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Colts Select Michigan Edge Kwity Paye with the 21st Overall Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft

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2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, the Indianapolis Colts did not trade down with the 21st overall pick, and instead, selected highly touted Michigan edge Kwity Paye.

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 recorded freaky 3-cone time:

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:

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.

The team did sign Isaac Rochell in free agency and re-signed Al-Quadin Muhammad to bolster their collective rotational depth.

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.