The Seattle Seahawks brass suggested the possibility of drafting a quarterback with the team’s top choice at No. 5 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper agreed with that potential plan, predicting Florida signal caller Anthony Richardson to the Seahawks in his latest mock draft.
But CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso had a different idea. He projected the fastest defensive tackle to ever run the 40-yard dash in NFL combine history — Pitt’s Calijah Kancey — to the Seahawks at No. 5 in his mock draft.
“The Seahawks aren’t strangers to surprising first-round picks,” Trapasso wrote prior to the combine. “Kancey should erupt at the combine, and Seattle loves up-the-field penetrating types at the defensive tackle spot.”
As Trapasso expected, Kancey did erupt at the NFL combine, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, that is the fastest time for a defensive tackle in the 40-yard dash since the combine’s timing standardized in 2003.
Seven-time All-Pro Aaron Donald was the previous record holder in the 40-yard dash for defensive tackles with a 4.68-second time during the 2014 NFL combine.
Calijah Kancey Undersized but Very Athletic
Just like Donald, who also went to Pitt, Kancey is undersized as a defensive tackle at 280 pounds. Mostly for that reason, he was not considered a consensus first-round pick entering the NFL combine.
Both the latest consensus rankings from ESPN and The Athletic consider Kancey a late second-round option. The Athletic has the Pitt defensive tackle rated the No. 59 overall player while ESPN slotted him at No. 66 overall.
That could change as teams re-consider his draft profile after his record-setting 40-yard dash.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein didn’t compared Kancey to Donald but a different all-time great defensive tackle — Minnesota Vikings legend John Randle.
“Undersized, one-gapping defensive tackle who is explosive and productive,” Zierlein wrote in his draft profile of Kancey. “He’s a strong and determined player, but Kancey is still going to be a hit-or-miss run defender due to his lack of mass and length.
“His leverage and motor are often too much for guards to handle alone.”
Kancey showed off his pass-rushing ability at Pitt, recording at least 7 sacks as a sophomore in 2021 and junior last year. He also had a combined 17.5 tackles for loss in those two seasons.
Would Kancey Fit Best on Seahawks Defense?
Whichever team drafts Kancey will be getting a very athletic prospect with seemingly a lot of potential, especially as a pass rusher.
Although the Seahawks finished tied for seventh with 45 sacks last season, they could still use an elite pass rusher. Seattle hasn’t had a defender reach double-digit sacks since 2018.
But it’s still worth wondering if Kancey is the best fit for the Seahawks at No. 5 since his lack of size could make him a liability, at least initially, against the run.
While Zierlein’s draft profile of Kancey was overall positive, he did write that “he will get pushed around at times,” and that he “might be most effective as a rotational run defender.”
What the Seahawks badly need this offseason are run defenders along the defensive line. Seattle finished the 2022 season ranked 27th in yards allowed per carry and 30th in rushing yards yielded per game.
Including the playoffs, the Seahawks allowed more than 150 rushing yards in nine games last season.
As fascinating as Kancey is with his NFL combine record-setting speed, if he’s not going to help improve Seattle’s run defense, the Seahawks might be prudent to consider other options at No. 5.