Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Calijah Kancey, DT, Pitt | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Being a defensive tackle from the University of Pittsburgh comes with unrealistic expectations. In the 2023 NFL Draft, Pitt DT Calijah Kancey is the next player off the Panthers’ production line that will have to live up to Aaron Donald-shaped comparisons. Cast aside those preconceptions, however, and Kancey has a 2023 NFL Draft scouting report that merits marvel in its own right.

Calijah Kancey NFL draft profile

Having helped secure consecutive Florida 6A championships with over 200 tackles, Kancey was a three-star defensive line prospect in the 2019 recruiting class. The Miami native held multiple in-state offers, with several HBCU advances, but ultimately committed to play for Pitt.

Although he saw action in the Quick Lane Bowl in 2019, Kancey redshirted his initial season with Pitt. However, the explosive DT made a name for himself as a redshirt freshman in 2020, making 11 appearances and four starts. In his first season of serious action, he tallied 27 tackles that included seven tackles for loss plus 1½ sacks.

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Kancey emerged as a star on the Pitt defensive line as the Panthers won the ACC Championship in 2021. Making 14 starts, he tallied 35 tackles with a team-high 13 tackles for loss. The Pitt DT also registered seven sacks last season, while recording his first forced fumble against Clemson. His performances earned Kancey first-team All-ACC and third-team All-American honors.

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • School: Pittsburgh
  • Current Year: Redshirt Junior
  • Height/Weight: 6’0″, 275 pounds

Calijah Kancey scouting report

Watching Kancey play from the comfort of your sofa on a Saturday afternoon, you’re instantly aware of his sensational skill set. However, it isn’t until you compile his scouting report that you truly understand the tremendous upside he possesses as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. There’s one substantial question that only the NFL can answer, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s dive into the strengths of the Pitt DT.

Kancey’s strengths

Used from several alignments on the interior of the defensive line, Kancey explodes out of his stance with dangerous intentions. The Pitt DT showcases an exceptional first step and is routinely the first Pitt lineman to penetrate the opposition’s offensive line. He routinely gets his hands on his opponent first. Kancey’s explosion is apparent on every single snap, and in the games studies, there was no let up in his ability to be first to the point of attack.

The explosion is just one element of an impressive athletic package possessed by the 2023 NFL Draft prospect. Kancey showcases incredibly quick feet, which allow for ludicrous lateral agility. The Pitt DT routinely demonstrates incredible movement skills for a 275-pound man. As a result, he can effortlessly transition from attacking one gap to another. Meanwhile, he’s been able to loop around and attack off the edge due to his high-level athletic ability.

Furthermore, Kancey showcases impressive body control. This is apparent in several ways. He has the flexibility to get “skinny” between offensive linemen, demonstrating the ability to penetrate even the narrowest of gaps. Additionally, the Pitt DT is able to manipulate his body to put himself in position to make a tackle against running backs or quarterbacks either behind or beyond the line of scrimmage.

Another element of his body control is remarkable balance. One upside of being a 6’0″, 275-pound DT is that Kancey displays an excellent low center of gravity. This, and consistency playing with low pad level, gives him an advantage in the leverage battle.

Calijah Kancey
Sep 26, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Louisville Cardinals quarterback Malik Cunningham (3) runs the ball as Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (8) chases during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, the combination of excellent balance and lower body strength is that he’s difficult to take to the ground. This is particularly apparent against the run where the Pitt DT uses those attributes alongside a wide base to demonstrate an impressive anchor.

While the athletic elements of Kancey’s scouting report are exciting, some of his technical refinement is even more tantalizing. He already possesses a treasure trove of pass rush. He routinely uses swim, spin, and bull-rush moves to make his way to the QB. The swim move in particular is one that he appears to have mastered, and I witnessed him deploy it to devastating effect multiple times during the games studied.

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Even more impressive for a young player is that he already has the ability to string rush moves together. Kancey showcases the awareness to put together a pass-rush plan. With his agility, footwork, and quick handwork, he has the athletic attributes to be able to execute counter moves with the necessary quickness to make them a success.

Rounding out the strengths element of his scouting report, Kancey plays with excellent competitive toughness. He hustles to the ball on every snap, excellently demonstrated by his forced fumble against Clemson where he chased D.J. Uiagalelei from behind and punched the ball out. Furthermore, he showcases football intelligence as a communicator to his teammates on the Pitt defensive front.

Kancey’s areas of improvement

Kancey possesses an extremely alluring 2023 NFL Draft scouting report. However, there are some areas for improvement. Furthermore, there is a clear area of concern that could seriously impact not just his NFL draft stock but his future deployment in the NFL.

At 6’0″ and 275 pounds, Kancey is likely to be considered undersized at the NFL level. Although he’s been able to use his explosion, lower body strength, and technical refinement to win at the college level, will he be able to have that same success against substantially more sizeable offensive linemen in the NFL?

While he routinely showcases a decent anchor and is rarely bowled over or moved backwards in the run game, there are some concerns here. Kancey sometimes can be washed away from the play with a little too much ease to be comfortable with as it pertains to his NFL projection.

Current draft projection for Pitt DT Calijah Kancey

Kancey landed inside the Top 50 2023 NFL Draft prospects. As such, the Pitt DT could challenge for a first-round selection next April. He’s played from the nose out to 3-tech for Pitt. But, he’s extremely unlikely to play as far inside as NT in the NFL.

MORE: 2023 NFL Draft DT Class

As Kancey’s 2023 NFL Draft scouting report reveals, the Pitt DT has the potential to be a very special prospect in the upcoming class. However, that will depend on an NFL team extracting the maximum from his skill set while mitigating the size concerns.