Connect with us

Pitt Football

Ludwig: Pitt Storylines I’ll Be Following at the 2023 NFL Combine



INDIANAPOLIS — I don’t really know what exactly to compare the NFL Combine to.

The big-time TV guys and gals certainly make their appearances. I mean, NFL Network has a giant stage set up right in the midst of the chaos inside the Indiana Convention Center — a perfect platform to watch the ants local and national reporters scurry around to grab soundbites and television hits.

I’m here, too. It’s a perfect opportunity to check in on Pitt’s six players in attendance. At the end of the day, the Combine is about the NFL hopefuls and how they perform athletically and mentally in front of NFL front offices. It’s a sort of job interview, after all.

Calijah Kancey is the headliner, but Israel Abanikanda, SirVocea Dennis, Carter Warren, Habakkuk Baldonado and Brandon Hill will all have the opportunity to impress NFL coaches upon arriving early this week.

Of course, it will be interesting to see which teams someone like Kancey or Abanikanda is meeting with throughout the week. I’m intrigued to see how everyone measures in, height and weight is important for some in this group.

A good day of testing — a fast 40 time or an impressive vertical jump — will definitely make a difference. But what exactly will I be following?

Calijah Kancey’s Size

Pitt lists Kancey at 6-foot, 280 pounds. Whether it’s Tinder or official NFL Combine listings, it’s important there’s a nice 6000 next to his height.

There’s already a feeling that Kancey is ‘too small’ for some NFL teams. If he’s 6-foot, 275 pounds, that’s a real nice number to lean on. Because Kancey is going to blow testing numbers out of the water.

Kancey is already going as a first rounder in recent mock drafts, but if he secures that 6-foot, 275-pound measurement and blows his testing numbers out of the water (as he should), he’s going to be a first-round pick.

Israel Abanikanda 40 Time

Did you know that you can gamble on the NFL Combine? 40 times, number of reps on the bench, you name it.

I don’t think Abanikanda is gonna break any Combine records or anything, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he’s among the fastest — if not the fastest — running backs in Indianapolis this week.

He’s known for his breakaway speed. NFL teams love speed. If he can clock in a sub 4.4 40 time, which only six running backs did last year (led by Isaiah Pacheo’s 4.37), NFL teams will take notice.

Abanikanda obviously isn’t a Day One pick, but if he tests well, there’s no reason he can’t work his way into Day Two.

Can Dennis, Baldonado and Warren Continue Good Press?

Dennis was Pitt’s lone Senior Bowl participant this year, putting together a solid week of practice before missing the game itself with a foot injury.

He isn’t the biggest ‘backer in the draft, measured at 6-foot, 218 pounds, but he has large hands, long arms and a solid wingspan. NFL teams will likely fall in love during interviews, and if he can put together a strong week of drills and testing, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he can work his way into a Day Two selection.

Baldonado had a noticeable dip in production during the 2022 season, but he was a standout performer at the Shrine Bowl, and if he can test well this week, NFL teams will be far more forgiving.

He measured well at the Shrine Bowl, checking in at 6-foot-3, 258 pounds, and he has the blend of speed and power — with plenty of strong tape during his time in Pittsburgh — to intrigue NFL teams.

Warren didn’t make the biggest splash during his own Shrine Bowl experience, but he has the prototypical size and leadership abilities to make his mark as an NFL tackle.

All three guys aren’t locked into any sort of window at this point in the process, Day Two or Three picks as it stands, but a strong showing throughout the week would go a long way in locking in a more definitive range.

Brandon Hill’s Chance to Wow

Hill was a somewhat surprising NFL Draft entrant, choosing to forgo his years of eligibility to test the draft waters.

He was incredibly productive during the 2021 season, and while he didn’t reach the same level in 2022 (as opposing offenses tested other areas of the secondary), he’s still a very good athlete.

If Hill can test well this week, running well and measuring in solid size, NFL teams will take notice. It takes just one NFL team to really fall in love with his hard-hitting ability.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
1 Comment
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Best Wishes Men …. Do Great Things …. H2P !

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Like Pittsburgh Sports Now on Facebook!
Send this to a friend