Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey has drawn the attention of NFL scouts with a sensational combine, should the 49ers package some picks to take him?
The NFL Combine is in full swing, and already the scouts are buzzing over some prospects that have performed well beyond expectations and given their draft stock a good boost heading into the pro days held on college campuses across the country.
One player that’s battered down the hatches and announced himself as a potential first-round prospect is Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. Not only did Kancey measure in at the combine bigger and heavier than expected (6-foot-1 and 281 pounds, both more than his collegiate measurements by an inch and a pound respectively).
But where he really turned heads was his 40-yard dash time. His 4.67 seconds is ridiculously fast, and the fasted by any defensive tackle for over 20 years. It’s really something to see. His 10-yard split of 1.64 seconds equally showed his once in a generation athleticism.
Kancey had 31 tackles (including 14.5 tackles for loss) and 7.5 sacks this season for Pittsburgh. These stats weren’t a fluke either, as he had 33 tackles including 13 tackles for loss and 7 sacks in 2021. It’s worth noting he played one less game in 2022 as well.
Kancey looked like a Day 2 pick prior to his Combine performance, but he’s turned heads and teams picking in the backend of Thursday night will want to look closer at the young talent. He is still slightly undersized for defensive tackle and his short length (his arms measured in at 30 5/8 inches).
If Kancey does fall into Day 2, the San Francisco 49ers should consider a play. The team has 10 draft picks (which doesn’t take into account any compensatory selections yet to be allocated) and not nearly that many needs so it has the picks to move into the second round. One of those needs however is the need for a defensive tackle next to Arik Armstead.
Unfortunately, Javon Kinlaw is looking more and more like a bust for the 49ers due to injury and ineffectual play. Despite his lack of length, Kancey plays with a ferocious physicality that makes up for his small size. The 49ers rely on pass-rushing four defenders most of the time to allow the rest to go into coverage, and Kancey’s ability to gain penetration into the backfield fits in perfectly with the 49ers style of play.
There has been comparisons of Kancey to long time 49ers tormenter Aaron Donald, from being slightly undersized right down to being from the same school. While it might be too early to make that comparison, it is proof that being undersized and not having prototypical length doesn’t have to stop a defensive tackle dominating in this league.
The 49ers don’t have many needs, so it can afford to be aggressive in the draft once again. If they feel like they need to beef up the defensive line once again (and yes, it can happen), then Yancey looks like he’s well worth the cost to go up and get him.