knowing they’re trusting me in that role.”
Dugger has been a versatile chess piece to move around the Patriots’ defense. He’s played 182 snaps in the box, 74 in the slot, 38 at free safety, 24 at cornerback and 10 on the edge so far this season, per PFF. He’s also played 121 special teams snaps on kick coverage, kick return, punt coverage, punt return and field goal block.
Dugger has three pressures on 12 snaps as a pass rusher. He’s made 16 defensive stops (six in run defense) and has allowed 19 catches on 25 targets for 194 yards in pass coverage. Dugger hasn’t been perfect this season, but there’s a reason why he’s playing a larger chunk of snaps now than he was early in the season. And the Patriots’ defense has been better with him on the field.