Paye-Off: Would Birds Move Down For Michigan Edge Rusher?
When assessing the myriad deficiencies that plague the Eagles’ roster, it’s never been more apparent that the team needs a youth infusion at defensive end.
Sure, Josh Sweat notched a career-high 6 sacks in 421 defensive snaps last season. Beyond Sweat, however, soon-to-be 33-year-old Brandon Graham is under contract for one more season, while fringe roster players such as Joe Ostman and Matt Leo are hardly assured a roster spot.
Additionally, veteran Vinny Curry is a pending free agent amid an arduous rebuild.
Then there’s Derek Barnett, the team’s polarizing first-round pick of four years ago. The 24-year-old has registered just 19.5 sacks in 48 games and it’s unclear how he fits into the Eagles’ long-term plans.
Historically, the team has prioritized fortifying the trenches, but without the requisite means to reel in a prominent free agent and with a hollow depth chart, the Eagles must emerge from April’s NFL Draft with at least one pass rusher.
The position will undergo inevitable reconstruction in the coming months, so I opted to look closer at one of my favorite edge rushers in this class, Michigan’s Kwity Paye.
Paye, who immediately settled into a rotational role upon arriving in Ann Arbor in 2017, wasted little time making an impact for the Wolverines. Following two years of honing his craft as a versatile depth player on a star-studded defense, Paye would eventually enjoy the fruits of his labor in his third season.
The departures of fellow defensive linemen Rashaan Gary and Chase Winovich to the professional ranks created an opportunity for Paye to introduce himself to a national audience.
In 12 games (11 starts), the 6-foot-4, 272-pound defender collected 50 tackles (12.5 for loss), 6.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery. His signature performance came in a narrow 10-3 victory over No. 14 Iowa; Paye recorded four tackles and 2.5 sacks. The disruptive lineman earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Despite playing an abbreviated, four-game senior season, Paye was able to muster 16 tackles (4.0 for loss) and two sacks, cementing himself as a surefire first-round pick in April.
Paye, who boasts violent hands, inordinate strength, and positional versatility, typically wins with power and leverage. His energy and effort is relentless, which complements his instinctual prowess and translates to plays made behind the line of scrimmage.
If there are any blemishes in Paye’s game, I would point to his run defense, in which he’ll at times get caught off-balance and redirected. While his chiseled frame often becomes an asset at the point of attack, it can also be to his detriment as a pass rusher; there isn’t much bend and lateral agility to his game.
Paye is my second-rated edge rusher behind Miami’s Gregory Rousseau and a likely top-15 pick. Paye’s lack of sustained dominance at the collegiate level is sure to scare some teams off, but his upside and versatility undeniably improve any defense almost instantly.
If the Eagles happen to be in the business of moving off the No. 6 pick and trading down, they could return to the well and add another Michigan defensive end to the mix.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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