While the NFL Combine did not take place in a central location in 2021, prospects took part in athletic testing evaluations at pro days across the country. And few, if any, players in this year’s draft had a more impressive athletic testing profile than Kwity Paye.
Paye, who’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds, ran a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, had a 35 1/2-inch vertical leap and a 118-inch broad jump while repping 36 bench press reps at Michigan’s Pro Day earlier this year.
Players of Paye’s size are not uncommon — there are 61 players who participated in the modified 2021 combine standing at at least 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds in this year’s NFL Draft — but players who can move like Paye at his size are exceedingly rare.
Here’s the complete list of players to run a sub-4.57 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine since 2000 while weighing at least 260 pounds – so 12 pounds less than Paye:
Jaelan Phillips (EDGE, Miami, 2021)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State, 2019)
Jimmy Graham (TE, Miami, 2010)
All three of those players were listed at 260 pounds.
But where Paye’s athletic testing gets legitimately unique is in his three-cone drill. He didn’t officially test in the three-cone drill in the 2021 combine, but Austin Meek — The Athletic’s Michigan reporter — wrote that he ran a 6.37 three-cone drill while in college.
The only two players who have run a three-cone drill at 6.37 seconds or quicker at the NFL Combine since 2000 were both cornerbacks. And only 16 players have ever run a three-cone drill at 6.5 seconds or faster. Their positions: Cornerback, cornerback, wide receiver, safety, running back, wide receiver, wide receiver, cornerback, cornerback, safety…you get the idea.
That kind of short-area quickness is incredibly rare, and maybe even unprecedented, for a player of Paye’s size.
Add all this to Paye’s impressive tape and top-notch work ethic and effort, and it’s easy to see why folks around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center were so excited to draft him 21st overall on Thursday night.
“You always look for guys who pop,” general manager Chris Ballard said. “Do they pop on tape when you’re watching – all 22 of them – who pops off the tape? And Kwity pops off the tape. One, with his athleticism and his speed but also with his effort. This kid, he already plays the way we want to play. He is going to fit in pretty quickly. I know our defensive players were pretty excited. I heard from a few of them.”
Stats are via Stathead.com.