The Michigan Wolverines have been a team that has faltered from expectations in recent years. Even with that disappointment, they have not failed to produce NFL talent. Their strengths lie fruitful at the edge rusher position. They have recently produced players such as Josh Uche, Rashan Gary, Chase Winovich, and Frank Clark. So, it is no surprise to see another Michigan edge rusher in potential first-round conversations. That top NFL Draft prospect is Kwity Paye.
Paye is a guy that should be close to the top of an edge rusher class that still has a lot of uncertainty to it.
Kwity Paye NFL Draft Profile
- Position: EDGE
- School: Michigan
- Year: Senior
- Height: 6’2 2/4″
- Weight: 261 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Kwity Paye Scouting Report
Positives: Hard-working, relatively athletic defensive end who leads by example. Displays great explosion in his game, fires off the snap, and plays with excellent pad level, getting leverage on opponents. Effectively uses his hands to protect himself, bends off the edge, and displays good change-of-direction skills.
Splits double-team blocks and is rarely off his feet. Immediately alters his angle of attack, plays with excellent balance, and has a closing burst. Fluid if asked to twist or stunt. Strong for his size and knocks back bigger offensive tackles with a violent hand punch.
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Negatives: Lacks great bulk and struggles facing off against big, athletic tackles. He may be a liability against the run at the next level.
Analysis: Paye was a terrific football player for Michigan and is an outstanding story off the field. He’s athletic with speed as well as solid playing strength, and Paye comes with a large upside. I envision him being used at defensive end in a four-man line as well as occasionally standing up over tackle to rush the passer. Paye will only improve as he physically matures and adds bulk to his frame.
Kwity Paye Player Profile
The road to Ann Arbor was never easy for Paye. His mother fled her native country of Liberia to South Providence, Rhode Island, which was torn with violence. His mother made sure to keep him and his brother in community activities, including sports. She even hounded their groups to make sure positive people surrounded them despite their tough financial situation. That focus on sports would lead Paye to football.
Playing for Bishop Hendrickson in Warwick, Rhode Island, Paye found himself as the star of his high school team. Bursting onto the scene as a sophomore in 2014, Paye amassed four sacks and ten tackles for loss in his first year as a starter. It was a mark of early production that would become the gold standard for Paye’s exceptional high school career at Bishop Hendrickson, one of Rhode Island’s most prolific programs. Kwity Paye’s long journey to the NFL Draft would start here.
Kwity Paye’s high school career
It was Paye’s junior season that put his name on the national map. Despite a dip in production to only 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, Paye’s natural tools caught the eye of schools. After going to camps and clocking an insane 4.5 40-yard dash, Paye became the top-ranked player in Rhode Island for the 2017 recruiting class.
A high three-star recruit, Paye was a First-Team All-State pick. Even still, his most impressive accomplishment may have been off the gridiron and on the track. Paye won the Rhode Island State Championship in Long Jump with an excellent mark of 21 feet and 5 inches. That caught the attention of national recruiters all over the country.
Prior to his senior season, Paye was getting offers from several Power 5 teams. Northeastern ACC schools like Syracuse and Boston College called Paye in the spring after his sophomore season. In fact, in December of 2015, Paye committed to Boston College after a visit. However, bigger programs came calling. Stanford called before his junior season.
Kwity Paye commits to Michigan
That was nothing compared to when Michigan called and offered Paye before his senior season. In the middle of his senior campaign, Paye visited Ann Arbor and committed shortly after. The natural tools and athleticism made Michigan jump at the opportunity to try and mold Paye into a star.
In his senior season, Paye only had 4.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss, as some teams were triple-teaming him. Even still, Paye won the Rhode Island Lineman of the Year Award and was the 2016 Rhode Island Defensive Player of the Year. Meanwhile, he also was a standout running back. He amassed over 600 rushing yards on the season on the way to leading Bishop Hendrickson to the state championship game. After the season, Paye was selected to the Under Armour All-American game. The success on the track never stopped, either. Paye was a member of the state championship 4×100 team that year.
Kwity Paye’s college career
Arriving at the Big House for his freshman season, Paye would arrive raw and all athletic potential. Even as unrefined as he was, Paye got onto the field as a special teamer and in limited snaps as a defensive end. His first career sack was against Penn State with a great chop-rip move. His sophomore year was where things came more into view as Paye started in four games and played in all 13 games. He got two sacks and was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention. Kwity Paye proved his NFL Draft hype is legitimate and that he was no longer just an athlete but growing into a serious all-around player.
Paye’s junior season saw him see far more significant snaps than ever before in his college career. Paye started 11 of 12 games and amassed 6.5 sacks on the season. Paye’s 2.5 sack game against Iowa displayed everything about his game. One of his sacks was a pure effort sack as he chased Nate Stanley outside of the pocket to finally bring him down. It was all about his hot motor. Two other sacks were against future NFL tackle Alaric Jackson. Paye’s explosiveness, club-rip, and chop-rip moves were too much for Jackson to handle. He flashed his underrated flexibility for someone who is built so densely as well. All in all, Paye’s junior season was a massive success to showcase.
Paye’s stock soars after impressive display in shortened season
With the Big Ten’s return to play, Paye made it known he was not messing around early and often. Against Minnesota, Paye earned Defensive Lineman of the Week honors after registering three tackles for loss and a pair of sacks. Working up and down the defensive line, Paye showcased his fantastic burst as a weapon.
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As a stand-up outside linebacker, Paye’s impressive first step softened angles, and he was able to bend around the edge. On the interior, his explosiveness was turned into power with strong hands to stun the interior lineman. Paye even illustrated a newfound bull rush by converting his speed to power. Paye’s chop-rip and club-rip moves came in handy as he beat NFL prospect Daniel Faalele around the edge a few times.
Over the first three games of the season, Paye racked up 25 pressures. It was easy to see why that was the case against Michigan State. Paye has an innate ability to use his ankle flexibility to bend around the edge and combine that with his explosiveness. If offensive tackles can not get depth and get to their spot, Paye will run that tight arc and beat them with ease.
Unfortunately for Paye, the Michigan edge rusher only played one further game in 2020. A combination of injury and cancellations limited him to a four game senior season. Despite this, Kwity Paye still figures to be one of the first edge rushers selected in the 2021 NFL Draft
Kwity Paye’s best NFL Draft fits
Paye came into the season as a fringe first-round prospect but is now clearly entrenched in the middle of the first round, if not higher. At his pro day, Paye tested very well. He earned a Relative Athletic Score of 9.33, accruing a 4.57 40-yard dash, a 35.5-inch vertical jump, a 118-inch broad jump, and 36 bench reps. Kwity Paye clearly has a great deal of physical upside, and these NFL Draft destinations stand out as positive matches for him.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are a fascinating landing spot for Paye. They love to run multiple fronts and use their guys up and down the line. Paye can fill a need there. While working as a defensive end on the interior, Paye has the right amount of sand in his pants to hold his weight and go at it with the biggest of linemen. His explosiveness on the interior is inherently disruptive as well. Still, Paye can stand up and work at outside linebacker, too. The Chargers like to do that at times, so Paye is a nice plug-and-play here for the Chargers.
The Atlanta Falcons make a lot of sense too. Even if he would be playing mostly as an outside linebacker in their scheme, Paye has the movement skills to work in space if needed. As I mentioned before, he played on special teams, so Paye has the fluidity to drop back in coverage if asked. He can win outside with his burst and flexibility to soften those harsh pass rush angles. Paye can dip his shoulder and really reduce the surface area when tightening that arc. The Falcons are desperate for pass-rushing help.
Las Vegas Raiders
The last fit that I personally love is the Las Vegas Raiders because they play a multiple-front defense that asks their guys to move up and down the line. They thought they were getting that in Clelin Ferrell, but he has not lived up to his draft slot. Paye, on the other hand, has that ability and far more juice than Ferrell does. Kwity Paye is a perfect upgrade for the Raiders to target in the NFL Draft.
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