With the 2021 NFL Draft just three weeks away, this year’s prospects are getting their final chance to make an impression on NFL scouts at Pro Days. It has been a couple of weeks since the University of Michigan conducted its Pro Day, but the draftnik community is still abuzz about the performance put forth by Wolverines edge-rusher Kwity Paye.
A 6’4″, 261-pounder who tallied 16 total tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks in four games in 2020, Paye put on quite the display of power and speed at his Pro Day, peeling off 36 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press and turning in a ridiculous unofficial 40-yard-dash time of 4.54 seconds.
As Angelique S. Chengelis of the Detroit News wrote, that showing only confirmed Todd McShay’s belief that Paye is a solid contender to be the first edge-rusher selected on April 29.
“The first thing that jumped out to me when studying him was how sudden he is, that first-step quickness that he has,” the ESPN draft analyst said. “You’ve gotta get this guy up the field. And the second thing that jumps out after the suddenness is his motor. I think he’s going to be a better pro than a college player. His production was solid — it wasn’t elite — but developed properly and in the right system and turned up field all the time, he’s gotta chance to be a really good pro. I’m excited to see what he does at the next level.”
As McShay said, Paye’s production at the collegiate level wasn’t great—he had just 6.5 sacks in his last full season in Ann Arbor in 2019. But Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network is in complete agreement with McShay that Paye has the motor and effort level required to be successful at the professional level.
“It is easy to love what he offers as a rally defender,” Crabbs said. “He’ll work off the back side and has the range to chase down runs away just as he has the ability to work back to the quarterback on second and third effort plays to help corral opposing passers. Paye’s path to the pros offers encouragement that he possesses the work ethic necessary to continue developing as a player and leveling up his game for his first few seasons in the NFL.”
Paye was born at a refugee camp in Guinea before his mother (who was fleeing civil war in Liberia) emigrated to the United States. Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network wrote that Paye’s ability to consistently overcome adversity both on and off the field is one of the qualities that makes him an intriguing prospect.
“Paye was a terrific football player for Michigan and is an outstanding story off the field,” he said. “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.”
For his part, Paye said at his Pro Day that he tries to model his game after Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns.
“I would watch Myles Garrett because we’re kind of similar in build,” Paye said, via Jeff Risdon of Browns Wire. “When I would look at NFL D-ends or edge guys, they’re usually 250, 240 (pounds). They’re not like very heavy guys, and I weigh 270. So Myles Garrett [is a bigger end], and I kind of want to see how he uses his speed. He’s very athletic as well. He’s a freak, so being able to watch him and seeing how he uses his weight to use leverage O-tackles and certain moves that he uses carrying that weight kind of helps me.”