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2023 NFL Draft preview: Scouting report on Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey

Could the Seahawks follow in the Rams’ footsteps and take a potential star defensive tackle from Pitt?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Pitt at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite adding Dre’Mont Jones in free agency, the Seattle Seahawks could use another high end interior defensive lineman. If they don’t select Jalen Carter at the top of the draft, a possible target for them later in Day 1 is Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey.

Games watched - 2021 Clemson, 2022 Tennessee, West Virginia, Rhode Island

Previous interior defensive lineman scouting reports - Jalen Carter, Bryan Breese

Relative Athletic Score (RAS)

Relative Athletic Score


  • Biggest strength - Pass rushing repertoire - Kancey has multiple good (6) or better moves in his arsenal including a bull rush, speed move, swipe and chop. All in all, these moves should allow him to generate in the vicinity of 8+ sacks a season in the NFL.
  • Kancey has very heavy and accurate hands which he uses to gain an immediate advantage off of the snap. His hands are especially prevalent on his bull rush which presently is a good (6) move with the potential to become very good (7) down the road. He gets into his lower half right away on this move which paired with his hands and play strength allows him to drive through the offensive lineman and into the pocket or the quarterback.
  • Additionally, Kancey has a good chop/swipe move. Once the offensive lineman flashes their hands he jumps and then either swipes or chops their hands one way, with him exploding off of his jump step to go up field. This is a move that has a high success for him in at least generating a pressure as offensive linemen really struggle to stop it.
  • Kancey also has a very good (7) push and pull move, although he does not use this one very frequently. Off of the snap he strikes the lineman in the chest, uses his length and hands to set them back and then pulls them forward, swims over them and gets into the backfield.
  • No matter where the play is run to and where Kancey is on the field, he is always going to try and run down the ball carrier from the backside. He has a great willingness in the run game and does not take a single run play off, no matter the situation.
  • Kancey excels at getting his arms extended when lined up on the inside which enables him to two gap running lanes. He keeps his eyes in the backfield and his head moves from side to side to know where the running back is going. Once they commit to a gap, assuming it is one of the two gaps he is patrolling he is able to disengage and make a play on the ball carrier.
  • He does have very active hands, which he consistently uses to try and swat away the hands of the offensive lineman to at least disengage and become a spy.


  • Biggest weakness - Cleared by doubles - Kancey does struggle against double team blocks as he was unable to anchor down against them. They were able to consistently fork him four to five yards down the field with ease.
  • He is not always able to make arm tackles as some backs are able to run through them. Overall, when Kancey is engaged with a block he does struggle to bring a ball carrier down whether it is a two-gap block or not.
  • Offensive linemen are able to guide Kancey up field using his aggression against him at times. It does not always happen but there are instances in which Kancey takes himself completely out of the play by over pursuing a gap off of the snap.
  • When Kancey is stood up as a pass rusher he does not have a go to counter move to get him disengaged with the offensive lineman to get into the pocket.
  • Kancey at times in the running game can lean on offensive linemen and get a little bit too tight into them, which does limit his impact on these plays.

Floor/ceiling - Kancey’s very good (7) athleticism, good (6) get off, pass rush repertoire, run game impact and motor gives him the ceiling of a high-end defensive tackle, however, his struggles against double teams, aggressiveness at times in the running game and sufficient FBI gives him the floor of a low-end starter.

Grade - 6.7 - solid starter 1st day of second season - Around pick 12.

Grade explanation - Kancey is a great player that is being underrated because of his size. He has everything you want from a pass rushing standpoint and can more than hold his own in the running game. He does struggle against doubles, but in the NFL, teams are not going to be able to focus solely on him which does greatly limit the concern there. Honestly, I think Kancey can be an All-Pro caliber player in the later stages of his rookie contract.

Schematic fit - Kancey projects best as a 3-tech defensive tackle in a 4-3 defensive front. He is not the prototypical 3-4 edge, but if needed to he can play there and hold his own. He is versatile and athletic enough to reduce down to a 1-tech and bounce out to a 5-tech. Occasionally, at Pittsburgh he would line up as a stand-up edge, however, this is not something he should be doing at the NFL level. He will be able to play all three downs because of his running and passing game impact.

Player highlights