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2021 Patriots draft profile: Kwity Paye has the potential to be New England’s next great edge defender

Related: Patriots draft profile: Jaelon Darden has game-breaking potential at a low price

Michigan v Maryland Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The New England Patriots have had a big hole over the last few years in terms of finding defensive talent that can both rush the passer and set the edge to stop the run. Chase Winovich has popped in spurts over his first two seasons but has been inconsistent and seen his playing time fluctuate due to his inconsistencies versus the run.

Paye can fix both of those issues in one pick as he’s hands-down the best edge defender in the draft due to his freakish athleticism and ability to cover so much ground on defense. He is an athletic player that has the tools to be a future 10+ sacks-a-year guy for the Patriots. Even though edge defenders never really pick up sacks in New England at quite the same rate as they do elsewhere, Paye would have the potential to be the most dominant edge defender the Patriots have had since Trey Flowers back in 2018.

Let’s take a closer look at him.

Name: Kwity Paye

Position: Edge defender/Outside linebacker

School: Michigan (Senior)

Week 1 Age: 22

2020 Stats: 4 games, 12 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble

Size: 6’4, 275 lbs

Expected Range: 1st

Strengths: Paye has an extremely high ceiling due to his combination of athleticism and size. He’s a true do-it-all edge defender that defends the run extremely well and is a madman in pursuit — much like fellow former Wolverine Chase Winovich. Paye repeatedly finds himself in the opponents’ backfields due to his speed and processing skills. He’s a running back that plays defensive end and wins off the edge due to his power at the point of attack and strong hands. He’s too much to handle for opposing offensive tackles.

Paye is really good laterally and has solid fluidity in his hips, which makes him solid in coverage and allows him to run with running backs and tight ends when dropping back. He also reacts quickly and takes advantage of offensive linemen with his strong hands and general play strength. Overall, Paye is one of the most dominant players in the class and projects as a three-down defensive edge at the next level capable of being productive against the run, as a pass rusher and when dropping back into coverage.

Weaknesses: When studying Paye’s game, there’s very little to nitpick in terms of things he can’t do on the field. He’s a modern-day edge that plays extremely fast and efficient in his pursuit when used in coverage.

The one thing Paye will need to work on is his bend off the edge. In college, he got away with pure strength and bull-rushing offensive linemen that had no business trying to defend him. In the NFL, however, he will need to get more technical at times and not rely on his athleticism and power to consistently win against athletically superior offensive tackles.

Why the Patriots should draft him: The Patriots really haven’t had a dominant edge player that can also defend the run since Trey Flowers left for the Detroit Lions in 2019. Paye would fill a void New England has, and can play all three downs while being a force in opponents’ backfields. The one thing Bill Belichick knows about Michigan’s front seven players is that they can come in and contribute right away for his defense.

Paye would do just that, and join a Patriots defense that has added Chase Winovich and Josh Uche in the past two drafts. Both have had success in their early years. Overall, Paye would fill a big need for a New England defense that is looking to add youth and athleticism in its front seven.

Expected 2021 Role: Paye can step in right away and be a three-down contributor for the Patriots if they choose to select him (if he even is available, that is). We have seen in the last few years how athletic and powerful edge rushers can transition to the NFL pretty smoothly — Paye would fall into the same category. Chase Young and Nick Bosa have been the top edge defenders in the last two years, for example, and both have stepped in and won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Paye isn’t as complete of a prospect as those two were, but he still has the tools to dominate from Day one in the NFL. If he’s available at No. 15, the Patriots should sprint to the podium to add him to their rebuilding defense.