Mock drafts and projections over the last several weeks have made it clear senior defensive end Kwity Paye and redshirt sophomore right tackle Jalen Mayfield are the Michigan Wolverines’ top two football prospects heading into the 2021 NFL Draft.
Many of the latest prognosticators have forecasted Paye and Mayfield to come off the board in similar spots in April’s draft, with the pair oftentimes pegged to be selected anywhere from the mid to late-first round.
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Pro Football Focus (PFF) did not share that same sentiment in its latest estimations, however, tabbing Paye as a significantly better prospect than Mayfield. PFF’s Anthony Treash released his latest mock draft today and had Paye coming off the board at No. 17 to the Las Vegas Raiders, and Mayfield going No. 61 (late second round) to the Buffalo Bills.
“The Raiders rank dead last in the NFL in team pass-rush grade by a considerable margin since they traded away [outside linebacker] Khalil Mack before the start of the 2018 season,” Treash wrote of his Paye projection.
“Depending on what they do in free agency (i.e., improving or ignoring the secondary), using the 17th overall pick to get them out of the lack-of-pressure rut isn’t a bad idea. Paye only played in four games this past season, but he was still able to rack up 22 pressures to go with an 87.1 pass-rush grade [64 is considered average].
“He is an athletic freak and showed signs of improvement from a technical standpoint in 2020.”
“Mayfield is likely a tackle-to-guard convert at the next level and is a bit of a project, but he is young and has the physical makeup that gives him a lot of upside,” Treash wrote of Mayfield.
“Prior to playing in a couple of games in 2020, Mayfield was a bit of a roller coaster at Michigan. He was inconsistent throughout his 2019 campaign, flashing high-end reps but also constantly showing how unrefined he is technically.
“That year, he gave up 27 pressures en route to a 70.2 PFF grade.”
PFF’s Michael Renner, meanwhile, came out with his list of the 300 best players heading into the NFL Draft, and unsurprisingly had Paye and Mayfield as his top two Michigan prospects.
Renner placed the former at No. 11 overall and as the second best defensive player in the entire draft (behind Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 6), and the latter at No. 70.
Six other Wolverines made Renner’s top 300 list — cornerback Ambry Thomas at No. 120, linebacker Cameron McGrone at No. 122, wideout Nico Collins at No. 143, tight end Nick Eubanks at No. 238, running back Chris Evans at No. 278 and defensive lineman Carlo Kemp at No. 299.
Assuming there are 32 picks in all seven rounds, there would be 224 selections in this year’s draft (though it seldom comes out to that exact number). If it plays out that way, however, Eubanks, Evans and Kemp would not be drafted, based on the projections above.
Danny Kelly of The Ringer, meanwhile, put together a huge draft guide Feb. 18, including a projection of the first round that included detailed scouting reports on all 32 players he expects to be chosen.
Kelly only pegged one Wolverine to come off the board in the first round, forecasting Paye to go No. 14 overall to the Minnesota Vikings. The analyst made an NFL comparison for all of his projected first-rounders, and compared Paye to Detroit Lions defensive end Everson Griffen.
“Paye has a thick, muscular build with good length and flexibility,” Kelly wrote. “The Wolverines star lines up in a low stance and uncoils at the snap to fly upfield. His first-step burst immediately jumps off the tape and is the foundation for his pass-rush repertoire; he’s got pistons for feet, giving him a powerful bull rush, and he utilizes a good cross-chop move and an effective inside counter, which frequently catches tackles off balance and too wide in their pass set.
“Paye, who showed up at the top spot on [FOX analyst] Bruce Feldman’s iconic Freaks List column for 2020, boasts rare short-area quickness, and that’s most apparent in his incredible closing speed.
“He does a good job of keeping his eyes on and mirroring the movement of the quarterback, and he regularly chases down scramblers, often from the backside of the play.”
Kelly added a “Why he Could Rise” and a “Why he Could Fall” segment for each prospect, and cited how Paye is just “scratching the surface of his potential” for the former.
“His sack totals don’t stand out and he still must develop his repertoire of pass-rush moves,” Kelly noted for Paye’s “Why he Could Fall” section. Kelly placed the veteran defensive end at No. 14 overall on his list of the 32 best prospects in the draft, meanwhile, and as the fifth best defensive player.
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