In the middle of January, I wrote a post about Jalin Hyatt, the Tennessee WR and mentioned that Pitt DT, Calijah Kancey, was very impressive. At the time, Kancey was only ranked 92nd on PFN, 64th by ESPN and 39th by PFF. On Daniel Jeremiah's first version of his top 50 prospects, Kancey failed to make the cut.
Since that point, Kancey's draft stock appears to have risen considerably. On DJ's 2nd version of his top 50 list, Kancey was ranked 30th. He had climbed all the way up to 14th on PFF's board. On Lance Zierlein's board, he was 34th entering the Combine. Running a blazing fast 40 time at the Combine will only enhance Kancey's draft momentum. Instead of being seen as a late 3rd to 4th round prospect, now there seems to be genuine buzz about Kancey being a potential 1st round draft pick. Who did Lance Zierlein choose as Kancey's NFL comp? John Randle. Yes, the HOFer (and UDFA) from the Vikings.
When Randle initially joined the Vikings in 1990, they had zero roster need at his position. Keith Millard had set the NFL record for sacks by a DT in 1989 with 18 sacks. The Vikings had another defensive tackle, Henry Thomas, who had 9 sacks in 1989 and already had been a 3 year starter at that point. Thomas made back to back Pro Bowls in 1991 and 1992. The Vikings also had a 3rd DT on the roster, Ken Clarke, a veteran NT who once had 10.5 sacks in a year while he was an Eagle, so they had plenty of high quality starting level DTs on their team.
The Vikings didn't hold 1st or 2nd round picks in 1990, due to the Herschel Walker trade. The original 1st round slot that would have belonged to the Vikings was used by the Steelers to draft a huge TE named Eric Green. It was difficult for defenders to cover him as a receiver, unable to match his size and athleticism. Green made multiple Pro Bowls. Not a bad pick, right?
At the time, the GM for the Vikings said that if they had held that 1st round pick they would have used it on a center. So, who was the next center drafted in 1990? It would have been Bern Brostek, taken by the Los Angeles Rams. Brostek became a starter for the Rams, blocked for RBs such as Jerome Bettis, and played a few years with Jackie Slater. If for some reason the Vikings didn't like him and went with the next center, it would have been Tim Grunhard of the Chiefs, another good NFL player, long term starter, who went to the Pro Bowl. Either way, not a bad pick, right?
What if the Vikings had gone RB instead of C? This would have made sense, because they wouldn't have had Walker without the trade. The next RB was Rodney Hampton from Georgia, who was excellent in college. Hampton made multiple Pro Bowls and finished his career as the all time leading rusher for the New York Giants. Not a bid pick, right?
One of the key things for the Vikings that happened in 1990 was Cris Carter was shockingly waived by the Eagles due to serious drug and alcohol abuse issues. The Vikings claimed him off waivers. Years later, Carter would say that Buddy Ryan saved his life by releasing him from the Eagles. Carter would go on to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and become a HOFer.
Let's pretend the Vikings never had Carter fall into their lap. Instead, let's give them more WR help in the 1990 draft. The next WR at that 1st round slot would have been Rob Moore. An excellent NFL receiver, Moore led the NFL in receiving yards in 1997. He made multiple Pro Bowls. Not a bad pick, right?
Seems like there's no way the Vikings could lose. No matter what they did with that 1st round pick, they could have gotten excellent players at a number of different positions. Well, I guess it depends on your POV. Dallas didn't pick Green, Brostek, Grunhard, Hampton or Moore. Instead, they traded up a few spots. Who did they get? Emmitt Smith. What if John Randle had actually been a 1st to 2nd round prospect back in 1990 and the Vikings passed on him to take a center? Logically, this would have made perfect sense, because the Vikings ranked 1st in total defense in 1989, they didn't need more help on defense, they needed to improve their offense. If it meant losing out on Randle, would Brostek still feel like such a great pick in hindsight? Sometimes, the very best move a team can make in the draft is to do 100% the opposite of what it feels like on paper they should do.
Millard suffered a serious knee injury early in the 1990 season. He missed the entire 1991 season. The following year, the Vikings traded him in 1992 for a pair of draft picks. Clarke retired after the 1991 season. Randle didn't play much as a rookie and only had one sack. In his 2nd year, he got some starts at DE when the veteran starter at that spot struggled and got benched. Randle was only a part time player, a pass rush specialist. By Randle's 3rd season in the NFL, the Vikings were ready to go with a youth movement on defense. For the first time in his career, Randle got the opportunity to start at DT. He had 11.5 sacks in 1992. It was the first of 8 straight seasons in which he had double digit sack totals.
Maybe you're wondering, "Wait a minute, did the Vikings ever find a new starting center?" Yes, they did. Their starter at the time, Kirk Lowdermilk, left in free agency in 1993, joining the Colts to become the highest paid lineman in the NFL. In 1992, Jeff Christy was a 4th round pick by the Cardinals. He played OT and G for Pitt, but never played center in college. He failed to make the roster for the Cardinals. Essentially an unwanted cast-off, Christy was brought in by the Vikings, who had a plan to teach him to play center. A backup in 1993, Christy became the starting center in 1994. He would go on to make multiple Pro Bowls. He later won a Super Bowl starting for the Tampa Bay Bucs.
The Vikings needed to replace Christy. In 1998, they had drafted Matt Birk in the 6th round. Birk played left tackle in college at Harvard. Since the Vikings didn't carry many linemen on the active roster, Birk cross trained at center to make himself more valuable as a backup. When Christy left in FA to join the Bucs, Birk stepped up and became the new starter. Birk became one of the best centers in the NFL and went to multiple Pro Bowls. So, yes, the Vikings were more than fine at center, they were outstanding, and they didn't need to use a high draft pick or even use a player who was a college center to fill the position.
Randle initially played football at a community college, then played for what is now Texas A&M-Kingsville. Randle only weighed 244 pounds when he entered the NFL. The story is that the Vikings told him they would only keep him if he was at least 250 pounds, so Randle wore a chain around his waist under his jersey just so that he could make the required weight. If Tutu Atwell wore 2 chains under his jersey, could he get up to 180 pounds?
The top pick in 1990, QB Jeff George, had an absolute cannon for an arm. The 2nd overall pick, Blair Thomas, was a big star at Penn State. QB Andre Ware set passing records in a run and shoot offense. The Patriots were considered one of the "big winners" on draft day when they used a trade down to get 2 players in the top 10, Chris Singleton and Ray Agnew. Not such a home run draft for the Pats in hindsight.
In the end, none of those top 10 pick players were remotely as good as John Randle. The undersized underdog UDFA from a very small school surpassed all of those hyped prospects and became one of the greatest pass rushing defensive linemen in NFL history.
Name: Calijah Kancey. 22 years old. Redshirt Junior.
School: Pitt. Studied administration of justice.
Size: Combine measurements 6'1'' tall, 281 pounds, 30 5/8'' arms, 9 1/8'' hands, 4.67 second 40 time, 1.64 second 10 yard split.
He ran the fastest 40 for a DT since 2003 (As best I can tell, the only reason they use that year as the cutoff is because of the method used to do the timing at the Combine. I can't find any report of a player actually running faster than Kancey, so it is conceivable he's the fastest DT over even a longer period of years.) Patrick Mahomes had a 10 yard split time of 1.65 seconds. Kancey's split time is only fractions of a second slower than athletic QBs such as Josh Allen, Justin Fields and Deshaun Watson. So, if you believe that timed speed translates to the field, in a race situation, Kancey would literally be step for step with those guys, there would be no noticeable difference in how fast the 2 players were running, pretty good for a 280 DT who weighs 50 to 60 pounds more than the QB.
From Miami. As a recruit, listed at only 264 pounds, with a 5.06 second 40 time. Chose Pitt over offers from multiple other power conference schools.
Redshirted in 2019.
2020 (11 games, 4 starts): 27 tackles, 7 TFLs, 1.5 sacks
2021 (14 starts): 35 tackles, 13 TFLs, 7 sacks, FF
2022 (11 starts): 31 tackles, 14.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks
Missed final 2.5 games of 2022 due to shoulder injury, had surgery on his shoulder. I wonder if he had some type of injury even prior to that point, because in one game I watched, I don't think he played a single snap in the 2nd half of the game.
Unanimous 1st team All American in 2022. Worked with charitable organizations on a variety of community service efforts in Pittsburgh area.
Lance Zierlein 34th ranked prospect (early 2nd rd)
NFLDB 27th overall (1st rd)
Daniel Jeremiah 30th overall (1st rd)
ESPN 6th DT, 66th overall (early 3rd rd)
CBSSports 40th (2nd rd)
PFF 14th (1st rd)
PFN (Industry) 78th overall (3rd rd)
Drafttek 82nd (listed as 5 tech DE) (3rd rd)
Brian Bosarge 45th (2nd rd)
Fanspeak draft sim boards: Bears (45th); Broncos (48th); Rigdon (76th); Bills (51st); Diamonds (81st); Shoup (53rd), so 2nd to 3rd round all those boards.
Lance Zierlein 6.37 draft grade (eventual plus starter), John Randle comp. Undersized, one gap DT. Nightmare as pass rusher. 1st step quickness. Top flight closing kick to QB. Lacks size and length. Ducks head and loses sight of run play development. Fails to mirror lateral steps, gets reached and sealed. Will get pushed around at times. Twitchy feet to reset points of attack. Excellent change of direction quickness.
NFLDB: Strong enough in lower body to hold up at point of attack. Good feel as grappler in phone booth. Outstanding body control, low pad level, impressive leverage. Pass rush moves like a seasoned NFL vet. Has 31.5'' vertical jump and can bench 425 pounds. HC compared to Aaron Donald. Remarkably instinctive run defender. Explodes off LOS with quick 1st step. Agile feet to counter, closing burst to finish plays. Holds his own vs double teams. Outstanding lateral movement, speed to cover ground in pursuit. Possible outside rusher in NFL. Going to get pushed around by bigger OL. Could be limited to a pass rush specialist inside. Takes wide angles in pursuit. Easy 1st round selection. A pass rush specialist as rookie, a long term starter in NFL on DL.
Daniel Jeremiah: Rare twitch and explosion. Rockets out of stance, wins early with quick moves, leverage and closing burst. Very sudden change of direction. Struggles to free himself, gets stuck if he doesn't win early. Gets washed down LOS due to size. Disruptive ability to shoot gaps vs run.
Steelers Depot (Johnathan Heitritter): Impressive twitch and quickness. Great motor. Speed to chase. Nuanced hand usage. Plays low to ground, wins with leverage. Sits low to hold point of attack vs run. Vastly undersized. Won't consistently beat OL with power. Lack of length makes it difficult to get off blocks. Taken out of play if OL gets hands on him at snap. Shoots gaps rather than winning with speed and power. Gets washed or pushed backwards in run game. Jaylen Twyman and Sheldon Day comps [Sheldon Day was an early 4th round pick in 2016 by the Jaguars, mostly a back of the roster type player in the NFL. In that draft, LZ compared Day to Mike Daniels, saying that Day had the best hands of any lineman in the draft. IMO, Day isn't nearly as good as Kancey as a prospect. I wrote about Twyman back in 2021. I liked him and gave him a 4th round grade. He was a 6th round pick. He's not a similar athlete to Kancey, because Twyman had very limited lower body strength to anchor, explosiveness or quickness. He ran 5.39 seconds in the 40. There also was a guy named Darius Stills who was an UDFA. I liked him so much, I gave him a 3rd round grade. Stills had no bull rush ability. He couldn't hold his ground against double teams. He had tight hips, so he couldn't change directions fluidly. He didn't have good closing burst to the QB. I still liked him, because he was a disruptive player with good hands, but he's not on the same level as Kancey. Stills is out of the NFL and in the USFL. Twyman was injured in a shooting after the draft. He's currently on a future contract with the Miami Dolphins.] 4th round grade.
Outstanding hand fighter. Excellent hand speed, coordination and usage. Recently, I profiled Joe Tippmann, the huge center from Wisconsin, who has slow hands to engage after the snap and isn't yet skilled in how to use his hands after initial engagement. When people focus on Kancey being so short and small (he'd be tiny standing next to Tippmann) I think they fail to appreciate just how much of an advantage Kancey would have if he played 1 vs 1 on Tippmann in a football game. Kancey has violent, quick and active hands, both on pass and run plays. His hand usage only becomes more impressive if you have access to All 22 film or if you can see close up replays from an end zone angle, to reveal in more detail moment to moment what he's doing. From the TV angle, you can't see as well how he beats guys, you have to watch it from a better camera angle.
Get off so fast that his hands grabbed the C's jersey simultaneous with the QB getting the ball on the shotgun snap. Sudden, explosive and fluid ability to link together multiple pass rush moves and counters, which enables him not just to overwhelm individual blockers, but also to beat double teams. A mini-Aaron Donald. Slipperly. Bull rushed guard, then inside move, then outside counter. Pass rush double team by LG and C, the DT wins with club and swim over the LG, then sudden spin move linked with immediate push pull to beat the C. Inside swim linked with immediate inside spin move. Rip under, then counter inside spin. Cross chop linked with spin. His technical level is like that of an NFL player.
Full pass rush repertoire. Push pull moves. Explosive spin move. Club, rip and swims. Cross chop. Sets up opponents, has a plan, a very instinctive feel as a pass rusher with impeccable timing.
Smoked RG very quickly with push pull swim move. Ripped under C to inside, then bends around him like an edge rusher coming off the edge, to flatten and redirect to the QB. Spin counter to inside to get a sack. Destroyed the LG with push pull, hit the QB. Obliterated LG with quick swim move. Quick swim past RG. His head and shoulder wiggle coming out of his stance makes it challenging for the OL to mirror and anticipate his next move, it seems to discombobulate them.
Can pass rush against any of the OL positions, C, G or either of the OTs.
While his 1st step is super explosive, his 3rd and 4th steps as a pass rusher might be even more impressive. Beat LG off the snap, then explodes to stress the C who is trying to pick him up and when the C goes into scramble mode to try to recover, he unleashes a spin counter to the inside. Kancey is relentless, he doesn't just apply pass rush pressure against the first blocker off the snap, he continues to stress the pass protection by layering explosive movements as the play continues. Doesn't give up as a pass rusher. Even if double teamed and his initial move gets stopped, he'll continue to work and try to find a way through to get to the QB.
Hands just as good defending the run as they are pass rushing. Heads up against RG at point of attack, gains superior leverage, then excellent hand speed to disengage from the block and grab the RB in the hole. Counter, then rip under the LG to win his gap on run play. Great grip strength to defeat run block with push pull move.
Power is underrated. Very thick, beefy thighs and calves. Generates power with superior leverage and very strong lower body. Another reason he has effective power is he can "disarm" the OL due to his great hand usage. He pushes the OL's hands away, then gets into his opponent's chest and drives them backwards. You could be a 310 to 320 pound offensive lineman, but if your hands are not engaged on the defender, your ability to block and anchor is going to be compromised. He also holds up against double team and combo blocks surprisingly well, strong lower half to anchor and hold his ground and since he's so short his low center of gravity makes it difficult for defenders to get low enough to effectively push him. This could become even more challenging for NFL guards, because some of those guys are taller than average college guards. In a sense, being small might actually give Kancey an advantage in those situations, instead of it being a disadvantage. Leo Chenal was a LB in last year's draft who was surprisingly stout right in the middle in short yardage and it was a similar deal, he had very strong legs, so even though he was only a 250 pound LB, when he was placed in the A gap on short yardage runs, it was almost like he was a DT, it became difficult for the OL to move him. Able to submarine the OL in short yardage situations.
Right off snap, gets into chest of RG, drives him 3 yards backwards, then yanks the RG to the side to get around the block. Got leverage, then drove the C back into the QB, hits the QB. Disarms the LG, drives him backwards, then rip move to the inside. Shocking bull rush power, driving the C back into the QB. Right off the snap he drives RG backwards, then counters back towards the runner. Disarms LG, drives him backwards, then push pull arm over move to disengage. On wide zone run, ambushes the C, penetrates into the backfield for TFL. Swam over LG, then ran over the RG to sack the QB. Knocked LG to ground on run play. Gets hands inside C and steers him, then discards to tackle the RB on zone run.
Misconception to think of Kancey as just a speed rusher or a finesse rusher. His ability to drive right down the middle of the blocker is just as good as you'd see from a 300 or 310 pound DT.
3rd&1, not moved at all by combo block, holds up at the point of attack, then tackles the RB. C and LG try to double team him, zero movement, ate up the double team like he was a 330 pound NT. C and RG try to double team him, right off the snap the DT knocks the RG's hand off of him, then swims over the RG, turning the double team into a solo block, the C tries to push him, but the DT holds his ground. RT and RG double team him and push him about half a yard back, but then the DT contorts his body and anchors, winning leverage, doesn't give up any more space. 3rd&1, he stands up LG at point of attack, then club move to counter and disengage from block. Dynamic, constantly moving with fast and accurate hands make him difficult to handle on run plays, got off LG, then drove into chest of C on zone run. Run up middle, the DT gets under the pads of the LG, forces his way into the backfield with a power move, blocking the path of the RB and forcing the run to bounce outside.
Against efforts to displace him, Kancey can attack the edge of the lineman, getting off the block. Against double team block, he pulled the OL violently to the side and won the gap.
Athletic. Good agility on twists. Takes good angles on twists. Body control to redirect to runner. Hurdled over player on ground while pursuing the ball. Has surprising pass coverage ability, which could have value on creative zone blitz designs. Great recognition of potential screen pass, went to the flat instead of continuing upfield. Different play, long 3rd down, was driving LG backwards on pass rush, then suddenly peels off and runs with RB to flat to cover him. His short area burst and change of direction is more like a LB, not a DT. This opens up the ability for a defensive coordinator to be creative. On passing downs, the opponent is going to assume that Kancey will be pass rushing, they will have OL focused on him. If he pretends to rush, then suddenly drops under the RB or TE, this will tend to occupy blockers even though Kancey isn't rushing, creating a numerical advantage for the other defenders who are rushing the QB. It will be simulated pressure, making it feel like more pass rushers are coming, helping to generate pressure on QB without exposing the defense to as much risk of getting burned by an overload blitz.
Excellent pursuit burst against WR screen. Great pursuit range when QB rolled out of pocket and Kancey was the DT lined up on the opposite side of the formation. His closing burst when coming from trail position opens up opportunities to cause fumbles, the runner often won't be expecting a defender arriving from behind.
Clutch player. Some of his best plays happened at critical moments of close games. Didn't just pad his stats with garbage time sacks or pile on against weak opponents, he delivered in key moments when the team needed a big play. Game tied, about 1 minute left in the 4th quarter, 3rd down. Immediately off the snap destroys the C with club swim move, great closing burst to the QB, nearly sacks the QB, flushing the QB out of the pocket and other defenders finish off the play, tackling the QB near the LOS. Overtime, he's up against Darnell Wright, a RT mocked by Mel Kiper as the 16th overall pick in the draft. On Daniel Jeremiah's top 50 list, Wright is the 23rd overall prospect. He's widely considered the best right tackle prospect in the 2023 NFL draft. Cross chop by Kancey, then spin counter to the inside, pressures the QB. Kancey is supposed to be a DT, but he's lining up as a DE and beating a prospect who is supposed to become an excellent NFL right tackle.
Like Aaron Donald, Kancey's individual stats don't fully capture the impact he had on the field. By occupying multiple blockers, he opened up pass rush opportunities for other players, so there are QB pressures and TFLs that weren't credited to him that he was directly responsible in creating. On twist, drove the C backwards, creating an excellent lane for the DE to loop behind him and get a QB hit. Dipped his shoulder inside of the RG, took out the C on twist, causing the 2nd DT going behind him to have a free path to the QB, resulting in heavy pressure on a critical 3rd down play late in the 4th quarter. Excellent twist freed up other DT on a different play. As NT against C, he slants, creating penetration into the backfield and a roadblock directly in the path of the RB, resulting in a TFL for the DE.
Second, just like Aaron Donald, the refs allowed opponents to get away with very obvious holding penalties against Kancey. So, he "won" on plays that didn't result in any individual stats. Some plays, opponents couldn't block him, so they would just grab him and pull him, and the refs would let it go. Two gapping vs center, DT attacks both edges of C, one after another, controlling both gaps, the C resorts to holding him, but penalty not called. Zone run, he bull rushes the LT back into the RB, the LT is clearly holding him, but penalty not called. The LT on combo block is trying to wash him down inside, but DT doesn't remain stationary, he gets to the outside edge of the block, the LT grabs the outside of DT's shoulder pads to keep him from tackling the RB, clearly holding, but penalty not called.
I thought he showed improvement during his career. Was better in 2022 than in 2021. Better pad level, hand usage, linking moves, reading the play and understanding how to take on the blockers.
T-Rex arm length and small hands. His arms 30 5/8'' arms are so crazy short, compare him to Austin Blythe, who measured 31.5'' at his pro day and 30 1/4'' at the Combine. Aaron Donald has 32 5/8'' arms, exactly 2 inches longer. D'Marco Farr had 33 3/8'' arms, nearly 3 inches longer. Sheldon Rankins, another undersized DT, also has 33 3/8'' arms. Ejuan Price, who was a tiny OLB from Pitt drafted in the 7th round by the Rams, standing just under 5'11'' tall, had 32 3/4'' arms. Keir Thomas was an undersized DE/DT who was an UDFA last year with the Rams. Thomas has 32 1/2'' arms. Small hands at 9 1/8''. Aaron Donald has 9 7/8'' hands.
Fell off tackle against RB. Misses sacks, because he can't grab the QB with his short arms. When LG grabbed DT by jersey in middle of chest, DT was done on the pass rush rep, DT unable to break free, locked up. Outstanding punch accuracy, pushing the LG's hand away to win initial joust, but when DT dives to tackle the RB he misses. Cross chop beats the LG, but then the DT misses the sack, because his arms are short.
Doesn't have size and length to deflect passes at the line of scrimmage. Only had 3 career PDs, zero in 2022.
Body appears to be maxed out. Short player with small frame, likely can't add much more muscle or weight without losing speed and agility. Limited developmental upside.
On run plays, in some cases his habit of trying to attack the edge of the blocker ends up helping the OL, because they just push him wider in that same direction, driving him out of his gap, opening up a big hole for the runner. Tried to split gap, but got pushed to ground. Dove inside LG, trying to crease the line, but got pushed out of the hole.
Jumped offsides on one play. Eagerness to explode off the snap might become penalties if NFL QBs are able to bait him with snap count tricks.
Not a full time player. Got rotated out and allowed to rest. Appeared to get tired on a long drive and his performance level dropped, struggled to hold his ground as well when winded. One of the great things about Aaron Donald is he can essentially play almost all of the team's defensive snaps. Kancey might not be able to do that, he might only be effective as part of a rotation.
Had surgery after 2022 season. Small size could raise durability questions.
Interview not overly impressive.
Didn't play against a long list of great OL opponents. Stats potentially inflated by weaker competition. We have to project and speculate as to how he might handle NFL level opponents, because there isn't a good library of games to watch where he's facing top shelf G and C prospects.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
2nd round grade. (Ed Oliver 9th overall 2019, Buffalo Bills, Houston)
When Oliver was in the draft, LZ compared him to Michael Dean Perry, who is Refrigerator Perry's brother. MDP was a 2nd round pick in 1988 and was a 6 time All Pro. In the first 4 years of his career, MDP had 305 tackles and 33 sacks. Aaron Donald in his first 4 seasons (playing in a more pass oriented and less run oriented era of NFL football) had 205 tackles and 39 sacks.
For a top 10 pick, Oliver has been a disappointment. He's probably performed more like a 3rd round pick. He's never had more than 5 sacks in any season and only once has he achieved a PFF grade of at least 70.
Oliver was 6'1 7/8'' tall, 287 pounds, 31 3/4'' arms, 9 1/4'' hands, and ran 4.73 seconds in the 40. When Oliver was in the draft, there were substantial questions about his maturity level. Bills coaches and players have said that Oliver has become much more mature over the years and that it is helping him to become a better player.
In 2014, I liked a DT named Will Sutton out of Arizona State, who was a 3rd round pick. In 2012, he had 13 sacks and 23.5 TFLs. Sutton had 31 1/4'' arms. Nolan Nawrocki had a 2nd to 3rd round grade on Sutton and suggested that he'd be a better player if he dropped weight down to 290. Over a 3 year period, he started 18 games for the Chicago Bears. Do you know how many sacks Sutton had in his NFL career? Zero.
Being small doesn't necessarily mean a player will be bad against the run. Timmy Jernigan was an undersized NT out of Florida State, drafted in the 2nd round in 2014, but he was a good run defender in the NFL for the Ravens and the Eagles.
Drafting Kancey high in the 1st round would be as risky a gamble as drafting Tavon Austin early in the 1st round, because it defies the conventional wisdom, breaking the standard size requirements. No matter how good a player looked in college, there wasn't a precedent for drafting such a tiny WR so early back in 2013 and similarly an NFL team would have to go out on a limb to take Kancey so early, because he's so much smaller than a typical NFL defensive tackle or defensive end.
I liked Tavon Austin. While I wouldn't have traded up to get him, I would have been willing to draft him in the 1st round. Ten years later, I like Calijah Kancey too. I don't mind that he's so small, he's a very good player. I liked Malcolm Rodriguez, the small LB for the Detroit Lions. Should teams be scared off by small players? People question whether Bryce Young will be a good NFL QB, because he's not a big player. Maybe he'll be good, maybe he won't, but did being big athletes make prospects like JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf any less risky than Young? The list of potential risks in the NFL draft is infinite, so why do people get fixated on a type of risk that is obvious to the naked eye, but ignore other risk factors that should be just as obvious (e.g. Leaf's flaky behavior at the Combine interviewing with teams.) There's no such thing as a can't miss prospect in the draft. Well, except for maybe Aaron Donald.