NFL Executives, Scouts Tab Colts Defensive Lineman as 2022 Breakout Star

Kwity Paye

Getty NFL executives and scouts predicted Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kwity Paye to breakout 2022 season.

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

But second-year defensive end Kwity Paye could be a major part of the Indianapolis pass rush this season as well. At least that’s what multiple NFL front-office executives, scouts and coaches said when they spoke with Heavy senior NFL reporter Matt Lombardo.

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

“There’s a belief that the former Michigan standout who logged a 4.57 40-yard dash and ran a freakish 6.37-second unofficial three-cone drill, could be on the cusp of becoming one of the game’s premier pass rushers,” wrote Lombardo.

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Paye to “Surprise People” in 2022?

Paye didn’t fill the stat sheet during his rookie season. Defensive end first-round selections typically need more than 4.0 sacks per season in order to avoid the bust label.

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

He missed two games at the beginning of October because of a hamstring injury, which slowed him down a bit the rest of the year. If completely healthy, Paye has the potential to take a major step forward during this fall.

“Kwity 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 are going to have to throw the ball a lot in order to stay 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 2022 breakout candidate this summer. Andrew Moore of Sports Illustrated and NFL writer Nicholas McGee of The 33rd Team both projected the second-year defensive end to be Indianapolis’ top breakout candidate this season.

Paye Could Excel With One-on-One Opportunities

Moore and McGee both cited Paye’s chance to see more single-blocking situations this fall as a big reason to consider the second-year defender a breakout candidate. With the arrival of Ngakoue on the other edge and Buckner in the middle of the Colts defensive line, opposing teams might not have the luxury of blocking Paye with more than one offensive linemen very often.

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

“The cool thing about Kwity is he’s a real high-motor guy,” the executive said. “No one really is talking about him, but if he can play all 17 games, there’s no reason he can’t reach the high teens in sacks.”

Paye reaching the high teens in sacks would be a sight for sore eyes in Indianapolis. The last time the Colts had a defender post more than 11.0 sacks was Robert Mathis in 2013.

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