The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2021 Draft with a fairly rudimentary plan: let the first round play out and adapt as players off their big board were taken.
So, when teams kept glossing over edge rusher Kwity Paye, who was projected as a potential top 10 pick throughout the pre-draft process, during the course of the first round, they couldn’t help but pray he would last to No. 21 overall.
As we know, Indianapolis (after sweating it out) ended up netting Paye, and their war room’s priceless reaction when they realized he was available proved he was their guy all along.
It goes without saying Paye hasn’t had a real opportunity to make his presence known around the locker room. After all, rookie mini camp just ended and the veterans on the roster are only just arriving for spring practices.
Despite that, however, linebacker Darius Leonard already sees something special in Paye.
While speaking with reporters on Monday, Leonard had high praise for the young pass rusher, going as far as to say he’s everything the Colts could want in a rookie.
Colts fans will love Darius Leonard’s praise for Kwity Paye.
If these comments don’t prove fans should buy into the Paye hype, then nothing will.
Paye didn’t burst onto the scene at Michigan until his junior year, when he recorded 50 tackles, 12.5 of which went for a loss, and 6.5 sacks in 12 games. He only appeared in four games as a senior, but still managed 16 tackles (four for loss) and two sacks, while earning the highest pass rush win rate among Big Ten defenders, according to Pro Football Focus.
While the former Wolverine has an imposing physical presence — he ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, had logged a 35.5 inch vertical and a 118-inch broad jump at his Michigan pro day despite being 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds (!) — Leonard realizes Paye’s motor and desire to prove something on every snap is just as, if not more, important to his long term success.
The Colts’ front office, including general manager Chris Ballard, have all acknowledged that Paye needs to improve his pass-rushing repertoire and overall technique on the edge, but very few players are refined in those departments upon entering the league.
The bottom line is that it’s remarkable to think Paye has made this big of an impression on Leonard, who’s one of the most complete and self-aware defenders in the NFL, despite just touching down in Lucas Oil Stadium last week.
Again, the 22-year-old might not hit the ground running as a rookie, but his competitive motor indicates he’s poised to make a huge impact on the Colts defense in Year 1. After all, Leonard knows a thing or two about what it takes to enjoy success straight out of the gates.