The 2021 NFL Draft is a day away, and Peter King has the Ravens trading up for Michigan standout Kwity Paye. This may be the Ravens’ best-case scenario.
Peter King released his final mock on Monday ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, in which he had the Ravens selecting Michigan edge-rusher Kwity Paye at 22 via a trade with the Tennessee Titans. After picking up some extra picks via the Orlando Brown Jr. trade, the Ravens certainly have the capital to make a move like this, and it may just be their best-case scenario.
Kwity Paye comes from the most humble of upbringings, with an immensely inspirational back story along with it. Paye’s mother Agnes witnessed first-hand the brutality and violence that came in the form of a civil war in their homeland. Bouncing around from one refugee camp to the next, eventually, she gave birth to a son in Guinea who would go on to become a star athlete in America. In order to give her family the best life possible, Agnes would move them all to Rhode Island when Kwity was less than one year old, where he would learn the game of football and never look back.
Agnes’ perseverance and hard work would pass down to her son, who at Michigan showed off his massive athletic potential and now sits high on the draft board of teams all around the league as a result. Standing at an intimidating 6’4″ and 272-lbs., Paye’s combination of size, strength, and short-area speed could have Wink Martindale chomping at the bit to welcome him to Charm City. For a defensive coordinator who loves to move players around and manufacture pressure in a multitude of different ways, few players in this draft possess the potential versatility of Paye. In addition to being one of the most sought-after edge-rushers of this crop, Paye’s quickness and explosiveness at the snap could give interior offensive linemen fits should the Ravens decide to use him inside on certain packages.
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In addition to the aforementioned short-area speed, Paye also possesses serious sideline to sideline agility and an ability to stop on a dime and change direction at almost any point of his pursuit. In the NFL today it’s no secret that quarterbacks are using their pocket mobility more than ever to keep plays alive. Two of those quarterbacks currently play in the AFC North, Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow, and who knows what the Steelers situation will look like at the position after the 2021 season? Another one plays for the two-time defending AFC champions in Patrick Mahomes (who just gained himself a Pro Bowl left tackle). Bringing in someone like Paye who isn’t a one-dimensional bull-rusher is exactly the type of player the Ravens need on the edge to help keep those guys in check for years to come.
Now, no prospect is perfect, and Kwity Paye’s biggest knocks come from his lack of overall experience and his statistical production. Having only 19 college starts under his belt, and coming off a Covid-shortened season in which he only had two sacks (in four games), there’s justifiably a small bit of hesitation towards him. The flashes were still there though, most notably in the Wolverines’ game against Minnesota where Paye recorded both of those sacks and seemingly took the game over. It’s safe to say 2020 isn’t the best judge of the majority of players in this year’s draft, and Paye’s 2019 junior campaign in which he racked up 6.5 sacks and 50 total tackles is likely a much more accurate depiction of who he really is on the field.
Besides, the Ravens defense under Wink Martindale has been one that doesn’t rely on things like sexy sack numbers to equate success, but rather an overall team effort on getting pressure and maintaining coverage in the secondary. As long as Paye shows an ability to make life tough for quarterbacks on a consistent basis, the statistical numbers are likely to take a back seat. Look no further than Matt Judon, who despite never reaching 10 sacks in a season was still one of the key contributors to the Ravens defense over the last four years.
Kwity Paye brings a lot to the table for any team who decides to draft him on Thursday night: a hard-working, humble, athletic specimen who came from a war-torn country and now gets to live his (and his family’s) dream. The phrase “play like a Raven” has echoed through the halls of the castle in Owings Mills since its inception, and no player in this draft embodies that mantra more than Kwity Paye.