The Redskins play at safety, since the death of the great Sean Taylor, has been atrocious. The Burgundy and Gold Report may have just found the next safety prospect to get Washington fans excited. During the journey to find small school sleepers, one player stood out above the rest in safety Kyle Dugger. Dugger is viewed by multiple scouts throughout the country as the top small school prospect in the nation and the imposing defensive back could have an immediate impact on the next level.
The Backstory of Dugger Safety/PR Kyle Dugger 6'2” 220 lbs Lenoir-Rhyne Univ (Draft Projection 2nd-3rd Rd) Finding a defensive back on the D-2 level with Dugger’s combination of size & speed is almost unheard of. Many will wonder why, if he's so talented, he isn’t playing in the Power Five conference for a team such as Alabama or Clemson? In Dugger’s case, his focus was on basketball rather than football during his time at Whitewater High School in Fayetteville, GA. As a 5’11” 170 lbs. senior, it was a common site to see Dugger gliding through the air in the gymnasium, showing off his 40” vertical for rim rattling dunks, rather than piling up numbers on the gridiron.
However, it was evident that Dugger had talent on the football field as a defensive back and started putting it all together during his senior year of HS, after previously being a backup during his junior year. The drive and talent were evident for Dugger, but he was the classic late bloomer. A Division II football program at Lenoir-Rhyne University, located in the small town of Hickory, NC took a chance on the athletic defensive back. Unbeknownst to them, Dugger would later blossom into a ferocious 6’2” 220 lbs. safety and become one the most heralded prospects in the program's history. Dugger was named to the First Team All-South Atlantic Conference team at both defensive back and return specialist in 2018 along with a slew of other recognitions as the team’s defensive captain. The Lenoir-Rhyne defensive back has played in 42 games to date registering 237 total tackles (152 solo), 10 ints, 36 passes defended, 6 FF with a pick 6 that he returned 63 yards for a TD. He's also displayed the ability to be a dangerous punt returner averaging 22.1 yards per return with 6 resulting in touchdowns. Scouts believe Dugger is one of the most intriguing hybrid defensive backs in the nation, who can be lined up all over the field and is electric with the ball in his hands. NFL evaluators believe his versatility and athleticism should get him drafted in the Top 100.
What the Scouts are Saying
Over the last year, Lenoir-Rhyne University has seen more NFL scouts and talent evaluators come through their campus than ever, just to get a glimpse of the safety that has taken the Division II level by storm. His measurables and numbers have draft evaluators salivating. It’s been documented that NFL scouts have timed Dugger’s forty time as fast as 4.41 sec, while also posting a 40-inch vertical leap and posting 10’ 11” in the broad jump. In addition, Dugger’s arm length of 33 1/8“and 10” hands check all the boxes for a potential imposing defensive back on the next level. These are just a few attributes that got Dugger an invite to the 2020 Senior Bowl. The film shows a versatile defensive back with all the traits to be a hybrid on the next level. At times the term “hybrid” is thrown around too much for college prospects, only to see them get drafted without a true position in the NFL. This is not the case with Dugger. Scouts have been raving about his ability to play the role of the box safety, while also dropping into coverage as a true ball-hawking free safety. With the NFL seeing more tight ends and running backs blowing the top off of coverages, Dugger also has the ability to be a sub-package linebacker and fill a role similar to current Redskins’ linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons.
In no way is Dugger a finished product, as some skeptics have mentioned, while highlighting his lower level of competition and the fact that technique refinement is needed. The truth is, Dugger is explosive once he gets the ball in his hands as a defender and a punt returner. In addition to being a ferocious hitter, the versatile defensive back seems to understand angles and prides himself as a film room junkie, which is half the battle in order to have success on the next level. The Burgundy and Gold Report Gets to Know Kyle Dugger Kyle Dugger gave and exclusive Q&A session with The Burgundy Gold Report.
Q: Do you view yourself as a versatile defensive back that’s not limited to one position?
"I do and look forward to be able to prove that."
Q: Coming from the small school level, growing pains are to be expected. What do you believe separates you from other NFL Draft prospects coming from the Power Five Conferences?
"My process. The 5 years I’ve attended at my school have been very different".
Q: What drew you to football as a child and how has Lenoir-Rhyne University prepared you for success?
"I can’t really explain what drew me to football as a kid. My parents said I used to sit on the floor and watch full games as a baby. But I definitely feel that, even at a young age, I felt it fit my personality. Lenoir-Rhyne has prepared me for success by giving me obstacles to overcome that I probably would not have ran into if I were at another school."
Fit in Washington
Coming into the 2019 season, the Redskins defense was believed to be the strength of the team. Unfortunately, blown coverages, lackadaisical tackling angles and overall bad play calling have plagued them. Washington invested a ton of capital in Landon Collins, who has shined at times, but the rest of the defensive backs simply look lost. Most fans believe Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky’s scheme is at the root of many of the team’s issues, which have led to historically bad numbers for this defense. A true ball-hawk centerfielder is what this unit is missing. There’s little doubt that a new coach with a new defensive scheme will be brought in to replace the underachieving Manusky in 2020. Dugger could be a valuable asset to partner with Collins and a defense that boasts front seven potential, but little in the backend.
Kyle Dugger is a name that will continue to garner more attention during the Senior Bowl and pre-draft process. And one thing is certain whatever team lands Dugger will inherit a defensive back that can be moved all over the field and be an instant game changer.
By Adam Aniba
Follow on Twitter @TheBandGreport and Kyle Dugger @KingDugg_3