Calijah Kancey made a positive impression in his limited Combine participation and not just because of his connection with future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
At 281 pounds he was timed in 4.67 seconds in the 40 – the fastest for any player at his position. His 40 time alone likely makes him a prospect who interests the Lions.
He did not do other drills because he recently recovered from a shoulder injury.
Kancey, like Donald before him, played at Pittsburgh. He has developed a relationship with Donald.
Donald entered the NFL in 2014 at 6-1, 285 pounds. He was the Rams' first-round draft pick. His Combine 40 time was 4.68.
Donald is a model for Kancey.
"I definitely watch his tape," Kancey said in his Combine interview. "He's a great mentor. He's a great guy."
Following is a preview of the 2023 defensive tackle draft strength, the Lions' depth and draft priority at the position, and five prospects who could interest the Lions.
View photos of the top defensive tackle prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Defensive tackle draft strength: Not as deep as defensive ends, and a falloff after Jalen Carter.
Lions' depth, draft priority: Solid with Isaiah Buggs and Alim McNeill anchoring the middle. Jalen Carter would be too good to pass. Kancey is a potential pick at No 18.
Five prospects who could interest the Lions:
(40-yard dash times are from Combine and Pro Day workouts as available.)
1. Jalen Carter, Georgia:
A three-year player, quickly established a reputation for disrupting offenses. Played 38 career games. He had 18.5 career tackles for loss, with 15.5 in his last two seasons. Also, six career sacks.
Bottom line: Some draft analysts rank him as the top prospect in the draft, regardless of position. However, draft position will be affected by issues off the field.
2. Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh:
6-1, 281. 4.67 40.
A four-year player, one game in 2019, 36 in the next three. Got better year by year as the stats show – 34.5 tackles for loss with 27.5 last two seasons; 16 sacks, 14.5 last two seasons.
Bottom line: Height and weight may not be ideal for a defensive tackle, but stats and production are. I picked the Lions to take him at No. 18 in my Mock draft 3.0. I see no reason to change my mind.
3. Bryan Bresee, Clemson:
6-5 1/2, 298. 4.86 40.
A three-year player, he was limited to four games in 2021 and 10 in 2022. In 26 games with 21 starts, Bresee had 15 tackles for loss, nine sacks and five passes defended.
Bottom line: Opinions vary widely on his draft position, from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second.
View photos of NFL prospect Calijah Kancey.
4. Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin:
6-4, 309. 5.08 40.
Four-year player, 45 career games played with 38 in three seasons and seven in the 2020 Covid season. Posted 19 career tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Set his personal bests in both in 2022 – 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Bottom line: A durable, productive, consistent player.
5. Siaki Ika, Baylor:
6-3, 355. 5.39 40.
Transferred to Baylor after two seasons at LSU and made an immediate impact. Posted 6.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in his first season with the Bears.
Bottom line: Ika played 13 games for national champion LSU in 2019-20. Posted 17 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss as a freshman. Announced his intent to transfer after four games in 2020.