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NFL Draft Profile: Calijah Kancey, Defensive Tackle, Pittsburgh Panthers

NFL Draft profile scouting report for Pittsburgh iDL Calijah Kancey


Pos: iDL
Ht: 5116
Wt: 270
DOB: 3/1/2001
Hometown: Miami, FL
High School: Miami Northwestern
Eligibility: 2023

Calijah Kancey Pittsburgh Panthers


A gifted and technically advanced athlete, Calijah Kancey has a chance to become a high-level starter and one of the league’s better interior pass rushers.


Prospects who combine unteachable traits and technical refinement early in their college career are somewhat rare. Calijah Kancey fits that description, as the explosive and fluid athlete complements his excellent movement skills with a wide range of hand moves. When the talented defender engages first or attacks a lineman’s hands, he is extremely difficult to stop thanks to his accurate and well-timed hands, upper body strength and lateral quickness. What’s more, he has the flexibility to consistently get below a blocker’s reach and rip through into the backfield. Further, he consistently plays with a pass rush plan and strings together multiple hand moves. Although his game is predicated on burst and refined hand usage, he keeps linemen guessing by combining his first step, heavy hands and natural feel for leverage to manufacture substantial power. As a result of his low pad level and wide base, Kancey also has a strong anchor in run defense and can make plays through engagement. Despite his size, he can stack, shed and fill against the run; Kancy also windows (uses his athleticism to functionally two-gap) at the first level of the defense. When matched up against more than one lineman, the talented defender gets skinny and uses a hump move to split the double team. As a tackler, he is efficient and plays with a high motor. All in all, Kancey is a nightmare in one-on-one situations as a pass rusher and against the run to the extent that he was regularly held and double (or even triple) teamed. An extremely talented defender, Kancey’s main limitations are his size and experience. The defensive lineman comes in significantly shorter and lighter than the average measurements at the position. Further, he was part of a five-man rotation at defensive tackle in 2020 (his first year of play) and had to work to gain the playing time he eventually received towards the end of the season. Kancey’s size and limited experience have, understandably, led to issues on the field. First and foremost, he must initiate contact to bat away his opponent’s hands before they successfully engage in both run and pass defense. When he fails to do this, linemen latch on and control him. Further, Kancey is thrown back when opponents land a shot on his chest. Moreover, the talented defender must learn to aim his shots at his opponents’ hands to create separation; from there, he can win with his quickness. Similarly, he should aim to add forklift and trap moves to his arsenal. These moves are perfectly suited for his athletic profile and skillset. Additionally, Kancey relies too heavily on his power rush and is inaccurate with his hands in his bull rush. Against the run, Kancey can lose gap integrity and remove himself from the play. Finally, the talented defender struggled against top-tier competition. A gifted and technically advanced athlete, Calijah Kancey has a chance to become a high-level starter and one of the league’s better interior pass rushers. He projects as an immediate rotational piece while he develops, as his leverage and hands compensate for his smaller frame. Further, he can overcome most of his issues as he gains more experience.


4th Round

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Born on March 1st, 2001 to Schquinina Smith, Calijah Demetrius Kancey has three sisters and one brother. The Miami, Florida native attended Miami Northwestern high school where he was named First-team All-Florida Class 6A at defensive lineman. He also helped lead the team to back-to-back Florida 6A state championships. 247Sports Composite Rankings listed Kancey as a three-star recruit, the 850th recruit in the nation, the 63rd defensive tackle recruit and the 113th recruit in the state of Florida. A redshirt sophomore entering the 2021 season, the Miami native played in all 11 games (starting four) for the Panthers in his redshirt freshman year. In his true freshman season, Kancey appeared in the Quick Lane Bowl victory over Eastern Michigan.