NFL Execs, Scouts sign Colts Defensive Lineman as 2022 Emerging Star

Getty NFL executives and scouts predicted Indianapolis Colts defensive wing Kwity Paye would succeed in the 2022 season.

The Indianapolis Colts are counting on DeForest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue to improve the team’s pass rush, which recorded just 33 catches last season. That ranked the Colts 25th in catches among the NFL’s 32 teams.

But second-year defensive wing Kwity Paye also could be an important part of Indianapolis’ quarterback race this season. At least that’s what several NFL front office executives, scouts, and coaches said when they spoke with Heavy NFL senior reporter Matt Lombardo.

As a result, Lombardo included Paye among his top six players with the best chance to experience standout seasons in 2022.

“There is a belief that the former Michigan standout who recorded a 4.57 40-yard dash and ran a rare unofficial 6.37-second three-cone drill could be on the cusp of becoming one of the game’s best quarterbacks,” Lombardo wrote.

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Paye to “Surprise the People” in 2022?

Paye didn’t fill out the stat sheet during his rookie season. First-round defensive wing picks generally need more than 4.0 catches per season to avoid the bust tag.

But Pro Football Focus reports that Paye posted a 15.1% pass rush win rate, which was the third-highest among rookie defensive backs in 2021.

He missed two games in early October due to a hamstring injury, which set him back a bit for the rest of the year. If fully healthy, Paye has the potential to take a big step forward this fall.

“Kitty had a pretty good year last year, but he got hurt early,” an NFC front office executive told Lombardo. “I think if he stays healthy, playing in that defense, I think teams will have to throw the ball a lot to keep him in games, and he’s a kid who can really surprise people this year.”

“Surprise” is a bit of an interesting word choice because Paye has been a popular pick as a featured prospect for 2022 this summer. Andrew Moore of Sports Illustrated and NFL writer Nicholas McGee of The 33rd Team projected the second-year defensive wing would be Indianapolis’ top featured prospect this offseason.

Paye could excel with individual opportunities

Moore and McGee cited Paye’s opportunity to see more single-blocking situations this fall as a big reason to consider the second-year defensive end a standout candidate. With the arrival of Ngakoue at the other end and Buckner in the middle of the Colts’ defensive line, opposing teams may not have the luxury of blocking Paye with more than one offensive lineman very often.

That could put Paye in line for a big season. One NFL executive told Lombardo that Paye is “winning that (one-on-one) battle every time.”

“The good thing about Kwity is he’s a very active guy,” the executive said. “Nobody really talks about him, but if he can play all 17 games, there’s no reason he can’t get to the teens in catches.”

Paye reaching the teens in sacks would be a sight for sore eyes in Indianapolis. The last time the Colts had a defensive back post-11.0-plus catches was Robert Mathis in 2013.

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