clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NFL Draft 2023: Breaking Down Pitt Defensive Tackle Calijah Kancey

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After I wrote up a report on Northwestern defensive tackle Adetomiwa Adebawore the other day, I have had several people ask me to compare him to Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. I was semi-reluctant to do so and not because I don't like Kancey, but rather because I wanted to wait for the Combine to see what the verified height, weight, and arm length of Kancey are. As a pure football player, I love Calijah Kancey, the only question I have today is if he's big enough.

One thing is certain, just about the only defense Kancey can be a good fit in is a defensive scheme similar to what the Chicago Bears play. Why is that? In the Bears' scheme, especially for a 3-technique, the player has to be quick, strong, and explosive. He has to be a disruptor, especially in the run, and a good interior pass rusher. Size is important, but there have been several excellent 3-techs who haven't been the biggest defensive tackles. Among them are Warren Sapp, who measured 6010 – 282 at the Combine, and Booger McFarland, who was 6005 – 298 when he entered the Draft.

Kancey is listed as being 6000 – 280. We will find out in two weeks at Indy what he really is. The player he is similar to as far as the style of play in college is Aaron Donald, who ironically comes from the same school. I’m not saying that Kancey will become anything close to Donald, but rather his style in college is similar.

When Donald came out of Pitt, he measured 6006 – 285, ran a 4.68, and had a 32 5/8' arm length. For a player just over six feet tall, 32 5'8" arms are long. If Kancey's verified measurables are close to what Donald's are, that will help his cause.

As a player, Kancey is very productive. He finished the 2022 season with 31 total tackles, 7.0 sacks, and 14.5 tackles for loss. The previous season he had 33 total tackles, also recorded 7.0 sacks, and had 13 tackles for loss.

What stands out about Kancey is his competitiveness and explosive quickness. His snap reaction, first step, quick hands, and hand use are the BEST in college football this past season. He is very athletic, with great flexibility, body control, and change of direction. It would not surprise me if Kancey runs similarly to what Donald ran at Indy back in 2014.

Besides being quick, fast, agile, and strong, Kancey is powerful. He consistently can walk offensive guards back with his bull rush. He also has a variety of moves and countermoves. Let's put it this way; if Calijah Kancey was 6024 – 295, there would be a strong argument that he should be the first player selected in the Draft. That's how strong his tape is. He is a dominant player. But the fact remains that size matters when it comes to the NFL and the Draft. If Kancey measures 5116 – 278, that is going to hurt his cause, and he will end up going much later than his tape dictates.

What also jumps out about Kancey on tape is he is very tough and competitive. He is what we refer to as a "glass eater." He just plays extremely hard on every down and never lets up. He comes up with wow plays time after time. He consistently makes plays he shouldn't. In short, it is a lot of fun to watch his game tape.

I feel the best thing we can do is be patient and find out what the measurables are at the Combine. If his measurables are close to Donald's, then Kancey could very well be a first-round pick. And if they are, he would be a perfect fit to play the 3-tech in the Bears' defense.

We'll find out shortly.