Should the Broncos add a first-round Edge rusher?
Thanks to their promising pair of edge rushers and a more aggressive pressure scheme, the Broncos were able to generate a pass rush last season without Von Miller. Bradley Chubb made the Pro Bowl while Malik Reed finished with 31 individual pass pressures as Vic Fangio adjusted to life without his future Hall of Famer.
Going forward, there are a number of questions.
Chubb enters the last season of his rookie contract while questions remain about Miller’s long-term future with the Broncos. Reed is set to become a Restricted Free Agent in 2022, and 2020 seventh rounder Derrek Tuszka is the only other outside linebacker on the roster. There is little doubt the Broncos will look to add another edge defender to the roster in the NFL Draft.
If George Paton and the Broncos elect to chase talent early on Draft Day, Michigan’s Kwity Paye should be on their radar.
At a glance:
Kwity Paye is arguably the closest edge in this class to a Chase Young type of prospect. His athletic tools jump off the film and it’s easy to fall for what the 6-foot-4, 270 pound, 22-year-old will become with NFL coaching. Traits are a huge part to evaluating edge rushers and Paye has freakish explosiveness and lateral mobility for a man of his stature.
Why he fits the Broncos
- Per Sports Info Solutions charting: Created pressure on 23% of his snaps in 2020. Notched 29 pressures in four games.
- Very good athlete with very good agility, quickness, and explosiveness.
- Good competitive toughness and very good motor
- Paye shows solid burst off the snap and will try to key the cadence.
- He’s strong at the point of attack and should become a very good force player in the NFL.
- He’s good at using his length and strength to stack and shed and should improve.
- Has the tools to convert speed to power and play through an opponent.
- Paye’s tape and athleticism suggest he could become a solid coverage player if asked to do so.
- He will be a mismatch for guards when he’s asked to rush inside. Could become a weapon as a penetrator on stunts. Lateral mobility will be an asset as a looper.
- Michigan asked him to play multiple techniques, including 9T, 7T, 4i, and even nose tackle.
Reasons for concern
- One pass deflection in his career.
- His mental processing remains a work in progress.
- Paye missed games against Wisconsin and Rutgers with a groin injury.
- Two sacks in 2020 point to a larger question: 11.5 for his career and just 23.5 tackles for loss.
- Football young and needs to continue to add to and refine his pass rush plan.
- He rushed out of a 3-point stance 92% of the time at Michigan, something he won’t do as an Edge for Vic Fangio.
- He wins more often inside than outside.
- His ability to read during a drop, anticipate, and play around the catch point is a projection.
What I’ve seen/heard/read
I spoke with Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle about Kwity Paye on Cover 2 Broncos.
“Paye is a naturally explosive pass rusher and if he can improve his pass rush repertoire he can become a dominant edge defender at the next level”
“Paye is a physical freak with staggering lateral agility and pass rushing skills who needs to improve his play strength. His tools and ability fit best for a 4-3 edge rushing role.”
The size and explosive testing will surely get teams and evaluators excited, but it might be hard to bang the table for him based on the tape. Paye’s traits and potential should not be discounted, as he’ll continue to be skilled up in technique and fundamentals. However, he’s a choppy-stepping short-strider who doesn’t play with the feel and instincts of an NFL playmaker. He can overcome his lack of stride length as a rusher with a more focused, upfield attack and better hands at the top of his rush, but he might be better-suited as a reduced rusher on passing downs, where his quickness could overwhelm guards. The traits and explosiveness are enticing but the film says “good” rather than “great” at this time
Kwity Paye is an exciting prospect whose potential and physical ability is only now beginning to be realized on the gridiron. There’s an extremely high ceiling in Paye’s game thanks to his athletic abilities; if his NFL team is able to continue to draw fundamental improvements out of him to allow him to continue to simply react to discard or defeat blocks, he’ll be in line for plenty of explosive plays in opposing backfields. The steps Paye made in 2020 during the abbreviated season should only further fuel optimism that his development is still on an upward trajectory. Paye has won in the past most sufficiently from tight alignments and utilized his powerful hands and functional strength to diminish angles and find creases to press through and rally to the football. I do feel he’s a bit more of a linear athlete and his ability to collapse tackle sets with speed to power is going to shine more frequently than his reps when looking to crash off the edge and win with finesse. Paye has been forged by fire through a challenging upbringing as an immigrant and finds his “why” in taking care of his family—he’s internally driven and appears to be the kind of individual you want in your building to buy into the process. He’s a home run from an intangibles, effort, and tools perspective, but his scheme fit is an important accommodation to make for optimal success.
Kwity Paye is a DE prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.54 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 62 out of 1338 DE from 1987 to 2021.
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 26, 2021
Barring something unforeseen, there is little reason to believe Paye will fall out of the first round of the 2021 draft. He has the kind of traits necessary to grow into a dominant edge rusher in the NFL. While he played only four games in 2020, he’s played in 26 games across his collegiate career and shows the signs that he’s an ascending prospect.
Paye doesn’t come without risk. His bend is closer to solid than elite, a power rusher who is closer to Chubb than Miller. This is one area of his game that keeps him a clear tier below Young as a draft prospect.
He will need to win with his length, hands, and via scheme at the next level. One area for concern that can’t be ignored is how Fangio asks his outside linebackers to play in coverage more than Paye ever has.