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Reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year could help Chargers Super Bowl chances

Kancey blew everyone out of the water at this year’s NFL Combine.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers have lost many more players to free agency this year compared to the number they’ve signed. Off the top, they’ve lost safety Nasir Adderley (retired), linebacker Drue Tranquill (Chiefs), defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko (Steelers), and wide receiver DeAndre Carter (Raiders) compared to adding solely linebacker Eric Kendricks.

As things stand, it’s hard to say the needle hasn’t moved in the wrong direction. With several notable starters and role players gone, the Chargers will have to hit on a number of their draft picks this year to cultivate confidence in the fan base that they can take things further in 2023.

In a new piece over at Bleacher Report, NFL writer Gary Davenport took to the task of pairing each team with a current free agent or draft prospect that he believes would increase their chances of winning this year’s Super Bowl. Davenport believes the Chargers could go in a number of directions with the 21st pick but eventually he settled on the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year in defensive tackle Calijah Kancey.

“The Los Angeles Chargers can go in a number of directions with the 21st overall pick. Depending on how the Austin Ekeler trade saga plays out, adding Texas running back Bijan Robinson could become a priority. The Chargers could also use help along the offensive line and on the edge.”

“But if the growing hype around Robinson is to be believed, he won’t fall that far. In his latest mock draft for USA Today, Nate Davis has Robinson going 10th overall to Philadelphia and the Bolts taking Pitt tackle Calijah Kancey with their first pick.”

While it’s all too easy to make Aaron Donald comparisons with Kancey (both defensive tackles from Pitt), it’s incredibly unlikely that the latter comes close to the career of the former. Still, Kancey’s athletic profile and resume should be incredibly intriguing to Chargers fan.

At this year’s combine, Kancey blazed to a 4.67 in the 40-yard dash at 6’1 and 281 pounds. During his recent pro day, Kancey continued to stack on excellent numbers with a 6.82 in the three-cone drill and a 4.33 in the short shuttle. Both numbers would have been tops at the combine at his position.

Kancey told reporters at his pro day that his biggest goal was to show scouts that he has the ability to move. After the numbers he put up, “moving” is the least of what he can do for a NFL team.

In his three seasons with the Panthers, Kancey posted 16 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss. That level of disruption is still needed amid the interior of the Chargers’ defensive line as Morgan Fox is the only proven pass rusher up the middle. It’s true that Kancey wouldn’t likely play a starter’s share of snaps in year one but that shouldn’t stop the Chargers from potentially adding a wrecking ball in the middle of their defense.

After all, Staley knows how to use that type of lineman in his defense (see Donald’s 13.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 2020).