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NFL draft roundtable: Kwity Paye vs. Gregory Rousseau

Which of those players would our analysts select for the Giants at No. 11?

Indiana v Michigan
Kwity Paye (19)
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In our weekly mock draft tracker, those who don’t give the New York Giants a receiver often mock one of two edge rushers — Kwity Paye of Michigan or Gregory Rousseau of Miami — to the Giants at No. 11.

So, this week’s Big Blue View Roundtable discussion centers on those two players.

Here is the question posed to our staff of analysts:

“The EDGE defenders generally mentioned as possibilities for the Giants at No. 11 are Kwity Paye and Gregory Rousseau. If you were going to select one of those two players for the Giants, which would it be and why? If you would choose a different edge defender, at No. 11, please explain who and why.”

Now, the responses:

Nick Falato

Conversations around this type of dilemma have been happing in draft rooms for quite some time. When a team needs an upgrade at a priority position, what should they do? Best player available (BPA) is a pragmatic and practical way to solve the issue, but how should the team quantify BPA?

If it’s at the time of the draft, then Michigan’s Kwity Paye would be the answer. Paye will be a good football player in the NFL. He’s very smart, leverages his run gaps very well, and can rush the passer with superior hand technique. He has good overall functional athletic ability (will purportedly test through the roof).

However, if I’m going to find flaws, I question his ability to consistently corner in tight spaces around tackles with pure speed on ghost techniques (and other rushes of this nature from wider angles), due to a lack of elite bend and an inability to consistently stay low up the arc. I like Paye as a player, but I don’t love him at 11 in Patrick Graham’s system. Graham could certainly find a role for Paye and good football players tend to rise to the occasion.

Rousseau was more productive but less refined on tape. He’s much more of a project that relied on natural gifts to win - a talented mold of clay with elite measurables at 6-foot-7, 260 pounds. To circle back to the BPA argument, I think it would be fair to prognosticate that if Rousseau received the right coaching and development, then he’d be the BPA at EDGE by year three - it’s just the classic upside, floor debate.

Paye has a high floor and Rousseau has an immense amount of upside, but I don’t necessarily think Paye’s ceiling is low. I wouldn’t want to select either player at 11; there are just too many other players at positions of need that I’m high on: Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts, DeVonta Smith, Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley, Micah Parsons, and even some of the offensive linemen should be in consideration.

I don’t believe GM Dave Gettleman would want to invest a first-round pick in Rousseau, a redshirt sophomore who we haven’t seen play since 2019. I believe he’d prefer Paye, and I lean that way as well. I’m also a big trade-down type of guy in this draft, and I believe Washington’s Joe Tryon, Miami’s Quincy Roche, and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham are EDGE defenders who will be available on Day 2. I’m not labeling Rousseau a bust or anything - he could become a nice player - but I’d even prefer fellow Hurricane Jaelan Phillips to Rousseau if the former UCLA Bruins’ medicals check out.

Chris Pflum

If I’m answering this question completely truthfully, I’m would say “Micah Parsons,” as he might just be the best EDGE in this draft class, even if he doesn’t play that position full time. He has a background as a defensive end and the kind of explosiveness, burst, and bend you need in a pass rusher. Parsons can do so much more than that, but if you’re looking for a defender who can threaten the edge with speed, not need the quarterback to hold the ball for a subjective eternity, and get you off the field on a critical third down, I’d go with Parsons.

But to the question at hand, if my choice is between Rousseau and Paye, to me that’s a question between Rousseau’s ceiling or Paye’s floor. I’m less concerned as to whether or not either of the players “fit” the defensive scheme for a couple reasons. The first being that if you believe in either one enough to make him the 11th overall pick, you damn sure should have a plan as to how they fit into the scheme, and how the scheme is going to fit around them. The second is that I think people get too wrapped up in the neat little boxes of “is this player a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end?” The reality of the modern NFL is that every defense is some sort of multiple hybrid, and the bigger question is whether a player can execute his assignments. Can he play with good technique, good leverage, good discipline, and beat the guy in front of him. Whether he’s doing that from a 3-point stance or a 2-point stance is less important to me. After all, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chandler Jones — both drafted as 4-3 defensive ends — made the late-career switch to a 3-4 “multiple” defense and remained dominant.

So to circle back to Rousseau vs. Paye, I think I would have to go with Rousseau, but I’m wincing and my hand is shaking as I turn in the draft card.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Paye is the safer pick, but at 11th overall with a defense that depended on smoke and mirrors for its pass rush, I need to swing at potential. There’s nothing wrong with an EDGE who can consistently get you six or eight sacks per season while providing solid run defense. But that kind of player can be found on Day 2. If I have to pick an EDGE at 11th overall, I want a guy who has “ace” stuff. Of course, implicit in this is a lot of trust in my coaching staff. Rousseau is a long, lanky big-pawed pup of a pass rusher, and we have no clue if he’s going to be JPP 2.0 or another player who’s potential is going to get someone fired. But the Giants haven’t exactly done a ton of player development over the last decade or so. It’d be nice to see an investment in upside pay off.

Miami v Florida International
Gregory Rousseau
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Joe DeLeone

This offseason, the Giants’ pass rush is one of the biggest needs that must be addressed with a player who can step in right away. This draft decision will likely be impacted by who is signed in free agency, but if I were to choose between these two prospects I’d have to pick Gregory Rousseau. While Kwity Paye has a more immediate impact ability, the ceiling that Rousseau possesses is not one that can be passed up.

Rousseau might not be the Chase Young of this class, but he does have rare traits in two critical categories — length and power. The commonly used description of Rousseau is that he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. That’s a very accurate anecdote because when you flip on his tape you see a player who has little to no pass rush moves but still dominated ACC lineman. Regardless of his weak technique, he was able to use his long arms and power to create separation while driving back lineman. If you can teach Rousseau how to actually use pass rush moves, he can become a dangerous player.

For the Giants, Rousseau would be a perfect piece because of Patrick Graham’s affinity for multiple personnel groupings. While at Miami, Rousseau rushed off the edge and inside. His success in both areas makes him a player who can line up all over a defensive front.

Mark Schofield

In the 1985 comedy “Brewster’s Millions” Richard Pryor portrays Monty Brewster, a failed minor-league baseball pitcher who is suddenly faced with a fascinating proposition. If he can spend $30 million in 30 days — without receiving anything of value — he will inherit a $300 million fortune from his deceased great-uncle. If, however, he fails, he gets nothing.

One of the ways that Brewster tries to fulfill this challenge is by starting a write-in candidacy for Mayor of New York City, but as a protest candidate, urging a vote for “None of the Above.”

That is my answer here.

As others have articulated, there are things that both Rousseau and Paye bring to the table, but there are also reasons to go in a different direction at the 11th spot in the draft. The Giants might be better served by going with a cornerback or a wide receiver should a player fall to them that they like, and given how the quarterbacks are expected to fly off the board in the top 10 (five?) then that is entirely a possibility.

Should the Giants decide to go edge, then two players that are worth mentioning — perhaps in a follow-up roundtable — are Jaelan Phillips from Miami and Azeez Ojulari from Georgia. With Phillips there are medical concerns dating back to his time with UCLA, and Ojulari is only now starting to rise up boards and might be considered a bit undersized for the position. However, just turn on his tape and see his long-arm move, and you might feel more comfortable with drafting him.

But given the assignment, a more definitive answer is necessary. Paye has a nice floor, Rousseau might have the better ceiling. If it were me, if you are going to take a swing at a player at the 11th spot in the draft you should bet on the upside. Rousseau has the size and the frame, and given his inexperience at the position, you can see that there is room to grow. As he learns to refine his game he could get to the point where he is not just relying on athleticism to win on the edge but a more complete pass-rushing plan. Draft the upside and hope you can fill in the details later.

Valentine’s View

Truth is I could not, in good conscience, select either of these players for the Giants at No. 11. If the choice is not a receiver I’m taking a cornerback like Patrick Surtain or Caleb Farley, linebacker Micah Parsons or offensive lineman Rashawn Slater before I even think about any of the edge rushers in this class.

Yet, I’m the one who came up with this question. Paye and Rousseau are the edge rushers most commonly mocked to the Giants, so I figured we needed to talk about which would — in a vacuum — be the better choice for the Giants.

I’m going to start with Paye. I will be completely honest here — I do not get the Paye to the Giants love, not even a little lit. I see a pure 4-3 defensive end who does not bend the edge or win with speed, and in my view is unlikely to be a great NFL pass rusher. He’s got power, sure. He might be able to play a 5- or 7-tech in a three-man defensive front. I wouldn’t want him standing up or dropping into coverage at all.

When it comes to Rousseau, I can see it. All the physical tools — size, length, bend, athleticism — are there. I just don’t trust it. He’s all projection. Rousseau might turn into Jason Pierre-Paul. He might also turn into Damontre Moore. He’s incredibly raw. Much of his production appeared to come without him doing much of anything. His instincts against the run are atrocious — over and over in the games I watched Rousseau had no idea who had the ball once any kind of RPO or play-fake was executed. He might be amazing — someday. He might also be a dud. With plenty of other options, I couldn’t turn in a card with his name on it.

Now, if I had to — if these are the only two players I could possibly choose from — I’m swinging for the fences and taking Rousseau. I would, honestly, just rather not touch either one of these guys at No. 11.