Over the next few weeks, the Broadway staff will be taking a closer look at prospects the Titans could look to target in the 2021 NFL Draft based on positional need.
Today I am looking at one of the consensus top edge players in the 2021 class, the athletic and versatile Kwity Paye. There is hardly any consensus on the edge players this year, but Paye routinely shows up in the top two or three of most rankings.
Kwity Paye | DE | Michigan
Games I watched: Wisconsin (2019), Iowa (2019), Ohio State (2019), Minnesota (2020), Penn State (2020)
Paye is a world-class athlete who won the state championship long jump as a high school junior with a mark of 21 feet, 5 inches, and was a member of the state champion 4×100 meter relay team. He also reportedly ran a 4.57 40-yard dash before his senior season at Michigan, as well as a three-cone time of 6.37 seconds – which (if legit) would qualify as the second-fastest 3-cone time ever recorded in NFL Combine history. These are astounding numbers for a man of his size.
As a true senior, Paye only played 4 games in 2020, starting all four and piling up 16 tackles (4 for loss) with 2 sacks, adding 5 quarterback hurries. In 12 games in 2019, he racked up 12.5 tackles-for-loss with 6.5 sacks.
Paye has good size with elite athleticism. He possesses the ability to line up and contribute from anywhere on the defensive line, from Nose Tackle to 9T. Perhaps it’s the uniform, but from a size and versatility perspective, he reminds me a lot of Rashan Gary, but I think Paye is more technically refined as a prospect.
At 6-2, Paye plays with excellent leverage, as you’ll rarely see him lose the battle at the line of scrimmage. In run defense, he sets the edge with force and consistently resets the line of scrimmage in the backfield. He’s violent blowing up blockers at the point of attack, taking on pullers with force. Paye is extremely aggressive in backside pursuit where his athleticism shines, and he absolutely dominates tight ends.
I saw much improvement in Paye’s pass rushing ability from 2019 to 2020, even though the 2020 tape is limited. One area I thought he struggled in 2019 was his burst off the line of scrimmage, but he turned this into a strength for his short 2020 season, displaying terrific timing and again allowing his athleticism to provide an advantage.
As a pass rusher, Paye is relentless. He’s capable of consistently winning one-on-one against all five offensive line positions, making him a valuable piece for scheming up a pass rush (hello, Titans). Even when he doesn’t win initially, he keeps fighting and throwing secondary and tertiary moves to try to get by.
His extreme short-area quickness and effective two-hand swipe are his signature traits. Watch him beat this guard with a quick jab and perfect hands before exploding to the quarterback:
While his legendary 3-cone time is unconfirmed, Paye does demonstrate unreal phone-booth quickness and impressive footwork turning the corner when rushing from the edge. Watch him change direction here (pay close attention to his feet in the close-up replay) as he hunts down the quarterback for this sack:
From his 2019 tape, I wasn’t sure Paye could be a true EDGE at the next level. But he showed much more ability to win as a stand-up EDGE in 2020. I’d feel comfortable playing him anywhere on the defensive line.
Paye doesn’t have too many weaknesses, but his hand usage is inconsistent. That said, he does a nice job disengaging from blocks even when offensive linemen get inside hand position on him. I say “inconsistent” though because his hands aren’t what I’d call “heavy,” and he could stand to improve his timing swatting away O-linemen punches. Beyond that, Paye is occasionally too hesitant playing the read-option mesh point, which led to a few big plays against him.
While he certainly improved from 2019 as a pass rusher, he was still inconsistent. He flashed a few moves and was able to win both inside and out, but overall I would say he has a limited rush arsenal. At this stage, he’s still a better run defender than pass rusher.
Does he fit the Titans?
Kwity Paye has a sky-high ceiling. I’m encouraged by the improvement shown as a pass rusher from 2019 to 2020. One thing about Paye is sometimes I feel like he looks a bit smaller than 6-2 on tape, but that’s because he plays low in the trenches consistently winning the leverage battle.
Paye is one of the few defensive linemen in this class who could start from day one without being a liability. There’s still room to improve his pass rush skillset, but he’ll be effective against the run right away and, even as a rookie, should flash his ability to disrupt the quarterback. He’s truly an elite size-athleticism specimen who continues to improve as a football player.
Overall, there’s very little to dislike. Paye should be a top-20 pick, and if he’s somehow still on the board at 22, I think he’d be a perfect fit for the Titans as a versatile inside-out edge rusher.
You can check out Paye via his cutups on YouTube:
Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!