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NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah Predicts Calijah Kancey Will Put on Show at 2023 NFL Combine



If Calijah Kancey was two inches taller, it seems as if he’d be a consensus top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

All of the downsides, according to NFL Draft analysts, stem from the fact that he’s ‘only’ six-foot tall. He’s a dominant physical presence inside, with the production and accolades to back it up, but he’s still a fringe first round pick according to most analysts.

Still, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah expects Kancey to perform very, very well at the 2023 NFL Combine next week, elevating an already rising draft stock.

“He can shoot gaps,” Jeremiah said on a Zoom call Friday. “You can see him do some freaky stuff with his explosiveness. He is undersized. He gets caught at times and gets washed. He is not going to fit everybody. But if you are looking for that pure three-technique and you want to play up the field, he is somebody that he is going to test really well. He will put on a show, and I think you’ll see him start to garner some attention there to move up there into the first round.”

Jeremiah admitted that he jumped on the Kancey train a little late, and that Kancey will not fit every NFL defense, but he’s sees a very, very dynamic defensive lineman. The Aaron Donald comparisons pop up, of course, but Jeremiah’s comp is Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Ed Oliver.

Oliver, who was the ninth overall pick out of Houston in the 2019 NFL Draft, measures in at 6-foot-1, 287 pounds. In four NFL seasons, he’s racked up 151 tackles (96 solo), 30 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a recovery and 11 pass breakups. It’s the quick twitch aspect of Kancey’s game that stands out to Jeremiah.

Kancey was the first Pitt player to earn unanimous All-American status since Donald did back in 2013.

With 31 tackles (17 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in the 2022 season, despite playing in just 11 games, Kancey finished second in the ACC in tackles for loss and third in sacks as an interior defensive lineman — cementing himself as perhaps the top interior rusher in college football.

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

He was Pitt’s first ACC Defensive Player of the Year since Aaron Donald in 2013 and also earned finalist positions for the Bronko Nagurski and Outland Trophies — and was awarded College Football Network’s Defensive Tackle of the Year.

“Calijah has been absolutely outstanding all season long and is highly deserving of (DPoY),” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a release in 2022. “As both a run-stopper and rushing the passer, he has been tremendous. On behalf of our entire program, I want to congratulate Calijah on receiving this award. He has absolutely earned it.”

The Donald-Kancey comparison is obvious, considering the alma mater. But it goes way beyond just wearing the same jersey. Donald was listed at 6-foot, 285 pounds as a senior at Pitt. Kancey was listed at 6-foot, 280 pounds during his senior season.

Kancey was the first Pitt defender to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year since Donald, of course, and while he was not quite as productive as Donald during his Pitt career, Narduzzi has said that when it comes to defensive linemen during his time at Pitt (which doesn’t include Donald), Kancey is the clear No. 1.

College players begin arriving at the NFL Combine on Monday, and the week of participation could go a long way in cementing Kancey as a first round prospect. He will also have Pitt’s Pro Day in March to make an impact along the way.

The 2023 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 27-29, with live coverage the entire way on ESPN and NFL Network.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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