Falcons: Could Kwity Paye be the answer on the edge?

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The Falcons really can’t go wrong with their first-round pick — any defensive prospect or best player available. Kwity Paye could very well be the best edge defender in this class, which is THE position of need for the team. Taking Paye with the fourth pick would be rich for my taste, but I could see a scenario where Terry Fontenot trades back and takes him. He’s absolutely the best edge in this draft, so if Fontenot is true to his word of taking the best player available, Paye could find himself in Atlanta come September.


Paye is widely regarded as the most athletic player in this draft. 6-foot-4, 270-pound Paye has the highest ceiling of any defender in this class because of that athleticism. He isn’t some technical pass rusher that wins with finesse or bending around the edge. Instead, Paye wins utilizing his powerful hands and functional strength to diminish angles — usually from tight alignments. His motor is also extremely impressive, and regardless of how effective he is rushing the passer early on, Paye will give you everything he’s got.

He is an A+ run defender primarily because of his awareness of his gaps and the strength to match. He can handle himself in double-teams; he’s technically sound squeezing on tackles’ hips to eliminate creases — keeping his shoulder squared to the line of scrimmage too — which helps to defend against cutbacks. His strength at the point of attack is best on display when he sets the edge, which he does violently and hard, all while he keeps his outside shoulder free.

I mean, this guy is a freak.


His physical attributes might not even be his most impressive ones. Paye has been forged by fire through a challenging upbringing as an immigrant and finds motivation in taking care of his family — he’s internally driven. He is exactly the type of individual you want to be in your building — a home run in terms of intangibles.


The knock-on Paye was his inability to put it all together at Michigan. As I said, he isn’t some technician that wins with hand usage and counter-attacks once tackles get their hands on him. And although he’s been touted as some supreme athlete. Paye struggles to bend around the edge. You know who this profile sounds like, Rashan Gary. Both had the same hype around them in terms of athleticism and motor with a lack of production at Michigan, technical pass-rushing skills, and bend around the edge.

In year two, Gary has now overtaken Preston Smith as the #2 edge on the Packers — a jump that will likely end with Smith being cut. He is still developing pass-rushing moves, other than his bullrush, but has still maintained a certain production level. Gary has only blitzed 17 percent of the time and has five sacks. That’s a solid ratio. Opposite Za’Darius Smith and next to Kenny Clark helps Gary attract favorable matchups, but the Falcons have Dante Fowler and Grady Jarrett to help Paye attract those same matchups. He is literally an identical clone of Gary.


Team Fit

I don’t think the Paye has the tools to play defensive end in a 4-3. He’s not a defensive end that excels with entering lower domains to withstand and surpass blockers around the pocket’s edge or apex. I like Paye in a 5-technique, 3-4. This is similar to how the Packers use Gary, though, where they move him all along the line of scrimmage. In a traditional 3-4, Paye could play outside linebacker and thrive setting the edge of tight ends and full backs, but then kick him inside to rush the passer with Jarrett on nickel and dime sub-packages. Pees would love to have someone like Paye who he could move from a 6-technique to a 5-technique, all the way to a 0-technique if needed — all of which he did as a Wolverine.

Photo: Rich von Biberstein

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