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NFL Draft Rumors: Eagles “love” Kwity Paye and “it’s possible” he’s the pick at No. 12

And. here. we. go.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Michigan at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For some, the realistic worst-case scenario for the Philadelphia Eagles’ first-round pick involves the team taking Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye at No. 12. If you’re among his skeptics, well, you’re not going to enjoy the latest rumor leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft.

Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network says the Eagles “love” Paye and it is indeed possible he’s Philly’s first-round pick.

Howie Rosman and the Eagles are known to pull a surprise or two on draft day — so who could it be this year?

(12:55 PM ET) I’m told the team loves Kwity Paye, the edge rusher from Michigan, and view him as a clone to another former Wolverine — Brandon Graham — the Eagles’ former first-round pick. Could they take him with the 12th overall selection? I’d say right now, it’s possible.

As with any draft rumor, we must take this information with a grain of salt. But it’s not like Pauline is without legitimate sources. He used to have a role working for the Eagles’ official website. He was also all over some major Eagles news stories in the past. Examples include but aren’t necessarily limited to them signing Byron Maxwell in 2015, them re-signing Brandon Graham in 2019, and Doug Pederson being frustrated in Philly. UPDATE: Pauline also nailed the Eagles taking Reagor last year:

Pauline: The Eagles pull a bit of a surprise taking Jalen Reagor. He was one of the few speed receivers still available and the Eagles will have a field day using Reagor in the slot, on reverses and as a return specialist.

Even putting sources aside, the Paye rumor passes the sniff test. We all know Howie Roseman loves to build through the trenches; seven of the general manager’s nine first-round picks have been linemen. The Eagles specifically believe pass rusher is a premium position.

Further, the Eagles have a long-term need at defensive end.

The aforementioned Brandon Graham turned 33 earlier this month and is set to play his 12th NFL season. Graham is coming off a well-deserved Pro Bowl nod but only had one sack in his final eight games.

Derek Barnett is currently set to play out his fifth-year option in 2021. The guess here is the team would’ve preferred to sign him to an extension but couldn’t come close to agreeing on financial terms. The 2017 first-round pick isn’t a lock to be back in Philly next year.

Neither is Josh Sweat, who will also be a free agent after the 2021 season. Sweat has undoubtedly shown promise but there are questions if he can handle a full-time workload due to his injury history.

With Genard Avery presumably moving to off-ball linebacker, the only other defensive ends under contract are ... Joe Ostman and Matt Leo. Neither are locks to even make the 2021 roster.

And so the need for a defensive end could be justified. As for the specific player, though?

I just find it hard to believe that Paye is truly the best player available at No. 12. We’re talking about a guy who had just 11.5 sacks and one forced fumble in four years (28 games) at Michigan. We all know that sacks don’t always tell the whole story and there’s value in creating a lot of pressures, which we’ve long seen out of Graham in Philly. Still, it’s hard not to find yourself wanting more from such a premium pick.

The big sell on Paye is that he has great athletic tools, which is admittedly important when it comes to edge rushers (see: Sweat’s ascension).

The problem for me is that we’re talking about upside with a player who will play his rookie season at 23 years old. That’s relatively older for a rookie; consider fellow edge rushing prospect Azeez Ojulari is only 20. How much better is Paye really going to get?

Another problem is that this pick goes against the consensus. That’s not to suggest the path to success is always going with group-think. But, uh, the Eagles have been burned quite a bit by trying to outsmart everyone in recent years. And sometimes the consensus DOES know best.

Here’s a scouting report from NFL.com:

The explosive testing will surely get teams and evaluators excited, but it might be hard to bang the table for him based on the tape. Paye’s traits and potential should not be discounted, as he’ll continue to be skilled up in technique and fundamentals. However, he’s a choppy-stepping short-strider who doesn’t play with the feel and instincts of an NFL playmaker. He can overcome his lack of stride length as a rusher with a more focused, upfield attack and better hands at the top of his rush, but he might be better-suited as a reduced rusher on passing downs, where his quickness could overwhelm guards. The traits and explosiveness are enticing but the film says “good” rather than “great” at this time.

Hopefully, Pauline’s report is a smokescreen designed to get another team to trade up for Paye ahead of the Eagles’ pick.

Poll

Should the Eagles draft Kwity Paye at No. 12?

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