As we delve further into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has begun to shift towards the draft. Like we’ve done in the past, these reports will cover the prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft, placing an emphasis on those who could help the Steelers the most.
Today we’re looking at the outside linebacker position and a possible second round prospect in University of Washington defensive end/outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha.
#7 – Hau’oli Kikaha/DE-OLB – Washington – 6’2 ½” 246 lbs
– Low center of gravity
– Incredible bend
– Great technique and balance (in pass rushing)
– Violent hands
– Leadership skills (Was the leader of a talented Washington defense)
– Great football IQ
– Relentless motor
– Monster hitter
– Very productive and consistent in college (Only went one game in 2014 without at least half a sack; 19 sacks in 2014)
– Major injury concerns (had two ACL tears on the same knee)
– A little stiff in coverage
– Needs to get stronger
– Has to get better at setting the edge
– Needs to work on his counters
– Doesn’t have a great first step
– Doesn’t have great closing speed
– Tends to get washed out on QB runs
– 9 5/8 hands 31 ½ arm length 76 ¾ wingpspan
– 44 games played
– 36 Career Sacks
– 2014 Unanimous First-Team All-American
– A finalist for five national postseason awards in 2014
– 72 total tackles with 25 TFLs in 2014
– High school league champion in judo
One thing that sticks out on tape for Kikaha is the fact that he is remarkably consistent. He doesn’t take plays off and his intensity shows through his play. Strangely some in the draft community see this as his only outstanding attribute and contribute his excellent production to only his nonstop motor.
He’s an average run defender who sometimes is too worried about getting the big hit and doesn’t wrap up the ball carrier. He takes some bad angles at times and doesn’t possess the kind of speed needed to recover after misses. From the tape he looks about 50/50 on setting the edge. Half the time he can hold the boundary and get into the runner. The rest of the time he seems to get overpowered at the point of attack and gets washed out of the play.
His motor just never stops running. Most guys look like they’re wearing down as the game goes on. Kikaha seems to get more energy from the late 3rd quarter in to the 4th. His effectiveness increases as linemen get a little fatigued. That’s what you want to see out of a guy you hope can close out games for you.
The one thing that really worries me at the next level is not really his lack of a great first step but his lack of great closing speed. On tape, he should have even more sacks and pressures but he’s always a step or two too slow.
At first glance it looks like Kikaha gets a free release against the tackle but really he extended his arm and pushed the tackle out of his lane. He beat his man quickly and got to the quarterback forcing an errant throw.
Sometimes a pressure is just as good if not better than a sack (if you can force the QB into a bad decision). Kikaha extends his arms again, keeps the tackle from getting hands into him, uses a spin move, and flushes the passer out. If he had better closing speed this could’ve been a sack or maybe even strip sack.
In this play, Kikaha is looking for the big hit and misses the tackle. This is a problem of his I alluded to in the Steelers Depot Big Board.
Excellent rip and swim here by Kikaha to bring the quarterback down.
Kikaha misdiagnoses the draw play and fails to set the edge. Usually has better vision but he sometimes has a tendency to bite on draws/read option.
I’ve bashed Kikaha a lot for his inability to be a good run defender but he does a great job here of setting the edge and reaching in to grab the running back. That’s a play we’ve seen a lot from James Harrison over the years. He really played the run well against Stanford.
Kikaha is an interesting prospect because, on paper, he doesn’t necessarily have the natural quickness or explosiveness to be an elite pass rusher. He’s not going to blow anybody away with his triangle numbers at the Combine. However, he does have excellent technique and an understanding of leverage against offensive linemen that make him dangerous. I really love his hand use and placement which can likely be attributed to his judo background. If he can get stronger and add some moves to his pass rushing inventory he could become a great defensive threat.
I don’t think the Steelers would be reaching to pick Kikaha in the 2nd round. He might take some time to develop into a great run defender but I think he could quickly match the pass rush production of a guy like Jason Worilds. He’s also comfortable with his hand in the dirt and standing up which could help when the Steelers use some multiple fronts.
His ceiling isn’t through the roof but in my eyes he’s one of the more pro-ready edge rushers available in this class.
Projection: Early 2nd to late 3rd round
Game Watched: 2013 – vs. Cal, at Stanford, vs. BYU, vs. Washington State, at Illinois; 2014 – at Hawaii, vs. Illinois, at Cal
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