21. Indianapolis Colts
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Colts lost Denico Autry to the division-rival Titans, and Justin Houston remains unsigned. That means DeForest Buckner is the only player with at least five sacks in 2020 set to return for 2021. Indy’s defensive strength is a big part of its identity, and Paye has explosive speed off the edge. The production hasn’t caught up to the ability just yet, but his ceiling is very high. Alternatively, the Colts could target a defensive back or maybe reach a little bit for a receiver.
During 4 games this past season, the Wolverines’ senior pass rusher recorded 16 tackles (12 solo), 4.0 tackles for loss, and 2.0 sacks—earning Second-Team All-Big Ten honors for a consecutive season:
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
At 6’4”, 272 pounds—with a 4.54 forty time, Paye graded out very well athletically at Michigan’s recent Pro Day (having already showcased a ridiculous three cone time):
Kwity Paye is a DE prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.69 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 43 out of 1338 DE from 1987 to 2021.
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 26, 2021
He is the type of dynamic young talent physically that the Colts could really use consistently coming off the edge—featuring much needed athleticism, explosion, quickness, and bend:
.@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
However, his lack of significant production collegiately is somewhat concerning—especially given some of his dominant athletic traits.
That being said, much like former 2018 second round pick Kemoko Turay was a raw, developing pass rusher—with tantalizing physical tools for the Colts worth rolling the dice on, Paye falls into a similar mold—and to an arguably even greater degree.
Having lost starting defensive end Denico Autry to free agency, and with unsigned veteran Justin Houston a possibility to join him, the Colts could use a game-wrecker off the edge—even with the recent signing of Isaac Rochell and re-signing of Al-Quadin Muhammad.
Paye seems like a ‘boom or bust’ top pass rushing prospect for the Colts, but the athleticism and physical tools are definitely there to ‘dream upon’—especially if he can work with the likes of former Colts sackmaster great Robert Mathis as his new pass rushing sensei.
It’s worth noting that McShay had the Colts selecting Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu with the 54th overall selection in the NFL Draft’s second round:
54. Indianapolis Colts
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
The Colts crave some cornerback depth behind Xavier Rhodes, Kenny Moore II and Rock Ya-Sin, and Melifonwu has the skills to develop into a really strong press corner.
The 6’3”, 213 pound redshirt junior cornerback was a two-year starter (19 starts) for the Orange, recording 88 tackles (71 solo), 5 tackles for loss, a sack, 26 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions.
He earned 2020 All-ACC honors.
Melifonwu fits the Colts’ ideal prototype at cornerback with size, length, and ball skills—and as a physical and willing run defender:
Syracuse CB Ifeatu Melifonwu
▪️ 6’2” (96th percentile)
▪️ 205 (91st)
▪️ 32 14” arms (80th)
1.48s 10-yard split (95th)
42” vertical (97th)
11’2” broad (98th)
You love to see that.
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) March 19, 2021
The tier of Ifeatu Melifonwu, Paulson Adebo, and Kelvin Joseph (CB7/8/9) is really hard to separate.
Melifonwu: Terrific size, technique, scheme-specific with ? COD
Adebo: Twitchy and fluid for his size with inconsistent film – great ball skills
Joseph: ++ Physicality/ ? COD
— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) March 25, 2021
After watching Surtain, Farley, and Horn (all good players) there isn’t enough talk about @CuseFootball CB Ifeatu Melifonwu. Hard to find guys with @Ifeatu_Mel prototype measurables (6025v, 212v, 3218 arm, 8018 wing) that transition & trigger like this.#TheDraftStartsInMobile pic.twitter.com/g3EUuGSIt7
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 25, 2021
Here is the physical profile of a first-round CB. More importantly, @Ifeatu_Mel has the tape to back it up.
CB Ifeatu Melifonwu
Hand 8 7/8
Arm 32 1/4
Wing 78 1/2
40-yd: 4.48/4.49 (10-yd 1.48/1.52)
BP 16x pic.twitter.com/LgCoNrFTPy
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 19, 2021
Ifeatu Melifonwu is a CB prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.57 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 77 out of 1741 CB from 1987 to 2021.
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 19, 2021
I really enjoyed evaluating Syracuse CBs Trill Williams and Ifeatu Melifonwu. Those dudes have traits for days. Great size, length and athleticism. Melifonwu has terrific ball skills. I love how aggressively Williams plays the game. Both are physical and versatile. #NFLDraft
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) February 11, 2021
Of course, even with the re-signing of veteran starter Xavier Rhodes, the Colts could use some additional help at cornerback (and a future starting successor).
Fellow veteran T.J. Carrie remains a free agent, and the team experienced an up-and-down season from 2nd-year cornerback Rock Ya-Sin—while another 2nd-year pro, Marvell Tell, is returning after a season-long absence because of COVID-19 concerns.
Soon-to-be second year pro Isaiah Rodgers is a name to watch in the mix too, but it’s still a cornerback room that could withstand to add another athletic and talented option to compete for a starting role like Melifonwu (especially given Rhodes’ advanced football age bigger picture).