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Calijah Kancey
NFL Draft

Don’t Get Cute With Calijah Kancey’s NFL Draft Evaluation

  • Ryan Fowler
  • March 8, 2023
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One of the most explosive athletes in the class, I won’t get cute when it comes to the evaluation of Pitt defensive lineman Calijah Kancey. While size and length concerns have become the overarching conversation point, his performance at the 2023 NFL Combine solidified his stock as one of the premier defenders in this year’s class. 

A unique prospect that will immediately boost a team’s sack totals from the interior, while 5-techs are looked upon to holster pressure totals annually, drafting an athlete that understands the optics of pushing the interior opens up Pandora’s box for a unit. It happens every year—we often get too cute toward a player’s evaluation, often finding non-tangible outliers to hold us back from selling ourselves on a prospect. But folks, it’s OK to pound the table for ‘your guy,’ and when it comes to myself, Kancey is a player I expect to produce from day one.

One of the most productive interior threats in college football over the last few years, while slotting him in Philadelphia, Washington, San Francisco, or Kansas City would be optimal spots with uber-talented defenders already in place, if you’re a team in need of someone that can play up and down the line that will wreak havoc in both facets (run and pass), Kancey will sit atop the positional board alongside Jalen Carter and Bryan Bresee. 

While comparisons to one of the best to ever do it in Aaron Donald have come—and while it may seem outrageous to speak on the two in the same sentence—the discrepancies aren’t as far off as you think. Although Donald has two-inch longer arms and much more foundational upper strength, the way in which both guys win within the trenches is similar. Get-off, quick hands to counter the punch of offensive linemen, the agility to jump from gap to gap, Kancey checks all the boxes. Of course, you’ll also look at their alma maters, position, and size that ultimately stems the conversation.

We’re betting on an outlier, but getting cute toward Calijah Kancey’s evaluation could see many teams regret their decision to pass on him as soon as this time next spring.

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Ryan Fowler