The Pittsburgh Panthers will be well represented at this year’s NFL Draft. After finishing the year ranked 22nd nationally and winning the Sun Bowl over UCLA, Pittsburgh’s scouting reports are littered with talent. Let’s take a closer look at the Draft prospects that might hear their names called come the end of April.
Pittsburgh 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
Brandon Hill, S
Strengths: Two-year starter who plays tough, aggressive football. Diagnoses plays, covers a lot of area on the field, and easily gets to the flanks. Quick and fluid pedaling in reverse, displays solid range, and works to locate the pass in the air.
Communicates well with teammates in the secondary, immediately picks up coverage assignments in deep centerfield, and displays speed in both a straight line and laterally. Keeps the action in front of him and has a closing burst.
Weaknesses: A bit slow flipping his hips in transition. Comes off a somewhat disappointing season.
Overall: Hill is a physical, aggressive safety who is best facing the action. While he must improve his skills in man coverage, Hill has enough ability to make a roster as a third safety.
Want more information on Hill? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Brandon Hill, S, Pittsburgh | NFL Draft Scouting Report
Calijah Kancey, DT
Strengths: Explosive one-gap defender who projects as a 3-technique. Bends his knees, plays with great pad level, and fires off the snap. Looks like he was shot out of a cannon off the snap, explodes through gaps, and penetrates the line of scrimmage.
Plays with balance as well as body control and easily changes direction or immediately alters his angle of attack. Effectively fights with his hands, moves well about the field, and quickly locates the ball or the action. Nicely redirects and makes the tackle.
Weaknesses: Lacks bulk and strength. Gets knocked around in the middle of the field or pushed to the ground by a single blocker. Has limited growth potential.
Overall: Kancey comes off two incredibly productive seasons and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. Kancey is a scheme-specific defensive lineman who must be used in a one-gap system, but his quickness, mobility, and ability to disrupt the action are attractive.
Want more information on Kancey? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh | NFL Draft Scouting Report
Carter Warren, OT
Strengths: Athletic left tackle prospect who starts with terrific knee bend, gets leverage on opponents, and fires off the snap into blocks. Keeps his feet moving, stays square, and handles speed rushers off the edge. Displays outstanding awareness, keeps his head on a swivel, and plays smart football.
Slides off the edge, shows outstanding blocking range, and anchors in pass protection. Possesses 35-inch arms and jolts defenders with terrific hand punch. Moves well for a big man and is large enough to engulf defenders.
Weaknesses: Has never been a dominant run blocker and must improve that aspect of his game. Heavy-footed in motion. Limited to four games last season.
Overall: Warren possesses the size, athleticism, and arm length to start in the NFL. I would first try him at LT before moving him to the strong side, though Warren must significantly improve his run blocking to play right tackle.
Want more information on Warren? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Carter Warren, OT, Pittsburgh | NFL Draft Scouting Report
Deslin Alexandre, EDGE
Strengths: Athletic defensive lineman coming off an injury-plagued season. Displays tremendous quickness and explosion, fires off the snap, and is fast up the field. Bends his knees, plays with terrific pad level, and gets leverage on opponents. Rushes the edge with speed and displays an inside move, knifing between blockers to penetrate the line of scrimmage.
Keeps his feet moving, works his hands, and gives effort. Quick moving in any direction and plays faster than his 40 time. Immediately alters his angle of attack or changes direction and pursues laterally with speed. Attacks opposing ball handlers and quarterbacks.
Weaknesses: Lacks bulk and gets pushed around at times. Easily out-positioned by blockers. Turned in outstanding production in 2019, yet never capitalized since.
Overall: Alexandre is an overlooked defensive end who possesses solid size and arm length as well as athleticism. Though he needs to pick up the production, Alexandre has an upside and should receive consideration in the late rounds of the draft.
Erick Hallett II, S
Strengths: Durable two-year starter who was very productive for Pittsburgh. Quick to read and diagnose plays, fires upfield to defend running plays or screen passes, and has a closing burst. Stays with coverage assignments, works with cornerbacks to bracket receivers over the middle of the field, and attacks opponents. Tracks the ball in the air and effectively times pass defenses.
Weaknesses: Displays average skill over the slot receiver and does a lot of faceguarding. Sometimes does more hitting than wrap-up tackling.
Overall: Hallett put up impressive numbers for Pittsburgh the past two seasons and comes with solid measurables. He must improve his tackling technique, but he has enough ability to make a roster as a fourth safety/special-teams player.
Gabe Houy, OT
Strengths: Hard-working, small-area blocker who starts with good knee bend, fires off the snap, and anchors at the point. Stays square, keeps his feet moving, and displays excellent awareness. Fires his hands into defenders and steers them from the action.
Weaknesses: Struggled with injury last season and started just five games. Gets tall as the play proceeds. Doesn’t use blocking angles correctly and gets pushed back into the pocket. Limited upside.
Overall: Houy chose to return for a second senior season in 2022, but his progress was stunted by injury. He possesses next-level size and strength, yet he’s a limited athlete who can only play in very confined quarters.
Habakkuk Baldonado, EDGE
Strengths: Hard-charging DE that plays with proper pad level, consistently gets leverage on opponents, and fires off the snap with a quick first step. Effective with his hands, explosive, and chases the action hard. Fast off the edge, displays good change-of-direction ability, and displays himself as a difference-maker. Easily redirects to ball handlers and works to make plays.
Weaknesses: Lacks bulk and is easily out-positioned by a single opponent or blocked from the action. Inconsistent get-off at the line of scrimmage. Coming off a somewhat disappointing season.
Overall: Much was expected from Baldonado after a tremendous junior season, yet he was slowed by injury that hurt his production last year. He’s a well-built defender who plays faster than his 40 time and can be used out of a three-point stance or standing over tackle. Baldonado needs to add more bulk to his frame, but he comes with upside.
Want more information on Baldonado? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Habakkuk Baldonado, EDGE, Pittsburgh | NFL Draft Scouting Report
Israel Abanikanda, RB
Strengths: Small, but explosive ball carrier who creates his own yardage. Patiently waits for blocks to develop, displays outstanding vision, and will pick and choose his spots. Quick-footed and runs behind his pads. Fires through the hole, has a tremendous burst of speed, and can run to daylight.
Finds the running lanes, quickly cuts back against the grain, and turns on his second gear in a single step. Possesses the speed and agility necessary to turn the corner. Consistently turns it upfield and works runs. Effectively uses blocks everywhere on the field.
Weaknesses: Small and easily brought down at the point by a single defender. Lacks blocking strength and gets run over by opponents. Had marginal pass-catching production last season despite displaying solid receiving skills.
Overall: Abanikanda is a creative ball carrier who displays outstanding speed and the ability to take it the distance. He lacks the size to be a feature runner but should be a productive third-down back if he displays the ability to consistently catch the ball out of the backfield.
Want more information on Abanikanda? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Israel Abanikanda, RB, Pittsburgh | NFL Draft Scouting Report
Jared Wayne, WR
Strengths: Nice-sized WR with reliable hands. Consistently finds ways to separate from defenders, extends to make the reception away from his frame, and displays eye/hand coordination. Tracks the pass in the air, gets vertical, and competes to come away with the difficult catch. Possesses soft as well as strong hands. Displays excellent route discipline and quickly turns upfield after the catch. Works hard even if the play is away from him.
Weaknesses: Not a vertical receiver and struggles making the deep reception at full speed. Lacks a quick release off the line of scrimmage. Plays to one speed.
Overall: Wayne comes with nice size, long arms, and big hands that he uses to consistently catch the football. He’s also coming off a career season and offers possibilities as a possession wideout at the next level.
Marcus Minor, G
Strengths: Underrated and often overlooked lineman who started his career at Maryland. Blocks with good lean, is active with his hands, and keeps his feet moving. Correctly places his hands into defenders to knock them off the line of scrimmage and open up running lanes. Fires to the second level, stays square, and seals linebackers from the action. Explosive at the point and effective as a run blocker.
Weaknesses: Gets tall as the play proceeds and doesn’t consistently block with proper leverage. Lacks footwork in space.
Overall: Minor has been a good college offensive lineman the past three seasons despite getting little attention in the scouting community. He possesses the size and strength to back up in a power-gap scheme.
Shayne Simon, EDGE
Strengths: Notre Dame transfer who displays a lot of athleticism. Quick diagnosing plays, goes sideline to sideline, and covers a large amount of area on the field. Fast in pursuit, smooth flipping his hips in transition, and gets depth on pass drops. Flows well laterally, fires upfield, and gives effort against the run. Takes proper angles and chases the action hard.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t stack well against the run. Not forceful on the blitz. Minimal ball production in coverage for such a solid athlete.
Overall: Simon was a solid collegiate linebacker who comes with next-level size and speed. He needs to pick up the production, but he has the underlying skills to make a roster as a seventh or eighth LB.
SirVocea Dennis, LB
Strengths: Safety-sized linebacker who plays big football. Efficient, takes proper angles to the action, and plays faster than his 40 time. Breaks down well and uses his hands to protect himself. Quick and has a burst moving in every direction. Immediately locates the ball carrier, stays with assignment,s and collapses outside-in to make the tackle.
Gets depth on pass drops, stays with coverage assignments, and quickly locates the ball. Explosive hitter who aggressively lays his shoulders into opponents. Quarterbacks the defense, makes the calls, and gets teammates in proper position.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t show great pursuit speed or the ability to recover. Struggles getting off blocks.
Overall: Dennis is a hard-charging college LB with a terrific head for the ball, but he lacks top size and speed for the next level. He should do well in a one-gap system, and more than anything else, I expect him to stand out on special teams.
Want more information on Dennis? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: SirVocea Dennis, LB, Pittsburgh | NFL Draft Scouting Report
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