Things have not necessarily gone according to plan within the University of Michigan football program under current head coach Jim Harbaugh. However, since the beginning of his tenure in 2015, the one constant has been that the program was still able to produce solid talent on the defensive side of the ball.
There’s one particular prospect in this year’s upcoming 2021 NFL Draft who will look to continue that trend as a likely top-15 selection and difference maker at the professional level. Today, I will turn my focus on an edge rusher who could provide a much needed infusion of talent into the Falcons defense.
Kwity Paye Scouting Report
Weight: 275 pounds
Career stats: 97 total tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks (28 career games)
Games watched: 2018 vs. Northwestern, 2019 vs. Middle Tennessee State, 2019 vs. Iowa, 2019 vs. Alabama, 2020 vs. Minnesota
Given that Paye has blossomed from being a 3-star recruit and 486th overall prospect in the 2017 recruiting class shows how hard of a worker he can be. At this point in his playing career, Paye has three seasons of collegiate experience under his belt and is just scratching the surface with his athletic profile. His blend of size and athleticism is a strong attribute and has served him well dating back to his high school days, when he played running back, defensive end and was a track-and-field member. In run defense, Paye is able to move laterally and stretch run plays longer than anticipated. Paye maintains solid pad level, which helps him win his fair share of leverage battles.
Paye utilizes his very strong hands very well and uses them quite often. With that comes very solid technique, with which Paye wins a number of battles with the hand power alone. There is plenty of ‘pop’ in his hands when he decides to attack the chest of an opposing blocker. A powerful bull rush is in his arsenal and can consistently give blockers a lot of issues with it.
The intangibles that Paye possesses are also worthy of being mentioned. Paye and his family migrated from war-torn country of Liberia at an early age and made his way to Rhode Island, so Paye is no stranger to change and adversity. In addition, Paye will be one of the smarter players on a team as his football intelligence is seen constantly on tape.
If you want a pass rusher that is able to display the necessary hip fluidity and flexibility when getting after quarterback, Paye may not be the candidate you would prefer. Paye was able to get to the quarterback on a consistent enough basis, but the stiffness in the lower half of his frame is hard to ignore on tape.
Paye also has a lack of production despite actually seeing considerable playing time since his sophomore season. His 2019 output of 6.5 sacks was a career-high while at Michigan. There is a sizable likelihood that Paye will be a first round pick but he will be a first rounder with 11.5 career sacks. While Paye has quality NFL traits as a pass rusher, on tape, the one missing element was a penchant to take over games on a consistent basis. That’s an element that separates the elite pass rushers (Myles Garrett, Khalil Mack) from the good ones (Frank Clark, DeMarcus Lawrence).
If you’re going to invest in Paye, you’ll have to be confident you can coach him up and that his best days are yet to come.
You’ve heard the story of the Falcons needing to desperately upgrade their pass rush thousands of times. Early in the upcoming NFL Draft, the Falcons will have plenty of opportunity to enhance their pass rush corps because of the position being one of the best in the entire draft.
When it comes to Paye, he checks to boxes that most teams will want as a pass rusher: Strong, solid NFL frame, technician as a pass rusher, intelligent ball player. For the Falcons, a selection of Paye would garner one particular question: Can Paye transition to strong-side outside linebacker or will he be a better fit as a 5-tech defensive end?
It is a question that is worth asking, in my honest opinion, as I can see evidence on both sides, and Dean pees may elect to try him in both roles. A selection of Paye would probably be the result of the Falcons trading down in the draft outside of the top-10, but Paye does carry top-15 value as a prospect coming into the draft. His insertion into the Falcons defense could be a very interesting one due to his size, freakish attributes, and ongoing development.