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What to Make of Pitt Football’s Showing at the 2023 NFL Combine



The 2023 NFL Combine has come and gone, and it was certainly an eventful week for Pitt football.

I’d say it was a very, very successful week for Pitt football in Indianapolis actually. Pitt earned two of the fastest spots, and that came without Israel Abanikanda running.

Of course, there’s still a long way to go until the 2023 NFL Draft in April, but the overall experience — and certainly the performances — in Indy makes me more confident in Pitt’s prospects now as opposed to a week ago.

So, let’s check in on how Pitt’s former stars did.

Calijah Kancey 

Kancey legitimately couldn’t have done any better at the Combine.

He came in, met with a lot of NFL teams, measured well in every area — except his arm length, which also wasn’t expected to be a strength — and then ran a blazing 4.67 40-yard dash.

He shut it down after running the 40 Thursday, but that’s all he needed to do. He’s officially 6-foot-1, 281 pounds and ran the fastest 40 time for a defensive lineman in the last two decades. A millisecond faster than Aaron Donald, for reference.

If Kancey wasn’t locked into the first round before last week, he is now. All that remains now is what he’ll choose to do at Pitt’s Pro Day.

Habakkuk Baldonado 

It was a really solid week for Pitt’s defensive linemen. Baldonado didn’t steal headlines by breaking a record set by Aaron Donald, but he was just really, really solid all week.

We spoke with him Wednesday for almost 15 minutes. He was engaging and light-hearted, joking with reporters and detailing his journey to this point. He truly is one of the most interesting prospects in this year’s draft class.

But when it comes to actual on-field results, he was dialed in. His 4.78 40 wasn’t especially impressive, but his explosiveness was on full display. A 35-inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump were excellent measurements.

And a 7.11-second 3-Cone and 4.44-second Shuttle highlighted his above-average agility and change of direction. If anything, his lateral movement and quickness are being slept on.

Baldonado is a legitimate NFL draft pick.

Brandon Hill 

Yeah, Kancey may have likely secured a first-round selection, but I still don’t think there was a Pitt player who did more to raise his draft stock than Hill.

It wasn’t — and still isn’t — a certainty that Hill hears his name called during the 2023 NFL Draft, but his performance last week certainly did not hurt. His performance is enough to have the potential for an early Day 3 selection — if not higher.

He was the fastest safety in Indy, running a 4.43 40-yard dash, with an excellent 1.50 10-yard split, and that’s not at all a surprise when looking back at his Pitt career. He was always an elite athlete.

A 35.5-inch vertical, 10-foot-3-inch broad jump and 15 reps on the bench rounded out a strong all-around showing. He’s an athlete who has a future as an NFL safety.

SirVocea Dennis 

Unfortunately, a lingering foot injury from the Senior Bowl kept Dennis off the field at Lucas Oil last week.

Dennis will likely participate in Pitt’s March Pro Day later this month, and it will be interesting to see how he runs. But if there was anything that arose during his time in Indy, as he was kept off the field, it was his versatility.

He’s capable of playing multiple spots in NFL defenses, able to contribute immediately as a special teamer especially, and his intelligence and in-game IQ should only supplement that.

Dennis is perhaps the smartest player at Pitt, and he reads the game like few others. I like his chances of finding an NFL roster spot, but a strong Pro Day will only complement that.

Carter Warren 

Warren also wasn’t able to participate in Indy last week, but it was a decision he made prior to the event.

As he’s recovered from a torn meniscus suffered during the 2022 season, he’s made sure he’s 100% entering Pitt’s Pro Day. He’s excited for one more chance to showcase his ability for NFL scouts.

I like Warren’s chances, especially with a solid Pro Day, in cementing himself as a Day 2 or Day 3 draft pick.

Israel Abanikanda 

Abanikanda was a surprise non-participant last week in Indy, with a minor hamstring injury during training keeping him off the field at Lucas Oil.

He still had a very productive week, holding formal interviews with the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, among numerous informal interviews, but many were hoping to see his 40 time.

He promised he’d be fast — very fast — at Pitt’s Pro Day later this month. He’ll run through the gauntlet at Pitt’s Pro Day, and it’s very likely he’ll test very well. I’m certainly intrigued by the potential of his complete Pro Day performance.

But even without it, I think Abanikanda has cemented himself as a mid-round draft pick.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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