VDT: Pittsburgh DT Calijah Kancey Brings Ferocity to the Defensive Line

Vikings Mock Draft: Minnesota Takes a Top DT in Round 1
Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (8) reacts after recording a sack against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Tennessee won 34-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings lost one of their starting defensive linemen in free agency when Dalvin Tomlinson signed a massive contract with the Cleveland Browns. In the aftermath of that loss, they’ve brought in free agent Dean Lowry and re-signed Jonathan Bullard to try and fill the void. However, given the lack of any long-term plans at the position currently on the roster, it could make sense for the Vikings to target the position in the 2023 NFL Draft.

That brings us to Pittsburgh DT Calijah Kancey, the the focus of today’s edition of Vikings Draft Thermometer series, PurplePTSD‘s one-stop shop for all your 2023 NFL Draft needs. Throughout this series, we have examined a number of prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, what exactly their role could be at the NFL level, and most importantly, whether or not they could end up playing their first NFL snaps in a Vikings uniform. 


VDT: Pittsburgh DT Calijah Kancey
Mar 2, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (DL09) participates in the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Height: 6’1
  • Weight: 281 pounds
  • Arm Length: 30 5/8″
  • Hand Size: 9 1/8″
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.67
  • 10-Yard Split: 1.64
  • School: Pittsburgh
  • Games Watched: Tennessee (2022), West Virginia (2022), Syracuse (2022)

NOTE: All measurements are taken from the official NFL scouting combine results.


Oct 30, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Miami Hurricanes running back Jaylan Knighton (4) runs against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (8) after a catch during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Miami won 38-34. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
  • 2020: 27 tackles, 7 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 2 passes defended (10 games)
  • 2021: 33 tackles, 13 TFLs, 7 sacks, 1 pass defended, 1 forced fumble (12 games)
  • 2022: 31 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks (11 games)


CBS Sends the Vikings Defensive Help in Latest Mock Draft
Sep 24, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (8) and linebacker SirVocea Dennis (7) celebrate after combining on a sack against the Rhode Island Rams during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Pittsburgh won 45-24. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In order to get a sense of Kancey’s freakish athletic ability, let’s compare some 40 times. Back in 2014, another former Pittsburgh defensive tackle, Aaron Donald, ran a blazing 4.68 40-yard dash at 281 pounds. He also had a 1.63 10-yard split. During the 2023 combine, Kancey ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at 281 pounds with a 1.64 10-yard split. That’s the type of athletic ability we’re talking about here.

On tape, Kancey utilizes this athletic ability incredibly well to overwhelm interior offensive linemen as a pass rusher. He explodes off the line of scrimmage with a fervor for getting to opposing quarterbacks, and his spin-move to get around blockers is deadly.


Sep 17, 2022; Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA Western Michigan Broncos quarterback Jack Salopek (6) runs the ball against Pittsburgh Panthers defensive tackle Calijah Kancey (8) at Waldo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kimberly Moss-USA TODAY Sports

The knocks on Kancey are going to be the same ones that were used with Donald when he was entering the draft. At 281 pounds, Kancey lacks the prototypical size of a defensive tackle, nor does he have outstanding length to make up for it. Especially in run defense, this could cause some problems for the Pittsburgh product at the NFL level.

This is concerning because Donald has made it work throughout his career because of an unmatched ferocity in the trenches, incredible work ethic, and impeccable technique. Only time will tell if Kancey can replicate these same traits.

NFL Projections

Oct 16, 2021; Blacksburg, Virginia, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies offensive lineman Lecitus Smith (54) blocks Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (8) during the second half at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
  • Draft Round: Late First-Mid Second
  • Immediate Role: Rotational IDL
  • Best-Case Scenario: Grady Jarrett
  • Vikings Draft Temperature: 55

The Minnesota Vikings should have Kancey on their draft radar, especially considering their position at No. 23 and the capability of trading down the board. Kancey can immediately step in as a productive pass-rusher from the interior of the defensive line, and he is plenty capable of being a three-down player in the future.