by J.T. Toth
Photo of Calijah Kancey
Fans of the Pitt Panthers got to hear the school’s name called six times during the NFL Draft this past weekend. It is the second time in the past three drafts they had six players selected. The six Pitt selections tied them with Clemson for the most in the ACC. The Panthers were ranked 5th nationally in total selections.
Here is a list of the Panthers selected and how they should fit on their new teams:
DT-Calijah Kancey- Round 1, pick 19 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kancey gets to team up with defensive tackle, Vita Vea, bolstering the Buccaneers interior defensive line. Kancey has an explosive first step and really opened the eyes of scouts by running the fastest time by a defensive tackle since 2006 (4.67). Kancey led the FBS in sacks by a defensive tackle with 7.5 and should translate to a first day starter and a disruptive force in Tampa Bay.
“Our entire program is bursting with pride right now for Calijah," Head Coach, Pat
Narduzzi said. "This young man has absolutely earned all that comes with this night. Here's a
Miami kid who didn't receive any in-state Power 5 offers, comes up to Pitt and ends up being a
unanimous All-American and first-round NFL Draft pick. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting
a great player and even better person."
OT-Carter Warren- Round 4, pick 120 - New York Jets
The Jets need depth on the offensive line, and Warren should fit in nicely as a backup to start with room to grow into a starter. The Jets have two young starting tackles in Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell and signed Duane Brown, but injuries have plagued Becton and Brown in the past. Pitt coach, Pat Narduzzi said, “Coach Robert Saleh is not only getting a great offensive lineman but also a leader. There’s a reason Carter was a captain for us, and I know he will do the same, on and off the field, for the Jets.”
RB-Israel Abanikanda- Round 5, pick 143 - New York Jets
Breece Hall, the Jets' 2nd round pick in 2022 sustained a season ending knee injury in his rookie season. Michael Carter has been a disappointment at times for the Jets, and Israel Abanikanda adds nicely to the RB group. The Jets most likely will employ a rotation at RB, and Abanikanda should see the field once he gets the offense down.
“What an awesome moment for a Brooklyn kid to go and play for the hometown New York Jets.” Narduzzi said “Izzy is an absolute steal for them. He is going to give the Jets home run speed in the backfield and can help them in the return game, too”.
LB-SirVocea Dennis- Round 5, pick 153 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pro Bowl inside linebacker, Devin White, has asked to be traded, and Lavonte David has only one year left on his contract and is 33-years-old. Todd Bowles loves to blitz from the inside and SirVocea is a nice fit in Tampa and a steal at 153. If White is moved this year, Dennis could find himself in the starting lineup.
“SirVocea is going to be a tremendous addition in Tampa for Coach Bowles, who certainly knows what it takes to build great defenses” Narduzzi said. “SirVocea might just be the most intelligent player I ever coached. A ‘Green Dot Guy’ if there ever was one. We are thrilled SirVocea and Calijah will be continuing their football journey together."
S-Erick Hallett II- Round 6, pick 208 - Jacksonville Jaguars
With starting safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Andre Cisco in tow, Hallett will be fighting for a roster spot with a slew of other backup safeties. “Erick Hallett was so vital to our defense during his career,” Narduzzi said. “He’s such a smart, instinctive, and athletic player. Erick is everything you want in a safety, and I know he will be a really big asset in Jacksonville.”
S-Brandon Hill- Round 7, pick 248 - Houston Texans
Hill will be a depth player behind Jalen Pitre, Jimmie Ward, M.J. Stewart, and Eric Murray. With his 4.43 speed, Hill could be a valuable addition to the Texans' special teams.
“The Texans are getting both speed and an aggressive hitter in Brandon Hill,” Narduzzi said. “He has the ability to not only compete at safety but also be a real difference-maker on special teams. Coach DeMeco Ryans, and his staff got a real gem in a later round. I know Brandon will be ready to get to work upon arrival.”
UNDRAFTED PITT PLAYERS WHO SIGNED WITH AN NFL TEAM
DE-Deslin Alexandre- New York Jets
DE-Habakkuk Baldonado- New York Giants
OL- Gabe Houy- Chicago Bears
WR- Jared Wayne- Houston Texans