How are the top small-school NFL Draft prospects playing at the halfway point of the season?
There’s a saying when it comes to small school prospects; “if you can play, the NFL will find you.” That is no truer now as technology has made it easier for scouts to get their eyes on the previously little-known prospects from small schools.
In recent years, guys like Nasir Adderley (Delaware), Darius Leonard (South Carolina State), and Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) have not only been high draft picks, but they have also had very successful starts to their NFL careers. While the NFL is always keeping tabs on these prospects, the small-school players always seem to get forgotten by fans and the media, which is a mistake. Here are how some of the top small-school prospects are playing so far this season:
Kyle Dugger, Safety, Lenoir-Rhyne
Season Stats: 22 Total Tackles| 1.0 TFL| 2 INT| 4 PD| 2 Punt Return TD
Career Stats: 225 Total Tackles| 5.5 TFL| 10 INT| 36 PD| 6 FF| 6 FR| 6 PR TD
Kyle Dugger is largely considered to be the very best out of all the small-school prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft, and for good reason. For starters, he has an NFL-type frame at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds. He uses that frame well when playing downhill and is a good, hard-hitting tackler in the run game and on short passes.
While he is definitely more comfortable playing downhill as an in-the-box safety, he by no means is a liability in coverage. He excels at reading the quarterback’s eyes in zone coverage and is quick to break on the ball in the air. Where Dugger will likely find early success in the NFL, however, is as a punt returner. This punt return earlier in the season shows Duggar’s excellent combination of size, speed, and agility when the ball is in his hands:
Naturally, there are also areas in which Duggar will need to improve to enjoy sustained success at the next level. For starters, he’s a little slow to read-and-react and needs to improve his mental processing. In man coverage, he struggles with tight hips and will get out of position by guessing on some throws.
As it stands now though, he is the best of the small-school prospects and will likely be in Mobile, Alabama in January for the Senior Bowl.
Projection: Mid-Round Pick (3rd-4th round)