Leading up to draft night, the Indianapolis Colts were considered one of the favorites to trade back in the first round. It just seemed to make the most sense for them.
Not only does GM Chris Ballard have a near-flawless track record doing so over his tenure, but there was likely going to be a good chance that the top prospects at the Colts’ positions of need were going to be long gone by the time it was their turn to pick.
When the dust settled, however, the Colts held their ground and they were ultimately rewarded with Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye. By all accounts this was one of the steals of the first round, as he was the top DE prospect on most experts’ draft boards.
How much were Ballard and the Colts infatuated by Paye? Well, the post first-round buzz suggests they turned down at least one trade offer to move back.
If that doesn’t instill confidence in fans about the pick, we’re not sure what will.
The Colts reportedly turned down an offer to trade back in order to select edge rusher Kwity Paye at No. 21 overall.
Here’s how Zak Keefer of The Athletic detailed what was going on inside Indianapolis’ war room when their turn to pick was fast approaching.
"“The Colts had options Thursday night, sitting there with the 21st pick in the NFL Draft, weighing what to do with needs on both sides of the ball staring them straight in the face,” Zeefer wrote.“Then the phone rang, and another offer presented itself: the potential to trade back and pick up additional selections. Chris Ballard likes doing this. ‘Trade back’ might as well be his middle name — the man’s done it eight times since becoming the Colts’ general manager in 2017, and it has paid off, again and again and again.“But this time, the call was quick. Trade back? No, thanks. Not with this kid still on the board.”"
The Colts hadn’t used their first-round pick over the last three years, so it speaks volumes that they broke that trend to draft Paye, who Ballard believes will perfect fit in Matt Eberflus’ system.
Though Paye didn’t post earth-shattering sack numbers at Michigan, the Colts don’t necessarily need him to pad the stat sheet. His sheer physical presence — he checked in at 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, ran a 4.54 40-yard dash, and managed 36 bench press reps at his pro day — will be enough to take double teams off interior behemoths DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart.
The former Wolverines standout didn’t participate in the three-cone drill at his pro day, but previous footage suggests his footwork should make a seamless transition to the NFL.
Paye might only have posted 16 tackles (four for loss) and two sacks as a senior, but in 2020 he recorded the highest pass rush win rate (25%) of any defender in the Big Ten, which oozed NFL-ready talent on that side of the ball
He still has a ways to go in terms of refining his pass-rushing repertoire, but that can be developed over time. The bottom line is that the Colts drafted a 22-year-old defensive end with the type of humble character and physical presence you simply can’t teach.
It’s really no wonder Ballard reportedly turned down an offer to trade back.