Kikaha Taken by New Orleans at 44

It didn’t take long for Hau’oli Kikaha’s name to be called. After an historic day for the Washington Huskies, one that saw Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, and Shaq Thompson all taken in the first round, the 6-foot-2, 253-pound Kikaha was the next to go - taken with the number 44 pick in the second round by the New Orleans Saints.

“At the Senior Bowl, I thought Kikaha really struggled with linebacker drills - just trying to flip his hips and drop back,” Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com told Dawgman.com after seeing Kikaha and the other NFL prospects at Washington’s Pro Day in early April. “I thought he was much improved here today. That’s a testament to his work ethic.

“He is a better athlete than what the 40-yard dash might indicate. 4.8, 4.9 - that’s not good times for a potential linebacker but as you allow Hau’oli Kikaha to attack as an edge rusher - whether it be in a three-point stance with his hand in the dirt or a two-point stance - he can be successful.

“The fact that he has been so incredibly productive as a sack guy the last couple years after the injuries is a testament to his athletic ability and his instincts. Kikaha is one of the few edge rushers this year that uses his hands effectively. That’s one of the things that helps him stand out.”

Doug Farrar of SI.com echoed Rang’s thoughts about Kikaha’s hands and his work in trying to become a player that can both rush the passer and drop back in short coverage.

“I asked him if he’d been working on pass coverage, and it showed right away,” Farrar said when he talked to Kikaha. “He went into the linebacker drills and…people call him an end - he’s really what I would call more of a ‘end ‘backer’. You can call it a BUCK, but I call it an end backer. You want to get him outside in space.

“On the hoop drill, the radial drill, he showed tremendous closing speed. He’s got inside counter. I’ve watched probably 20 different edge rushers in this draft and Kikaha is like one of three or four that actually knows how to use his hands. But dropping back into coverage and looking pretty adept at the short to intermediate.

“He’s never going to close quickly; he’s never going to drop back into coverage 15 yards downfield. But he’s working on it.

“In my mind he probably went from a third (round pick) to a second. If you take out the 40 time…and if he is 4.8, 4.9 at 240-something pounds, that’s a problem…but we’ll see. The pass coverage thing really helped.

“One of the knocks on him is that he’s stiff, can’t turn his hips. But he developed some flexibility there. Sometimes it’s coaching; sometimes you’re just not asked to do that. He did open some eyes. I think a lot of people are going to go back and look at his tape. I thought he did himself the most good today.

“Kikaha is a short-area guy; he’s never going to have to run a 40 in his life on the field. But he can bend the edge tremendously well. That really showed up in the blocking drills and in the radial drill, the hoop drill. He was so sudden on those inside counters getting around people.

“He’s an edge rusher, not a wide receiver. I don’t care how he runs the 40. I’d like to know what his 10-yard split is. But I know what his 10-yard split was around the hoop with guys trying to block him and I’m fine with that.”


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