The New England Patriots made their first selection of the 2020 NFL Draft Friday night in the second round. After trading out of the first-round on Thursday, the Patriots received the 37th pick and made a puzzling selection.
The Patriots took safety Kyle Dugger out of Lenoir-Rhyne University a Division II school. Dugger is an excellent athlete who dominated at that level, but he's already 24 and was a sixth-year senior in 2019 due to a knee injury that wiped out part of his sophomore season. He also faces a steep adjustment to the next level.
Dugger checks in at 6-foot-1, 217 pounds and ran a 4.49 40 at the combine. He shined as a return man in college, taking six punts back for touchdowns. Physically, he dominated at the Division II level and won the Cliff Harris Award as the best Division II, Division III and NAIA defensive player.
He'll likely be a safety who hangs in the box and is expected to make explosive plays. He might turn out to be a solid NFL player after a learning curve, but he also likely would have been available in the third round. And, frankly, safety was not one of New England's top five needs. Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips will all be ahead of Dugger on the depth chart.
The Patriots have glaring needs at quarterback, linebacker, wide receiver, tight end and along the defensive line. There were higher-rated players at each of those spots who the Patriots passed on for a project at safety. I don't get it.
Bill Belichick is a genius when it comes to identifying talent and developing it. But on its face this is a strange pick that could have been made much later.