Kyle Dugger is a reminder of how important Senior Bowl really is

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E

A year ago this week, Kyle Dugger was just a safety from D-II Lenoir-Rhyne. Then following a week of work in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl, he was quickly rising draft boards and inserting himself as a virtual lock to be a Day 2 selection.

Playing at a small D-II school, Dugger didn’t have a lot of eyes on him and then when scouts reviewed tape, the thought was always his competition wasn’t all that great, which was held against him.

Dugger excelled at the Senior Bowl against the best players in the country and without the week in Mobile, it’s hard to imagine him going as high in the draft as he did — No. 37 overall to the Patriots.

“One of the things you like to see or you look for is the player like that with that background to see how they hold up in that environment,” Nick Caserio said at the time. “He acquitted himself fairly well.”

Bill Belichick added: “I think the Senior Bowl really helped Kyle. There, he’s running a pro defense against a pro offense with soon-to-be pro players. Whether it was one-on-one drills, catching punts, tackling, I think you could really see he was able to compete very favorably at that level of competition.”

Without the Senior Bowl, it’s hard to imagine him being a Patriot.

This year, it will not only be important to players like Dugger coming from small schools, but really every player as with no NFL Combine this is the only chance to work in front of scouts and coaches besides college pro days.

“It’s much more important,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. wrote Monday. “I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years, and the two constants on the pre-draft calendar have always been the Senior Bowl in January and the combine in late February. Now, the Senior Bowl is going to be the closest thing we get to an event with prospects from multiple schools in attendance.”

The National Team will be coached by Brian Flores and the Dolphins’ coaching staff, while the American Team will be led by Matt Rhule and the Panthers' coaching staff. The week will include three practices before Saturday afternoon’s game, which will be aired on NFL Network.

Dugger isn’t the only player drafted by the Patriots to play in the game, as since 2015, 22 players in the game went on to be selected by New England.