After trading out of the first round on Thursday night, the New England Patriots made their first selection of the 2020 NFL Draft on Friday, selecting Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger with the No. 37 overall pick.
Dugger, the first Division 2 safety drafted in the top three rounds since Daniel Manning in 2006, is an elite athlete who saw his draft stock soar after a fantastic performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. The 6-foot-1, 217-pounder from Decatur, Georgia, had the best vertical jump (42 inches) and second best broad jump (11-2) among all safeties and also posted impressive numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.49, sixth) and bench press (17 reps, tied for 11th).
"It's a huge honor and unexplainable feeling. I'm still kinda of shocked, honestly," Dugger said on a conference call after being picked, adding that being drafted was even better than his first Christmas.
Dugger, who was 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds entering high school and did not even receive an FCS offer, was the 2019 recipient of the Cliff Harris Award granted to the top defensive player in Division 2. This past fall he was a second-team All-American and first-team All-South Atlantic selection after recording 31 tackles with two interceptions and four pass breakups despite being limited to seven games due to a hand injury.
Dugger said he is back to full health, and noted that not getting any Division 1 interest has motivated him ever since.
"As far as a chip, there's definitely a mountain on my shoulders," Dugger said. "It's something that I'm going to carry with me as long as I play the game."
In addition to his outstanding defensive play, Dugger was also an excellent return man in college. He recorded a school-record 929 career punt return yardage while also posting two separate games with two punt return touchdowns, the first player in program history to accomplish the feat.
Dugger said the Patriots had made their interest in him known prior to the draft, and that he expects to be a factor in the team's kicking and punt return game.
Dugger is Lenoir-Rhyne's first draft pick since John Milem went in the fifth round to the San Francisco 49ers.