The Cincinnati Bengals are hosting Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne for a Top 30 visit on Monday. Let’s take a look at the film.
The Cincinnati Bengals continue their search for their possible first-round pick in this year’s draft as they are set to host Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne for a Top 30 visit on Monday according to Ian Rapoport. Payne is one of the top defensive tackles in this year’s draft and possibly the most versatile. While Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea will probably be the first off the board, Payne shows more versatile abilities and not just a run stuffer at the next level.
Following the signing of defensive tackle Chris Baker earlier this offseason, the team still could use an upgrade to go next to defensive star Geno Atkins. The biggest question for Payne is how consistent of a pass rusher he can be at the next level. Many scouts have stated that they think Payne’s best football is ahead of him. He shows the abilities and athleticism that look to be a good pass rusher in the NFL.
Payne will have his most success going to a 4-3 scheme due to his size of 6’2″, 311 pounds. Pairing him next to Atkins would be a perfect fit allowing him to use his immediate burst off the snap to get around interior linemen. While he dominated the double teams in college, his size will make that harder at the next level. His abilities of consistently beating the double teams, however, prove that he could become a force to move in the middle even in the NFL.
To boost his draft stock even further after being a dominant force in the middle for Nick Saban’s Alabama defense, Payne had a great combine performance. He ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and 1.67 10-yard. To put that into perspective, Payne’s 10-yard sprint was a hundredth of a second faster than defensive end Joey Bosa taken number three overall by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2016 draft as an edge rusher.
Payne will likely be fighting with Vea for the number one drafted defensive tackle this year after Maurice Hurst was unable to run drills at the combine due to a heart condition. Vea will likely be a better fit under a 3-4 scheme as an absolute mauler in the run game. Payne will succeed in a 4-3 due to his size and being more versatile to help in the pass rushing attack.
Cincinnati desperately needs help against the run game along the defensive line as they allowed the third most rushing yards in 2017. Chris Baker is a quick hopeful bandaid at defensive tackle but brings some questions and red flags with him. Payne would be a great fit along an already talented defensive line. A line that is full of mostly pass rushers, they could use someone that can plug running lanes and tackle backs in the backfield.
Here you can see Payne’s quick first step after the snap allowing him to get the first move on the center and use his power to force him backward. Already in the backfield, Payne keeps his head up, locating the runner, and grabbing him as he tries to run past. He consistently forced double team’s while at Alabama but still managed to get through and disrupt that backfield.
Regardless of his 311-pound stature, Payne stopped running backs in their tracks that tried to lower their shoulder. He was like running into a brick wall with his ability to anchor.
According to Pro Football Focus Draft Guide, Payne significantly improved in both the run and passing game each of his three years at Alabama. His run defense was always strong as he finished 2017 with an 85.9 grade. His pass rushing rating shot up in 2017 from a 73.9 in 2016 to 83.9. While Payne is not an elite pass rusher, he is definitely not a slouch either. That’s not to say that he can’t become an elite pass rusher at the next level with some coaching.
When teams left him one on one with the center it almost always turned out bad for the offense. His quick burst off of the line mixing with his athleticism and hand fighting skills allowed him to run right past single blockers. Payne caused 22 hurries in 2017 which almost doubled his 2016 pass rush production of 12.
While being likely the most versatile defensive tackle in the draft, he also proved to be a weapon for the offense when in goalline situations. If you know defensive tackle Dontari Poe, then you know what I’m talking about. Poe threw, ran, and caught passes for touchdowns while in Kansas City. He also came in as a fullback to lead the way up the middle. Payne shows some ability to be a threat at the goal line as well.
All around Payne looks like a solid player that would no doubt bring some run support in week one of the new season. While defensive tackle is not the biggest concern for the Bengals, with the loaded interior offensive linemen in this class, Cincinnati could find themselves taking the best player available at pick 21 and Payne could be a possibility.
If you want to see more film on Payne, check out Draft Breakdown where they show every play from multiple games. His best game by far was the Championship game against Georgia this last season. I think that Payne would be an immediate impact in the run and passing game for the defense if selected and could become a real star with a year or two of further development.