In an NFL where mismatches make champions, positional versatility is on the rise. Fading are the days of static role constructs, as teams seek out ways to claim physical advantages wherever they can. It’s one reason Isaiah Simmons has earned praise as a potential top-five prospect. But what if I told you he wasn’t the only defensive chess piece with an enticing athletic profile on the draft board? After the NFL Combine, non-FBS prospects Kyle Dugger and Jeremy Chinn are risers in a similar vein, and they can provide the same kind of flexibility, at a potentially greater value.
Two months ago, if you hadn’t heard of Chinn and Dugger, I wouldn’t have blamed you. One played for the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears of Division II football, while the other played for the Southern Illinois Salukis (Currently googling a Saluki). Despite the obscurity of their roots, any semi-diligent draft junkie should’ve caught wind of the eye-popping NFL Combine numbers produced by Chinn and Dugger by now. Here’s a look at their respective athletic profiles:
Kyle Dugger: 6’1″, 217, 4.49 40-yard dash, 1.55 10-yard split, 42-inch vertical, 11.2-foot broad jump
Jeremy Chinn: 6’3″, 221, 4.45 40-yard dash, 1.55 10-yard split, 41-inch vertical, 11.5-foot broad jump
Both players fell into the elite ranks with their Relative Athletic Scores (RAS). As Kent Lee Platte shared on Twitter, Dugger posted a RAS of 9.87, with explosiveness numbers in the 99th percentile, while Chinn posted a RAS of exactly 10.0 — the best RAS ever by a safety with available numbers.
The NFL Combine often provides a platform for FBS prospects with higher pedigrees to show off their physical tools, but this year, Dugger and Chinn not only joined in on the fun — they paced their safety class, and cemented their status as risers. But how high will the profiles of Dugger and Chinn carry them? Is the second-round hype too much, or is it only the beginning? For both Dugger and Chinn, there’s a football player to build off their foundations, and in the right situation, both players could engineer the same kind of emergence at the NFL level.[sv slug=”vegas”]
Analyzing risers Kyle Dugger and Jeremy Chinn
Way back in September, PJ Green summed up Dugger perfectly in three simple, yet legendary words.
“Size, speed, dreads.”
At the NFL Combine, Dugger, a Senior Bowl standout, didn’t quite measure in as tall as anticipated, but his 78.5-inch wingspan and 221-pound frame reinforced his size as a prospect. Dugger is a long, rangy defender who possesses some of the most exciting potential in the 2020 NFL Draft.
On film, Dugger immediately stands out from his Division II counterparts. His frame is lengthy and burly, and he has a stark explosion in his first step. Dugger’s play speed is relentless; he engages in pursuit with startling immediacy upon seeing the ball, and he’s a force to be reckoned with coming downhill. He also has good hip fluidity, and while he’s not the most agile player, he can change directions reasonably well for his size.
The play below does a good job of quantifying Dugger’s upside with his range. Dugger covers an incredible amount of space in a short amount of time, entering the catch zone with searing speed, and he makes a play on the lofted ball, disrupting what would have been a completion. On the play, Dugger’s aggressive playstyle is also present. He plays without an off-switch, and once he sees a destination to disrupt, he attacks. Dread the dreads.
Speed, Hustle, Effort ✅
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 5, 2020
Dugger’s aggressive playstyle does naturally bring some questions into the fold. In run defense, it’s common to see him shoot into the box, only to give up his leverage by over-shooting his position. In pass defense, Dugger tends to bite on underneath routes and play a little reckless, giving up space for opposing offenses. When he gets it right, it’s fun to see; Dugger brings a ton of physicality as a tackler, and he’s strong and long enough to wrestle players down once he gets within range. But angles and positioning as a whole are still a work in progress with Dugger.
The bright side of all this is that Dugger has a skill set that naturally favors his development in those areas. In congested situations, Dugger has the burst to hit lanes before they close, and put down ball carriers before they can sneak out into space, and in open space, Dugger has the long speed to chase down opponents and stalk looming passes. As a linebacker, his athletic traits would present a major mismatch for opposing offenses. He’s 24 years old, so that must be factored into his stock, but teams with a well-defined hybrid role waiting for Dugger can help him make the transition to the NFL faster, and help him make an impact on Sundays faster yet.
Jeremy Chinn’s combine performance cemented himself as one of many risers, along with Dugger, but while Chinn boasts a slightly better athletic profile, Dugger has the faster play speed to this point. That said, Chinn has more upside, and at two years younger, he has more time to unlock it.
Chinn is clearly a smart defender, despite his need for polish at the next level. He has active eyes, and he has good patience when reading the quarterback, perhaps to a fault in some cases. Chinn can improve his reaction quickness when the play changes complexion, and his transitions from lateral to linear motion aren’t as brisk as one would like. All this considered, the flashes are present with Chinn just as they are with Dugger, particularly in coverage, where he has 13 interceptions and 31 deflections to boost his resume.
The play below is a prime example of Chinn’s potential. He has the speed to stick to receivers’ hips, the short-range explosiveness to close the lingering gap once the ball is on its way, and the length to disrupt the pass at the catch point.
— Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) February 26, 2020
As a roamer, once he’s positioned to take off, Chinn closes ground noticeably faster than his counterparts on the field. His explosiveness allows him to get a quick burst forward when starting up his movement, and his long speed keeps him well within reach of even the most challenging footrace. Chinn also has good length to pair with his movement traits, and while he’s not as aggressive using it as Dugger, he shows flashes of pristine tackling, and consistency can be taught.
Angles can be an issue for Chinn in some spots, but this isn’t so much due to aggression as it is to indecision, particularly in run defense. Where Dugger braves the crowd, Chinn waits for an opening, and sometimes, he either gets flushed out or arrives too late. Much like Dugger, when Chinn lands a clean tackle with a good angle, it’s a pretty sight. A developed Chinn can be a terror for both quarterbacks and ball carriers, both on the second and third levels of a defense. With a creative defensive mind, his upside is tantalizing.
How high do Dugger and Chinn get drafted?
Kyle Dugger and Jeremy Chinn both boast elite athleticism, and the NFL Combine got people thinking: Should either of them get first-round consideration?
In my opinion, the answer is still the same as it was before the NFL Combine: Not quite. Dugger is electric, but his age limits the potential length of his career arc, and thus makes him a bit more precarious of a long-term asset. He’ll have to go to a team that can help him make the transition from Division II football to the NFL quickly, or else his prime years may number too few for an adequate return on that investment. Dugger has the athletic traits to flourish in the NFL, but his projected implementation as a hybrid player only complicates the challenging transition he’s set to face. He’s a good second day option, but there are too many reasons for pause to take that risk on day one.
Chinn also shouldn’t go off the board on the first night of the NFL Draft, but if I had to choose one of these prospects to take in Round 1, it would be Chinn. Chinn is younger, and he also has the play-making gene. He has a lot of room to add consistency, both as a tackler and with his footwork in coverage, but his athletic profile is second to, quite literally, none. With his smarts and experience at multiple positions, he can surely be developed with a good coaching staff behind him.
Dugger and Chinn aren’t first-round prospects, but they are by no means less exciting: Dugger and Chinn can provide the same versatile upside that Simmons provides in the top-five, one or two rounds later. Given the obstructed, yet intriguing positional value of the defensive hybrid in today’s NFL, teams may be inclined to spend their first-round pick on a more fundamental position of importance and use their next selection on a high-upside chess piece like Dugger or Chinn. The NFL Draft is all about maximizing long-term value, and that’s the promise Dugger and Chinn provide.