Kansas City should keep their eye on Pittsburgh’s defensive tackle Calijah Kancey.
Kansas City is not losing many players in free agency and the ones they do lose are not core players. One of the most impacted parts of the team is the defensive line. The Chiefs have decisions to make with players like Khanlen Saunders and Derrick Nnadi. While neither one of those players are game wreckers they are solid rotational pieces. The Chiefs will look to replace those snaps. While it’s likely one of those players resigned they can’t keep both.
Kancey is an athletic freak at the position. He has a volume of pass-rush moves to beat guards and tackles. Any time you have a player entering the league with a developed arsenal of pass rush moves and not just depending on pure strength is a huge benefit. His ability to use his hands to slap away at guards and to follow it up with a clean swim move gets him in the backfield consistently.
He also has a motor on film that looks like one of the first-round picks that KC took in the 2022 draft, George Karlaftis. His effort shows up in his film when he is chasing down quarterbacks and running backs.
One thing that may have him slide in the draft is his size. Kacey is six foot 280 pounds. Even though he is smaller he is still able to bullrush interior offensive linemen. He will play well in the Chiefs’ defensive scheme.
There is precedent for smaller defensive tackles working in the NFL. The best defensive player over the last decade, Aaron Donald is only an inch taller than him. The Chiefs have taken a chance on a shorter defensive tackle in the past with Saunders. Brett Veach was the general manager in 2019 when the Chiefs selected Saunders. That was the same time when defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo came to Kansas City.
If the Chiefs draft him he will benefit from being next to Chris Jones. Jones is constantly dealing with double teams by opposing centers and guards. On passing downs when teams scheme to stop Jones from having Kancey left one on one with a guard the size difference will be mitigated. Especially if it is in a pure pass down like a third and long. He is a perfect scheme set for KC.
He did play on the defensive edge throughout the season. Spagnoulo loves moving his players around. Jones played tons of snaps from the outside and Veach constantly is looking for players that can be used in multiple positions.
This year the Chiefs were constantly rotating in different pieces to keep their pass rushers fresh. With that same mindset heading into the 2023 season Kancey will thrive in KC.
He is not elite in the run game but he is able to maintain low leverage against the run. He is not going to be a liability and with the linebackers, the Chiefs have he will allow them to make the plays.
He may never be an elite single-player pass rusher but put him on a d-line with another dominant player in Chris Jones that is a duo that will keep opposing offensive linemen up on Saturday night.