He is just the latest of Alabama’s star defensive linemen. He measured in at 6-foot-2, 311 pounds at the NFL combine, but reportedly played at a heavier weight. At 20 years old, Payne is one of the younger prospects in this class but is also quite well-polished as a run defender.
Let’s take a look at his strengths and weaknesses, and how he could fit in Washington’s defense.
Here, against Auburn, Payne lines up a shade inside the left guard on an inside run to the right side of the offensive line.
Payne displays technique typical of an Alabama prospect. He’s quick off the snap and explodes into the left guard, getting his hands inside to gain control of the block. From that position, Payne stacks up the guard, maintaining his gap integrity while he awaits the running back to declare his intentions. Once the back runs toward him, Payne wrestles a hand free and closes up the running lane to assist the tackle.
In the Tide’s national championship game win over Georgia, Payne took his game to another level.
This time, Payne is shaded over the left shoulder of the center.
Like before, Payne gets off the snap quickly and lands his hands inside on the center. On this play, Payne takes things one step further. Instead of just maintaining his gap, he drives the center back into the backfield. As the running back cuts back inside, Payne disengages from the block and wraps him up at the line of scrimmage.
A few series later, Payne blew up another run.
Here, Payne shifts back to the inside shoulder of the left guard.
Payne shows off his quickness again, using a club and swim move combination to skip past the guard and into the backfield. From there, Payne works back inside to the running back, where he makes a tackle for a loss.
In that same game, Payne also displayed how much potential he has as a pass rusher.
On this play, Payne aligns head up over the right guard and works into the A gap between the guard and center.
Payne uses the same club and swim combination we saw earlier to skip past the right guard, forcing the center to slide over and help out. Payne then repeats his move to get past the center, leading to a quick pressure up the middle on the quarterback, who barely manages to get his throw away.
Payne’s pass rushing ability still needs plenty of work. But he took a step up during Alabama’s two playoff games and was a significantly more consistent rusher than he was during the regular season. And he was a strong run defender throughout the season.
For the Redskins, Payne would fit in well with former Alabama teammates Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson along Washington’s defensive front. Payne is a good enough run defender to play nose tackle in the team’s 3-4 base package while still having the upside as a rusher to generate pressure from the interior in nickel and dime sub-packages as part of a rotation with Allen and Matt Ioannidis.
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