Mock Draft Puts Surprisingly Productive New Lineman on Lions’ Radar

Pitt Football

Getty A Pitt flag flies at the 2022 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

The Detroit Lions are pondering what is next in terms of their roster building, and as the pre-draft season gets into focus, there will be a lot of names that get thrown around for the team.

Early on, many of those names have been tossed around with regards to the defensive backfield. But Detroit could have just as deep of a need in the defensive trenches, and could elect to get creative as it relates to how to fill that hole, as well.

Within a new mock, Pro Football Focus analyst Trevor Sikkema showed how creative the Lions could elect to get. He had the team drafting cornerback Devon Witherspoon with the sixth pick, which is not a surprise given other recent mocks.

With the 18th overall pick, Sikkema had the Lions drafting Pitt defensive tackle Calijah Kancey. To this point, Kancey has not been a hot first-round prospect, but that could be set to change very quickly.

“In a defensive tackle class that feels light on impact players after Jalen Carter, Calijah Kancey sure made his case to be the second one selected this coming April. Though he’s undersized at 6-foot-1 and 280 pounds, he is an absolute menace on the interior with fantastic burst, great use of natural leverage, the fastest hands in the east and a motor that just does not quit. He recorded 27.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks over the past two seasons with a 22.7% pass rush win rate,” Sikkema wrote in the piece.

It will be important for the Lions not to force drafting a defensive lineman just because they feel they need one, so a name like Kancey who might not be on many radars now could end up being a solid pick for the team.

Should the Lions be compelled to go cornerback early and lineman later down the board, there could be a good reason to do so in the form of Kancey.

Kancey’s College Stats & Highlights

In terms of production, it’s hard to disagree with the impact that Kancey has made within his first three years playing college football for Pitt.

In terms of career stats, Kancey has put up 91 tackles in his career, and 34.5 of those tackles have been for-loss. He also has 16 career sacks, showing how active he can be even within the middle of the line.

As a result of this work, Kancey was the 2022 ACC Defensive Player of the Year as well as a 2022 Consensus All-American. Those are some fantastic accolades for a player of his stature coming into the NFL.

A team like Detroit, who is needy on the interior, could use a body like Kancey for the future.

Defensive Line Trends as a Top Lions’ Need

As a whole, the team’s defense is going to come into focus this draft season, and that will happen for a team ranked 32nd in the league in total defense.

On the back end, the Lions could use big help at cornerback and safety since they have struggled with depth there. The team also needs more linebackers and perhaps defensive lineman to change the narrative in the trenches, seeing as the team has been getting pushed around at times in those spots.

Specifically, some mocks have had the Lions looking at defensive tackle early in the draft. If not Jalen Carter from Georgia, many have seen Clemson tackle Bryan Bresee as the second-best pick for the Lions up front with the sixth pick. Others have put Byron Young into must-watch category for Detroit. Most see the Lions addressing the trenches first, then the defensive backfield.

Detroit’s needs up front are well-documented, given the team finished 29th in run defense, allowing 146.5 yards per-game on average to go with 2,491 total yards on the ground. Moreover, Detroit had just 39 sacks on the year, which was a middling total even as it was an improvement on past results.

No matter where they find it, the Lions could need more beef in the trenches. Kancey’s name is one the team will want to remember through the process as it gets going in the weeks ahead as the offseason closes in.

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