Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Calijah Kancey 2023 NFL Draft Profile

Calijah Kancey dominated college football as a junior and looks to be one of the top interior defensive linemen in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Calijah Kancey

Calijah Kancey NFL Draft Overview

Position: Defensive Tackle

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 281 lbs.

School: Pittsburgh

More 2023 NFL Draft Profiles

Calijah Kancey 2023 NFL Draft Profile

Calijah Kancey is a defensive tackle for the University of Pittsburgh. He declared early for the 2023 NFL Draft after his stellar redshirt junior season with the Panthers. He tallied 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss in only 11 games. This earned him a first-team All-American placement from Associated Press and an elite 91.8 grade from PFF. He also earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

In three seasons with the Panthers, he amassed 16 sacks along with 34.5 tackles for a loss. He started slow, redshirting his freshman year. In his sophomore season, he saw action in 11 games with four starts, before truly breaking out as a junior. 

Kancey put on a show at the 2023 NFL Combine. He posted an elite 4.67 40-yard dash along with a 1.64 10-yard shuttle. He followed this up at Pittsburgh’s pro day on 29 March with a 33.5-inch vertical jump and a 6.82 three-cone. Both of these would place him among the top defensive tackles who participated in the drill at the combine. His athleticism is unquestionably top-notch.


  • Quick burst off the line
  • Excellent hand work
  • Great play recognition
  • Speed to slip through holes
  • Strong chest and core strength 
  • Tenacious, always plays to the whistle


  • Short arms
  • Lighter weight works against him 
  • Not a plus defender in the run game
  • May not be a three-down player at the next level

NFL Comparison: Geno Atkins

Teams with a need at the position: Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills

Projection: Round 1

Bottom Line on Calijah Kancey

On tape, the first thing scouts notice is Kancey’s incredible burst off the line. He routinely gets immediately inside of opposing offensive linemen. He is able to force himself through holes in the line before his opponents are able to get into their stance, putting him at an advantage. His lateral burst is also apparent when he changes direction or stunts/spins on his man.

Speed is not the only name of the game for Kancey. He shows tremendous strength, especially for his size. Numerous times throughout the season he was able to bull-rush his blocker back into the quarterback. He did not perform the bench press at the combine (likely due to the shoulder injury that cost him the last two games of Pittsburgh’s season), but his play strength shows up on film time and again. 

Kancey’s size is his biggest hurdle at the next level. While Geno Atkins and fellow Pittsburgh alum Aaron Donald showed that smaller interior defensive linemen can have success in the NFL, they are more the exception than the rule. Kancey does have a weakness that those two did not share, however – arm length. Measuring in at 30 ⅝”, his arms are in the first percentile for interior defensemen. As a result, it will be much more difficult to keep opposing linemen from making first contact and negating his burst. He has shown an ability to compensate for this at Pittsburgh – but the NFL could be a different story.

While there are concerns he may not be an all-down player, even as a pass rush specialist he profiles to have an impact on whatever defensive line he ends up on. Kancey’s ceiling as an elite interior pass rusher will make him a high-demand player on draft day. He should see his name called on day one.

Main Image:

Michael Longo/For USA Today Network / USA TODAY NETWORK


More Posts

Send Us A Message