Indianapolis Colts select Kwity Paye in 2021 NFL Draft: Grading the pick

Kwity Paye, 2021 NFL mock draft (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Kwity Paye, 2021 NFL mock draft (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts made a move to upgrade their pass rush with Michigan’s Kwity Paye.

Despite going 11-5 and reaching the playoffs, the Indianapolis Colts had some uncertainty heading into the offseason. Quarterback Philip Rivers and left tackle Anthony Castonzo both retired, leaving the team with two big holes on the offense. The Colts took a flier on Carson Wentz, hoping that a reunion with head coach Frank Reich would revive his career. Still, the team has several big needs to address if they hope to return to the postseason.

The Colts filled one of those needs on defense in the NFL Draft, selecting Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye with the 21st overall pick. Paye is just the second edge rusher off the board, following Miami’s Jaelan Phillips at No. 18. The pass-rushing class isn’t nearly as top-heavy as it has been in recent years, so it’s not terribly surprising that Paye fell to No. 21.

Paye has impressive physical traits, measuring in at 6-2, 261 pounds and running a reported 4.52 time at Michigan’s pro day. However, those measurables didn’t quite translate to the box score — Paye had just 11.5 sacks in four years, operating mostly as a run stopper for the Wolverines.

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Paye’s relative lack of stats leaves some room for skepticism, as laid out by’s Lance Zierlein:

"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."

While the Colts did fill a need, it’s something of a risk with Paye’s boom-bust potential. They still have a glaring hole at left tackle, which will be harder to fill in the later rounds of the draft. They could also use some weapons at receiver to complement Michael Pittman Jr., an aging T.Y. Hilton, and injury-plagued Parris Campbell. GM Chris Ballard has made some brilliant draft decisions over his tenure in Indianapolis, but he still has a way to go here.