After months of speculation and anticipation the Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially have their man. With the 19th overall pick the Bucs stayed put in their original spot and selected Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey.
A Bit Of A Surprise
This pick came as a bit of a surprise. With the likes of Oklahoma offensive tackle Anton Harrison and Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith still on the board, the Buccaneers chose to pass on both. This despite those two positions being high priority needs and both having come in and met with the Bucs on top 30 visits.
However, just because it was a surprise pick doesn’t mean that it was a bad pick. In fact, I believe that Kancey will make an excellent addition to this Bucs defensive line. Get to know your newest Tampa Bay Buccaneer and why I like this pick.
Kancey has been one of the most productive players in college football the last two years. In 2021 he tallied 13.0 tackles for a loss and 7.0 sacks. Last season he built on that by recording 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss, which was the most among all interior defenders in college football.
As a result, Kancey was named an All American and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. In addition to that, he was also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award for college football’s best defensive player as well as the Outland Trophy given to college football’s best interior lineman (offensive or defensive). This undoubtedly makes him one of the most decorated defensive tackles in recent memory.
Obviously all these things are very impressive. However, you don’t draft a player for what he did in college; you draft him for what he’s going to do in the NFL. That’s what truly makes Kancey an intriguing pick.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room; Kancey is very undersized for a defensive tackle. Not only is he lightweight at 280 lbs, but he is also just over six feet tall and has short arms. This is a concern as he enters a bigger league.
Beyond that, Kancey is a rare and special athlete. He scored a 9.6 on his relative athletic score, which essentially means he is in the 96th percentile of all defensive tackles who have tested at the combine. In terms of physical gifts, there haven’t been many like Kancey ever.
The first thing that stands out about Kancey is his explosiveness. He is incredibly fast and agile and will be a menace when used in various twists and stunts. He can even be moved to the outside and play as a defensive end in this 3-4 system.
Kancey is also very strong. At just 280 lbs he will never be confused for a powerhouse, but he is powerful for his size. If nothing else, he will be strong enough to hold his own against bigger NFL linemen.
How Does It Translate To The Field?
Kancey projects as a very good interior pass rusher. He combines his athletic ability with a nonstop motor which gives him the ability to chase down ball carriers. However, Kancey is more than just an athletic hustler.
What I love about Kancey is that he is a technician with his hands. He uses a variety of pass rush moves that allows him to shed blocks with ease. The combination of technique and athletic ability is likely what made Jason Licht and Todd Bowles fall in love with this prospect.
These things also make him a difficult defender to run at. Kancey can flow down the line of scrimmage and slice through the line to tackle running backs in the backfield. And despite his small size, his relative strength and try hard attitude will make him a feisty run defender, especially with Vita Vea next to him eating up double teams.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect this pick at all. In fact, there would probably have been at least ten or more players I would have considered over him. However, that was due to expecting the Buccaneers to look elsewhere just based on his size and how that might fit in their defense.
In terms of the player, Kancey is a very exciting prospect. He will give the Bucs the interior pass rush they have been missing since the prime Gerald McCoy days and give Vita Vea a long term running mate. Despite my surprise, I really like this pick.