2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Calijah Kancey

  • Calijah Kancey, 6-0/280

  • Defensive Tackle

  • Pittsburgh

  • Calijah Kancey Scouting Report
    By Charlie Campbell

  • Very fast interior pass rusher
  • Tremendous burst off the ball
  • Rare first-step quickness
  • Loose hips
  • Closes on quarterbacks in a blur
  • Speed to dart by guards
  • Natural pad level
  • Plays low
  • Can redirect
  • Can sink his hips and play low
  • Agile to contort his body
  • Active hands to fight off blockers
  • Good vision, awareness
  • Dangerous three-technique rusher for a 4-3
  • Athletic upside to improve in the NFL
  • Good character

  • Weaknesses:
  • Extremely undersized
  • Lacks height
  • Lacks weight
  • Lacks length
  • Has issues as a run defender
  • Struggles with downhill runs straight at him
  • Could be limited to DPR role only

  • Summary: Kancey was one of the most consistent and steady interior pass rushers over the past two seasons. As a freshman in the shortened 2020 season, he collected 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He then broke out in his sophomore campaign, recording 33 tackles, seven sacks and a forced fumble. In 2022, Kancey was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and put up seven sacks and 31 tackles. While Kancey could stand to get stronger and add weight to his frame, he decided to enter the 2023 NFL Draft.

    What makes Kancey stand out is his interior pass-rush ability. Off the snap, he is extremely explosive with phenomenal first-step quickness. Kancey is a lightning bolt, firing his gap to get upfield, and his speed to penetrate takes guards by surprise. With his crazy speed putting guards on their heels, Kancey is able to generate speed to power to push them out of the way to keep them from locking him up.

    Kancey is an extremely fast interior defender who can fire upfield to get penetration into the pocket. He uses active hands to keep guards from getting a hold of him, and his natural pad level keeps him low with good leverage. Utilizing good athleticism, agility, and loose hips, Kancey can contort his body to dip underneath blockers and keep gaining on the quarterback. Kancey’s speed and athletic ability to contribute in the pass rush are his calling card to get end up as early selection in the 2023 NFL Draft and play in the pros.

    In run defense, Kancey is a liability entering the next level. Considering he is vastly undersized for a pro defensive tackle, those issues may never change. Kancey lacks the length, height and weight to stand up blockers and keep them from creating a push. Kancey can get knocked off the ball, and power guards in the NFL are going to pose a problem for pushing him out of his gap. He is going to have real issues defending downhill runs coming straight at him.

    Kancey is a true three-technique gap-shooting interior defensive tackle for the next level. However, his lack of size will likely make him a rotational player because he is not big enough to be a three-down starter and run defender. Kancey is a speciality player, and what he does well as a dynamic interior pass rusher makes him a rare and hard commodity to find. Hence, Kancey could late first-round consideration from a playoff team that is looking for an interior rush upgrade. In the 2023 NFL Draft, Kancey should not go lower than Round 2.

    Player Comparison: Denico Autry. Kancey reminds me of Autry, but a shorter version. Autry (6-5, 285) has issues holding up as a run defender but is a dangerous interior pass rusher despite being light for a NFL defensive tackle. If Kancey can stick in the pros, he could be a dangerous interior rusher similar to Autry.


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