While the Indianapolis Colts took some risks in the 2021 Draft, some of which look promising (Mike Strachan) and some of which don’t (Shawn Davis), the draft class will likely be considered a success if defensive end Kwity Paye ends up becoming the star pass rusher the team believes he can be.
Paye didn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers at Michigan, but Chris Ballard was intrigued by his blend of strength, explosion, and size so much that he used the 21st overall pick on him. Ballard chose not to re-sign Justin Houston in order to give Paye the chance to become a starter right out of the gate.
The early returns on Paye have been very encouraging, as he and Tyquan Lewis look ready to start at the defensive end spots alongside DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart inside. The preseason can be fool’s gold sometimes, but Paye looks as explosive as he did in college.
Paye recorded a sack against the Vikings and Lions, and he left the preseason as the highest-graded rookie defender, per Pro Football Focus. Did this preseason set the stage for a rookie campaign that could end with him getting some hardware?
Kwity Paye could bring the Colts a Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Paye recorded 8.5 sacks in his last two seasons with Michigan. While those numbers were impacted by last year’s funky COVID year, they left some GMs wondering how long it would take Paye to morph from an intriguing athletic prospect into an NFL-caliber pass rusher. So far, the results are encouraging.
He even managed to beat much-hyped rookie Penei Sewell for a sack in the Detroit game. With Week 1 coming against a Seattle team that’s likely not going to have one of the better offensive lines in the game, Paye might be able to hit the ground running against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks.
Micah Parsons will likely be considered the favorite, and guys like Patrick Surtain II, Jamin Davis, and Jaelan Phillips will give Paye a run for his money. However, the Michigan man was dominant at times during the preseason, as he’s already looked more refined with regard to his pass rush sets.
While Ballard has proven to be one of the finer GMs in the game, he hasn’t always had the best luck with drafting edge rushers — the Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay selections likely could’ve been handled better. If the Colts manage to hit on Paye, Matt Eberflus will once again have one of the strongest defenses in the game and concerns over this draft class will disappear.