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Pitt Players Ranked (and Not Ranked) in The Athletic’s 2023 NFL Draft Top 15 Lists



While NFL fans are still awaiting the end of the 2022-23 season, with just three games left to go on this season’s slate of games, the NFL Draft is approaching.

And it’s a spectacle — although, a long, drawn-out process to some — that will have both college football and NFL fans intrigued.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, a leading draftnik, released a list of his Top-15 players in each position group. These rankings will certainly change following all-star bowl appearances, Pro Days and the NFL Combine, but it’s a baseline.

He ranked four former Pitt stars in his respective groups, and there were four more who did not crack a Top 15.

Israel Abanikanda is his ninth-ranked running back, Carter Warren is his 11th-ranked offensive tackle, Calijah Kancey is his 9th-ranked defensive tackle and SirVocea Dennis is his 12th-ranked linebacker.

Habakkuk Baldonado, Jared Wayne, Brandon Hill and Erick Hallett were not ranked in their respective Top-15s.

For reference, when it comes to the sample size of the last three NFL drafts, there was an average of 19 running backs drafted, 31 linebackers drafted, 19 defensive tackles drafted, and 23 offensive tackles drafted.

Abanikanda, Warren, Kancey and Dennis all appear to be in good shape to hear their names called in the 2023 NFL Draft, especially with strong camp appearances and testing.

And while the foursome of Baldonado, Wayne, Hill and Hallett appear to be long shots as of now, all it takes is one NFL team falling in love, which could happen with strong testing and pre-draft performances.

Israel Abanikanda 

He rushed for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2022, averaging six yards per attempt, and he added 146 receiving yards and 228 kickoff return yards. It was a campaign with few historical rivals.

In his Pitt career, Abanikanda rushed 390 times for 2,177 yards and 28 touchdowns, caught 38 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns and returned 19 kickoffs for 434 yards and a touchdown.

Pittsburgh Panthers running back Israel Abanikanda (2) Sept 10, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Carter Warren  

Warren wasn’t able to finish his senior season in 2022 after picking up an injury against Rhode Island in Week 4, but he put together a superb Pitt career.

He played in 40 games (making 39 starts) during his six seasons in Pittsburgh, growing into a team captain and an All-ACC performer. At 6-foot-5, 325-pounds, he’s the ideal size for a tackle in the NFL.

Pittsburgh Panthers offensive lineman Carter Warren (77) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Calijah Kancey 

With 31 tackles (17 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks this season, Kancey finished second in the ACC in tackles for loss and third in sacks as an interior defensive lineman — despite missing a game and a half.

In his Pitt career, through three seasons, Kancey recorded 91 tackles (52 solo), 34.5 tackles for loss, 16 sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (8) Sept 10, 2022 David Hague/PSN

SirVocea Dennis 

The 2022 team captain led Pitt with 94 tackles (42 solo) this season, along with 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks, an interception three pass breakups and two forced fumbles. According to Pro Football Focus, Dennis is the fourth highest-graded linebacker in college football this season.

In his career at Pitt, Dennis has racked up 232 tackles (117 solo), 36 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, two interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown), three pass breakups and two forced fumbles and a recovery.

Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker SirVocea Dennis (7) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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