The 6’2”, 261 pound senior Wolverines edge recorded 16 tackles (12 solo), 4.0 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks during 4 games—as a Second-Team All-Big Ten member in 2020.
Paye tested out incredibly well at his recent Michigan Pro Day with a RAS [Relative Athletic Score] of 9.33 out of a possible 10.0—not even factoring in an earlier freaky 3-cone time:
Kwity Paye is a DE prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.33 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 92 out of 1361 DE from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/tWwj3G9IUy #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/TtOqkJuxVh
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 12, 2021
His physical measurables are impressive to say the least:
For what it’s worth, Paye was ranked as The Athletic Bruce Feldman’s ‘freakiest athlete’ on his prior ‘2020 College Football Freaks List’:
1. Kwity Paye, Michigan, defensive end
Freakiest attribute: Speed in the 3-cone drill
The Wolverines have a few special athletes on their defensive line (Aidan Hutchinson also possesses impressive agility for his size), but the 6-4, 271-pound Paye (50 tackles, 12.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks) has generated a lot of buzz among the NFL scouting community for some remarkable wheels. He clocked the second-best 3-cone time on the team at a blistering 6.37 seconds, which would have topped anyone at the 2020 combine. Paye’s 40 is also moving at 4.57, with a solid 34-inch vertical and 30 reps on the bench press. Paye’s 40 time and 4.15 pro shuttle time are better than any D-lineman or edge player who tested at the 2020 combine. His 11.3 time in the 60-yard shuttle is also elite.
Paye, a former high school running back who reported to Ann Arbor at 228 pounds, was a member of a state championship 4×100 meter relay team in high school and also won a state title in the long jump, going 21 feet, 5 inches as a junior. He has a rare blend of strength, control and balance and his change of direction is probably even better than former Wolverine Freak Rashan Gary.
Here’s NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah’s scouting report on Paye, who he ranked as his 14th best draft prospect overall—as the Colts may have gotten a certified steal at the #21 spot:
14. Kwity Paye
Michigan · Edge rusher · Senior
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.
Here’s what else they’re saying:
Highest pass-rush win % in the Big Ten last season
1. Kwity Paye, Michigan – 25.8% pic.twitter.com/gxHj5DN3L4
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 26, 2021
.@UMichFootball @OfficialKwity sure looks like a first round #NFL prospect to me. Lots of tape; lots of football; lots to like. Pro Day is Friday. Edge rushers….hard to find #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/hWxbuFa3Ev
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) March 25, 2021
Kwity Paye with the stab/slap
The stab (finesse) looks similar in execution to the long arm (power), causing blockers to lean into it & be off-balance. @KwityPaye_19 executes the stab, then slaps the outside arm down to clear him. A great move for edge rushers! #PassRush #GoBlue pic.twitter.com/LOmViuPCHt
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) February 19, 2020
KWITY PAYE – MICHIGAN
✅ 87.1 pass-rush grade
✅ 22 QB pressures across 138 snaps
✅ No. 1 EDGE defender on the PFF Big Board pic.twitter.com/oKX0G3nXA3
— PFF IND Colts (@PFF_Colts) April 30, 2021
I know Kwity Paye is a bit of a project but he just has so much juice for a player of his size. Whenever he was allowed to pin his ears back and use his explosiveness and bend, it was so good to watch. I think he’s going to be a star in the NFL pic.twitter.com/II1o8aBCSY
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) April 4, 2021
One of biggest #2021NFLDraft risers will be Michigan DE Kwity Paye
2.0 Sacks, 6 QB Pressures vs MIN last night..
I didn’t expect him to be so productive on high side rushes – but was dominant last night. Even had some subpackage snaps at NT on 3rd down. Strong player! pic.twitter.com/vbBElU4y8v
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 25, 2020
Michigan edge Kwity Paye in Week 8 (@PFF_College)
88.3 pass-rush grade
29.4% win rate
Don’t be surprised if Paye ends up one of the top pass-rushers of 2020 from a production standpoint. Clearly has the physical tools and technique is improving. pic.twitter.com/VeGzimieZa
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) October 28, 2020
While his production didn’t quite match the sheer measurables at Michigan, the Colts clearly believe that their coaching staff (and side-help from sackmaster sensei Robert Mathis) can maximize Paye’s play in Horseshoe Blue—with his best still seemingly yet to come at the pro ranks.
Of course, the Colts desperately needed an infusion of youth, athleticism, bend, and explosion off the edge for a pass rushing group that was sorely lacking juice.
The Colts already lost starting defensive end Denico Autry to free agency, and veteran Justin Houston could soon join him—although Indianapolis may want the latter to return in a potential mentor role for Paye and their other young pass rushers.
That being said, the Colts have lacked an ‘alpha dog’ pass rusher for quite some time, one who can consistently command double teams and opposing offenses have to gameplan for (in the Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis mold).
Those pass rushers are incredibly hard to come by and are always held at a premium.
That’s not to say Paye is the next Freeney or Mathis—as those expectations would be unfair coming immediately out of the gates, but if the Colts can tap into his immense athletic talent and potential, the sky is certainly the limit for the young pass rusher.
He’s a bit of a ‘boom or bust’ prospect, but the Colts clearly felt the risk was well worth the reward—believing that the franchise can continue to develop him—as the talent was too tantalizing to pass up. It’s just a matter of him putting it all together for pass rushing dominance.