Pittsburgh football has now produced the two fastest defensive tackles in NFL scouting combine history.
Calijah Kancey, the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, put on a show Thursday in Indianapolis. After posting the fastest time in the first round of 40-yard dashes with a 4.78, he bested himself on his second run with a 4.73.
— NFL (@NFL) March 2, 2023
That was the unofficial time. When officials took a closer look, he actually clocked in with a 4.67. That mark makes him the fastest defensive tackle in combine history since NFL Network officially started logging combine measurements in 2003. At 281 pounds, he's also the record holder for anybody weighing in at 280-plus pounds.
The previous record holder? That's fellow former Pittsburgh Panther Aaron Donald, who's checked in as the league's most dominant defender pretty much since he first stepped on an NFL field in 2014. Donald posted a 4.68 in 2014 in a jaw-dropping overall NFL combine effort.
— NFL (@NFL) February 24, 2022
So why does the 40 time matter for a defensive tackle? If a defensive tackle is sprinting 40 yards in a game, something likely has gone terribly wrong for the defense, after all.
It speaks to the tremendous athleticism possessed by players like Kancey and Donald. These guys won't be regularly sprinting down the field like wideouts and cornerbacks. But at 280-plus pounds, they're doing a lot more than taking up space in the trenches. Donald's speed and athleticism combined with his 284-pound frame makes him one of the most feared defenders and backfield wrecking balls in NFL history.
Kancey, meanwhile, doesn't project as the next Donald. Nobody does, to be fair. But prior to Thursday, he was widely projected as a late first-round or second-round pick. He was a star at Pitt, tallying 27.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks over the course of his final two seasons. He was a unanimous All-American in 2022 in addition to his ACC DPOY honor.
At 281 pounds, he's undersized for his position, a trait that has kept him from consideration among the elite defensive prospects in this year's draft. For comparison, the draft's top defensive tackle and No. 1 overall prospect on a lot of boards is Jalen Carter, who weighed in at 314 pounds Thursday.
Again, this is not to say that Kancey's 40 time puts him in Donald's stratosphere. But it's the kind of effort that should and likely will improve his draft stock. How far will he fall before a team decides he's too tempting a prospect to pass up?