Name: Calijah Kancey
Position: Defensive tackle
Ht/Wt: 6-1, 281
40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds
Bench: Did not bench
Vertical: 33.5 inches (pro day)
Broad: 9-foot-4 (pro day)
3-cone: 6.91 seconds (pro day)
20-yard shuttle: 7.20 seconds (pro day)
View photos of NFL prospect Calijah Kancey.
How he fits: There aren't a lot of humans walking the earth who weigh at least 280 pounds that can run a sub-4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash but that's what Kancey did at the NFL Scouting Combine this year, besting Aaron Donald's Combine record for a defensive tackle by a tenth of a second. His athleticism, quick step and production jump off the tape. He plays in the opponent backfield a lot.
In just 11 games this past season (missed two due to a shoulder injury), Kancey finished with 31 tackles and led the Panthers with 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He had 14.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss in two years as a full-time starter for the Panthers.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes was the director of college scouting for the Rams when they drafted Donald, so he's certainly not overlooking Kancey because he's considered undersized for the position at the NFL level.
The Lions return Alim McNeill and Isaiah Buggs at the position, along with key reserve Benito Jones, but Holmes said at the Annual League Meetings this week that the 755 snaps Buggs played this past year were more than the team anticipated him playing and they would like to see that number reduced in 2023 and think he can be more productive if they do so. That certainly opens the window for the team to add to the interior of their defensive line either in free agency or the draft.
Key observations: Kancey produced 47 pressures on 275 pass-rushing snaps and his 92.4 pass-rushing grade led all interior defenders this past season, per Pro Football Focus statistics.
What they had to say about him: "Undersized, one-gapping defensive tackle who is explosive and productive. He's a strong and determined player, but Kancey is still going to be a hit-or-miss run defender due to his lack of mass and length. While he will get pushed around at times, his first-step quickness and short memory allow him to make tackles in the backfield.
"He's a nightmare for offenses as a pass rusher. His twitchy feet can slide and reset points of attack. His leverage and motor are often too much for guards to handle alone. Kancey might be most effective as a rotational run defender and full-time, sub-package rusher, but his size will not define him in the NFL." - Lance Zierlein, NFL analyst
How he stacks up: Kancey comes in at No. 26 on Daniel Jeremiah's list of the Top 50 players in this class. He also comes in at No. 26 on the Dane Brugler's Big Board for The Athletic. Pro Football Focus lists Kancey as the No. 13 overall prospect and No. 2 defensive tackle.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks lists Kancey as the No. 3 defensive tackle available in the draft after Georgia's Jalen Carter and Clemson's Bryan Bresee.
Kancey comes in at No. 25 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr's Big Board as the No. 3 defensive tackle available.
What he had to say: "I don't play to prove anyone else wrong," Kancey said at the Combine when asked about his size. "I just prove myself right. As a defensive tackle, the lower man wins. You have to play with great leverage and great technique. By me being undersized I can't afford to have bad technique."