Calijah Kancey Profile
When scouts put labels on players, it is hard not to see anything but that label. The associative brain likes to come up with comparisons because that makes it easier to understand and grasp the unfamiliar. The beautiful and tricky part of evaluating the Buccaneers' new defensive tackle, Calijah Kancey, is that there isn't a straightforward comparison. That means scouts had to evaluate him for what he is: a defensive tackle with rare athleticism and a body that naturally puts him at a disadvantage. Kancey ran the fastest forty-yard dash, ten-yard split, and three-cone drill of any player in the history of his position but is in the lowest percentile for arm length and height. Teams get scared of the unknown because of the potential bust factor, but the Buccaneers felt comfortable enough with his skillset to take a shot on him with the 19th overall pick.
Teams are concerned about a defensive lineman's inability to get off blocks when they have shorter arms. The best way to counteract that is by using your hands. Kancey has incredibly powerful and active hands. There is legitimate knockback when he strikes, and he loves the "cross-chop" move. To successfully execute the cross-chop move, Kancey needs to have a strong core, an impeccable feel for timing, and the ability to generate power while torquing his body in the direction of the quarterback. It is not an easy move to master, but it has become a staple in Kancey's rush arsenal. Kancey is explosive and gets off the ball fast; he is disruptive and plays downhill. For a defensive tackle, it is rare to find someone who can turn corners like an edge rusher, but Kancey can do it. This allows him to be more than just a role-player because he is capable of lining up everywhere from a shade to a five technique. Kancey's ability to combine his explosiveness with his hand usage and bend is what made him such an enticing player for the Bucs this year.
While being a shorter defensive tackle limits Kancey's ability to take up space, he does have some natural leverage because he is lower to the ground than opposing guards and centers. With that being said, I would not describe him as stout because he struggles to hold his ground against offensive linemen, especially in the run game. This limits his ability to play in multi-gap defensive fronts because of his inability to control his one gap. When rushing the passer, Kancey can get a little erratic, but he does have the bend to correct himself and redirect at a proper angle. Kancey loses his natural leverage due to having shorter arms, which prohibits him from reaching linemen and making tackles outside of his frame. Kancey will need to get even stronger in his lower half and become a savant with his hands to be an every-down player for the Buccaneers.
Whether it is his athleticism or relentlessness, the Buccaneers obviously fell in love with Kancey's potential. With that being said, his natural physique could anchor his potential. While Kancey has shown the ability to dominate in the ACC, the NFL is at a different level. Due to his size, speed, and school, people like to compare Kancey to Aaron Donald, but I don't think that is fair. Donald has much longer arms and one of the greatest work ethics in NFL history. In order for Kancey to reach that level, he is going to need to get stronger and immense dedication. I would say a more realistic comparison for him is Ed Oliver, another short defensive tackle who is both explosive and relentless. Kancey is capable of being special alongside Vita Vea, but it is going to take work.
Strength + Violence: 9.75/12
Quickness + Explosion: 9.25/10
Block Shed + Point of Contact: 8/10
Play-Making + Disruptiveness: 7/8
Instincts + Intelligence: 6.5/8
Speed + Bend: 7.25/8
Effort + Relentlessness: 7/8
Length + Hand Usage: 4.75/6
Final Rating: 84
Pro Comparison: Ed Oliver
Draft Grade: Late First - Early Second