NFL Draft Grades Round 1: What experts are saying about Bucs picking Calijah Kancey

Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey is selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nineteenth overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey is selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers nineteenth overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

NFL Draft Grades Round 1: Here’s what the experts are saying about the Buccaneers selecting Calijah Kancey with the No. 19 pick.

We’re through the looking glass of the NFL Draft, with the first round in the books and a whole weekend of picks ahead of us.

Beyond the first night, teams are mostly buying lottery tickets in terms of how players drafted on the second and third days will pan out as pros. Day 2 is a bit more controlled since there’s some decent first-round talent that spilled over, but that’s where the overthinking begins.

Did these guys fall for a reason or just bad luck?

What we can also start overthinking is the knee-jerk reactions to the guys picked on Thursday. NFL Draft Grades are already trickling out, and it’s hard to resist seeing what the experts are saying about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers picking Calijah Kancey with the No. 19 pick.

To be fair, we all have a job to do in breaking down the fits of these picks, but none of these guys have played an actual down of professional football yet. So while it’s easy to troll the Detroit Lions for reaching twice on guys they liked, it could turn out they had the best class of the year.

Let’s focus on Tampa Bay though, and what the experts are saying about Kancey and his fit with Todd Bowles.

NFL Draft Grades Round 1: Experts react to Bucs picking Calijah Kancey

The consensus seems to be that the Bucs made a good pick, if not a bit of a reach, for a guy who could have an instant impact on the defensive line.

Fans know that there’s not much to write home about beyond Vita Vea, and it seems experts around the league recognize the same thing in evaluating the Bucs drafting Calijah Kancey.

Pro Football Focus grade: Very Good

While they don’t give out actual grades, PFF seems to be a fan of the Bucs taking Kancey. It’s also a grade that seems in line with similar picks for the Packers and Lukas Van Ness and the Jets with Will McDonald IV.

PFF writes:

"He might be undersized, but Kancey is a phenomenal pass-rusher on the interior. His first step is elite, and he’s coming off a season where he led all players at the position with a 92.4 PFF pass-rushing grade. The Pittsburgh product should make an immediate impact in Tampa Bay."

The Athletic grade: B-

The first official grade and the first of many passing marks for the Bucs. The comparisons to Aaron Donald — and even John Randle — are a bit rich and reactive, but the one The Athletic makes feels both right and exciting.

If the Bucs get the next Aaron Donald or Warren Sapp, then that’s obviously the best-case scenario. But if Kancey’s ceiling is La’Roi Glover then it’s hard to argue this pick being another master stroke by Jason Licht.

The Athletic writes:

"Although the comparisons are inevitable with former Pitt All-American Aaron Donald, perhaps Kancey’s best comparison is with former La’Roi Glover, a perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle with the Saints. Kancey (6-1, 281) has small arms (30 5/8), but his quickness off the ball (1.58 in his 10-yard split) has negated those issues in the past. It’s a little unusual for a 3-4 to pull a defensive tackle built like Kancey, but it can work."

CBS Sports grade: B

I had to chuckle when pursuing the Bucs blogs this morning and seeing Joe over at JoeBucsFan refer to Pete Prisco as ‘Prickly Pete’. But there’s nothing prickly about his assessment of Kancey being the Bucs pick.

Pete Prisco writes:

"They need help inside and Kancey has the tools to be an up-the-field, attacking defensive tackle. But he isn’t big and he can get overwhelmed at the point. But he has Vita Vea next to him for that, so I get it."

Yahoo! Sports grade: B

Take this in two different ways: Charles McDonald is both a fantastic football mind and a Falcons fan. So the fact that he’s high on the Bucs taking Kancey is a sign that it’s a good move from an X’s and O’s perspective, and it’s even better that a fan of a division rival is a bit rattled by the pick.

McDonald writes:

"Depending on how the Buccaneers plan on deploying Kancey, he may be a grand slam of a pick. He’s a bit of a strange fit in their odd man fronts, but if he flexes out to defensive end and plays more on the edge, he has the traits to do it. Defensive line is the one position where it’s almost always OK to take chances on the athletes." grade: A

The comparisons to Aaron Donald are impossible for folks to resist, although leans away from it even while making one. writes:

"His pro career might not match that of another undersized first-round Pitt defensive tackle, but I love Kancey’s game. He can beat tackles with quickness and powerful hands outside and charge through gaps inside. The Bucs needed to get younger on the defensive line, and with the top offensive linemen already off the board, he was a logical pick at No. 19."

Bleacher Report grade: B

Here’s the first real mention on a national level of what the selection of Kancey does beyond just Vita Vea. It’s obvious what he brings in that duo, but there’s a wider impact here that ripples out to guys like Shaq Barrett, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, and even Logan Hall.

B/R writes:

"Kancey can immediately slot into 3-technique and provide the perfect complementary piece along the defensive interior. Furthermore, the incoming rookie’s abilities as a consistent disruptive force will make life easier on Tampa Bay’s talented edges. Shaquil Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka should be more effective if quarterbacks can’t step up in the pocket."

MMQB/Sports Illustrated grade: B-

Friend of the site Matt Verderame isn’t just high on the pick because he’s trying to keep us happy. Sort of like the B/R breakdown, Verderame weighs the pick not only against its actual merits but against what the Bucs could have done in taking Will Levis with the No. 19 pick.

That makes Kancey landing with the Krewe even better.

Verderame writes:

"The Buccaneers have a litany of holes, and could have addressed their quarterback need with Will Levis. Instead, general manager Jason Licht opted for Kancey, an interior pass rusher to pair with the run-stuffing Vita Vea. Kancey is only 281 pounds, but he dominated at times in the ACC, totaling 14.5 sacks over the past two years. Tampa Bay has long valued a pass rush, and it decided to build out from the trenches with the Pittsburgh product."

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