NFL Draft News & Analysis

2023 NFL Scouting Combine: Quotes, highlights from defensive linemen and linebackers at the podium

Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburgh defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (DL09) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

• DI Calijah Kancey: His listed 275 pounds would place in just the first percentile among defensive tackle prospects at the combine since 1999.

• EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah: The Kansas State edge rusher was detailed in his explanation of his pass-rush prowess at the podium.

• EDGE Nolan Smith: Smith announced he will run the 40-yard dash as well as jump the vertical and broad despite recovering from a pectoral injury that prematurely ended his 2022 season.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins

INDIANAPOLIS — The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is underway, and the first group of players to hit the podium sessions were the defensive linemen and linebackers. 

Though media interviews are certainly no be-all, end-all for the scouting process, every head coach and general manager will tell you that finding out who these prospects are and what makes them tick is often the make-or-break element of achieving potential.

Here are a handful of highlights and top takeaways from the defensive line and linebacker podium sessions.


No player was more passionate at the podiums Wednesday than Smith, and that checks out with his reputation as a relentless worker and leader of the Georgia defense over the past two seasons.

Smith started his session by announcing he would be running the 40-yard dash as well as jumping the vertical and broad despite recovering from a pectoral injury that prematurely ended his 2022 season. The reason for wanting to still get out there this week was to prove his mantra: “hard work works.”

Smith is listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, and yet he still finished the 2022 season with an 82.6 run-defense grade. In the clip above, he was asked about his mentality for defending the run, and you could hear the passion he has for the “dirty work” of playing the position.

Smith was a former No. 1 overall recruit for his athleticism, so we’re excited to see how he tests on the field. But even before those numbers, he’s already having a great week in Indy from his podium presence — something NFL teams will surely gravitate toward.


The Kansas State edge rusher was one of the more well-rounded players this past season, earning a 75.1 overall grade and a 72.6 pass-rush grade. He also recorded an 89.9 pass-rush grade the year before.

When asked about his approach to pass rushing, Anudike-Uzomah’s answers gave evidence to some of those elite numbers.

Anudike-Uzomah was incredibly detailed in his explanation of pass rushing. It wasn’t just him listing off a bunch of pass-rush moves but, rather, which ones work in what situations and how to find out what might work against different offensive tackles.

The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder is built like a true 4-3 defensive end. He hasn’t gotten much first-round buzz to this point, but expect to see his name in mock drafts more often. 


Calijah Kancey is a fan favorite in this defensive tackle class for how fun his tape is. He's an extremely fast interior defensive lineman who is a menace in pass-rushing situations, earning an elite 92.5 pass-rush grade this past season. But a lot of that speed advantage comes from his being undersized. We got some clarification on just how undersized he was during the season at his podium session.

His listed 275 pounds would be in the first percentile (not good) of all defensive tackles who have come through the combine since 1999. And if he weighs in at 280 pounds, that would be just the third percentile. But outside of confirming the numbers, the big takeaway with Kancey is that he was confident in his weight, even saying “I’m looking good” afterward in a playful yet confident way. He is comfortable with both his strengths and weaknesses. He’s not just going to gain weight for the heck of it. He’ll get a little bigger, but he knows that if he makes it in the league, it will be in the same way he did in college. Confidence in that is key.


As expected, Wilson was a major standout at the podiums — literally, you can see the 6-foot-7 edge defender had to hunch over to even talk into the microphone. 

Outside of stretching his arms out to show off his massive wingspan, Wilson’s note on emulating J.J. Watt was a key takeaway. Wilson’s size makes him an alluring prospect because of his potential versatility as an edge defender, but also as an interior player in certain situations. Though he clarified that he wants to mainly be an edge player, he doesn’t mind sliding inside for certain situations. There has been a ton of buzz for Wilson in Indianapolis, even as a potential top-five pick.

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