What draft analysts said about Colts new DE Kwity Paye

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Kevin Hickey
·6 min read
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The Indianapolis Colts got themselves a steal when it comes to their first-round selection of the 2021 NFL draft, which came in the form of edge rusher Kwity Paye.

Fitting perfectly into what the Colts want and need at the edge rusher position, Paye should make an impact against the un immediately and has the upside to be a constant threat to the opposing quarterbacks.

The Colts were certainly ecstatic that he fell to the at No. 21, rejecting any offers they received to move back.

Here’s what some prominent draft analysts said about Paye before the draft:

Dane Brugler, The Athletic (draft guide): “A two-year starter at Michigan, Paye played boundary defensive end in Brown’s base 4-3 scheme while lining up outside and inside. He became a fulltime starter for the Wolverines as a junior and led the team in tackles for loss. Although his overall career production (11.5 sacks in 38 games) leaves a lot to be desired, he was often lined up inside the tackle and wasn’t used as a true edge threat where he could capitalize on his talent. The No. 1 ranked player on Bruce Feldman’s 2020 Freaks List, Paye has rare lower body twitch and fluidity for his size and leverages his strong hands at the point of attack, giving blockers all they can handle on the edges. While there are no concerns about his competitive drive or motor, his pass rush instincts are undeveloped and his traits are better than his tape. Overall, Paye’s pass rush toolbox isn’t very deep right now, but he is a compact, explosive athlete with menacing energy and toughness vs. the run. He projects as a dynamic, scheme-versatile NFL starter once his skills are developed.”

Mark Schofield, Touchdown Wire: “Ultimately, Paye might offer a better floor than the two prospects above him, and teams might find that enticing at the next level. He does not have the medical concerns that you find with Jaelan Phillips, and he is already built for the NFL game unlike Azeez Ojulari who still needs to add some strength and power to his arsenal. He has played on the interior so he offers some versatility, and while I do think he is better off the edge teams are going to value that from him.”

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: “The explosive testing will surely get teams and evaluators excited, but it might be hard to bang the table for him based on the tape. Paye’s traits and potential should not be discounted, as he’ll continue to be skilled up in technique and fundamentals. However, he’s a choppy-stepping short-strider who doesn’t play with the feel and instincts of an NFL playmaker. He can overcome his lack of stride length as a rusher with a more focused, upfield attack and better hands at the top of his rush, but he might be better-suited as a reduced rusher on passing downs, where his quickness could overwhelm guards. The traits and explosiveness are enticing but the film says “good” rather than “great” at this time.”

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: “Paye has the ideal frame and explosiveness for an NFL edge rusher. He’s at his best playing on the outside, but Michigan had him moving all around their front, including playing head-up over the center. As a pass rusher, he is explosive out of his stance, but it looks different because of his short/choppy steps. I’d like to see him cover more ground, but that is easily correctable. He has violent hands to create a knockback, but he still needs to develop a better plan to consistently escape and finish. I love his effort and determination. Against the run, he crushes tight ends at the point of attack and can close in a hurry from the back side. He does have some stiffness in space, but he’s a capable dropper in the flat. Paye is raw, but there could be a huge payoff when he puts it all together.”

Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network: “Kwity Paye is an exciting prospect whose potential and physical ability is only now beginning to be realized on the gridiron. There’s an extremely high ceiling in Paye’s game thanks to his athletic abilities; if his NFL team is able to continue to draw fundamental improvements out of him to allow him to continue to simply react to discard or defeat blocks, he’ll be in line for plenty of explosive plays in opposing backfields. The steps Paye made in 2020 during the abbreviated season should only further fuel optimism that his development is still on an upward trajectory. Paye has won in the past most sufficiently from tight alignments and utilized his powerful hands and functional strength to diminish angles and find creases to press through and rally to the football. I do feel he’s a bit more of a linear athlete and his ability to collapse tackle sets with speed to power is going to shine more frequently than his reps when looking to crash off the edge and win with finesse. Paye has been forged by fire through a challenging upbringing as an immigrant and finds his “why” in taking care of his family—he’s internally driven and appears to be the kind of individual you want in your building to buy into the process. He’s a home run from an intangibles, effort, and tools perspective, but his scheme fit is an important accommodation to make for optimal success.”

Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus (draft guide): “In a class full of freaks off the edge, Paye still stands out for what he’s physically capable of. He’s a jumbo 6-foot-4, 272-pound edge with ideal inside-outside versatility. Anyone lining up across from him is going to be in for a handful all day. He moves the line of scrimmage with ease in the run game and can flatback tackles in pass protection on contact. His pass-rushing toolbox is still fairly barren, but even so, we’ve seen it improve by leaps and bounds over the past two seasons. If that progression continues, look out.”

Zach Hicks, Stampede Blue: “Big-bodied defensive end who has all the traits you want on the edge.. even bend! He does allow tackles inside his chest plate a bit too easy and needs to develop more of a plan of attack but his potential is among the highest in the class.”

Luke Easterling, Draft Wire: “The Colts had two clear-cut needs for this pick, and they went defense, getting the top edge defender in this class. A fantastic athlete with ideal size and strength, Paye is still just scratching the surface of his potential. Passing on a left tackle like Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw might not have been the best idea, but it’s hard to argue with the combination of need and value they’re getting in Paye.”

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