The 2014 Summer Scouting series has covered several offensive tackles and defensive ends with quite a few impressive prospects studied. But as I mentioned in our Randy Gregory (Nebraska) breakdown, the 2015 NFL Draft class of potential pass rushers that I’ve studied has yet to produce a player that I’m ultra-confident in.
To be fair, I have yet break down some of the guys that the masses are championing. That said, the depth of the class appears to be questionable.
For this piece, I decided to take a closer look at Hau’oli Kikaha, the pass rushing edge player from the University of Washington.
Hau’oli Kikaha, DE, Washington | 6040, 240 lbs | #8 | Sr.
-Named 2nd Team All-PAC 12 in 2013;
-Named 1st Team Academic All-Pac 12 in 2013;
-Totaled 70 tackles, 13 sacks and 15.5 TFL last year;
-Was considered a top-100 defensive end recruit and the No. 4 overall recruit in the state of Hawaii;
-Has a background in Judo;
-Underwent reconstructive knee surgery twice on his left knee (’11, ’12)
Hau’oli Kikaha is an impressive player. In fact, he’s the most impressive defensive end (edge player) that I’ve watched this entire summer. Physically, Kikaha measures-in a bit undersized for the traditional defensive end spot. At 6040 and 240 lbs, he will have to bulk up a bit and approach the 250 mark to project to the end spot in a 43 front. On tape, however, Kikaha appears “bigger” than 240; He’s stronger than a lot of the guys that outweigh him by 25lbs, leading me to believe that he’ll be able to hold up on the next level with just a bit more sand in the pants. A lot will likely be made of his weight if he doesn’t bulk up a bit, but I think his natural strength will make up for it.
Athletically, Kikaha played like you’d expect from a guy coming off of two reconstructive knee surgeries. He appears a bit hesitant in his short-area change of direction movements, but he certainly has the “juice” and explosive first step off the snap that’s needed to get into the backfield in a flash. He showed some “wow” moments on his ’13 tape where you could see the confidence returning in his knee. This will be a big year for him regarding his athleticism grade, as he’ll be two full years removed from surgery and it’s fair to expect and anticipate more speed and lateral agility.
One of the most impressive aspects of Kikaha’s game is how balanced he is as a defensive player against the run and pass. He’s a three-down guy, as he’s equally capable of stopping the run as he is sacking the quarterback.
Against the run, Kikaha is a really powerful guy who can get under the tackle, hold his ground and shed to make theplay. He’s able to collapse down the line of scrimmage while maintaining the integrity of his assignment, preventing a cut back move and wrapping the ball carrier up. He packs good power behind his pads, too, as he will rarely (if ever) be over-run by a running back. His high motor and intensity keeps him in the mix when the play goes away from him, and he has the kind of pop in his movements to make a play from the backside.
Against the pass, Kikaha offers some of the most exciting pass rushing potential as he is extremely quick off the ball and possesses the kind of hand use that will help him win in the NFL. Like I said earlier, he needs to develop more confidence in his lower-half (which I expect he will now that he’s far removed from injury.) But his ’13 tape displayed a guy who is strong and quick at the POA who can bull through or jet around an offensive tackle. He also displayed some enticing diversity, sliding up and down the defensive line as well as playing in a 2 pt stance. His sack totals are a true reflection of his pass rushing ability, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s the Nation’s leader in that category this year. His ability to close the gap on the quarterback with his relentless hustle and plus athleticism is a real key to his success, and he’ll be a guy that is coveted (if healthy) as a rusher by season’s end.
Overall, Kikaha is a lock first-round guy without the medical red flags in his background. But they’re there, and they’re unavoidable. Another season of good health, and production to match, will solidify his first-round grade; It will simply take a team that is willing to roll the dice on his knee. As we’ve seen in the past, players can fall well beyond where their talent suggests they should be picked. Kikaha could eventually be a victim of that fate. Here’s to hoping for an injury-free 2014.