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Hau’oli Kikaha, the Washington Huskie sack artist, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after back to back seasons of outstanding production on the edge. In 2014, he totaled 19 sacks and 25 TFL en route to unanimous First Team All-American accolades. His 19 sacks and 25 TFL set a single-season school record in both categories. In 2013, Kikaha tallied 13 sacks and 15.5 TFL; he was named Second Team All-Pac 12 that year. His career total 36 sacks is also a Washington school record. Prior to the 2013 season, Kikaha suffered two serious knee injuries (2011 and 2012) causing him to miss the better part of both seasons. Physically, Kikaha bulked up a bit in 2014 but he still is a tweener for purposes of his projection to the next level. That said, his tape suggests that he has enough functional strength and overall explosive talent to play with his hand in the dirt in a 43 front. Athletically, Kikaha displayed the kind of movement skills and burst to be confident that he is fully recovered from his past knee injuries. When in the 2 pt stance, Kikaha displayed the kind of fluid hips and quick feet needed to drop into coverage, as well as the ability to plant his foot hard in the dirt and explode forward. He wasn’t thinking about his knee in ’14. He possesses a quick first step at the snap and plays with a coordinated style; his upper body complements his lower half and he never appears wild or out of control. Kikaha has good balance and is a flexible guy, displaying the ability to bend the edge on a consistent basis. He is an explosive guy who has the kind of strength required to stuff the opposing lineman. He plays with a relentless motor and is going 100 mph from snap to whistle. His effort leads to production even when he is initially contained at the LOS. Against the pass, Kikaha possesses some of the best pass rushing traits in the class. His hand play is outstanding; you can see his judo background on film. He is able to keep himself clean with violent and powerful slaps. He is a real challenge for opposing linemen to lock onto. In addition, his pass rush arsenal is well developed. He can beat the tackle to the edge with speed, convert his speed to power, rip and spin. He is not a one-trick pony by any stretch. Against the run, Kikaha is a reliable edge player who can set the edge, shed and finish the play. He is a sound tackler and he as the speed to chase down a defender in pursuit. One of the most appealing aspects of Kikaha’s game is his intensity and the passion that he displays on the field. His fiery approach is contagious; he wants to win on every down.
BOTTOM LINE: Hau’oli Kikaha is arguably the most well-rounded edge player in the class who is scheme diverse and an immediate impact pass rusher. His hand usage will allow him to see the field early in his career with successful results. He is a (+) athlete with a developed game from both a physical and IQ standpoint. If it wasn’t for his history of knee injuries, he would be an enticing top-10 pick. That said, you can’t ignore the potential impact that his knee surgeries will have on his longevity. At the end of the day, Kikaha is a starting NFL pass rusher who offers a 3-down skill set. He’s a borderline elite talent.
Grade: 8.6 (1st Round)
-Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)