Breakdown: Saints Select Hau’oli Kikaha

Everything you need to know about the New Orleans Saints’ second-round selection of linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha out of Washington from Scout's college and pro football experts.

Awaiting Image
Hau'oli Kikaha
Washington / 6'2 / 253 lbs
  • OLB
  • [2] #12

Analysis

Playmaker is the best way to describe Kikaha. He started 38 of the 48 games he played in at Washington. He did everything for the Huskies defense, recording some huge numbers – 206 tackles, 36 sacks and 51.5 tackles for a loss as a defensive end. At times Kikaha was flat out dominant. This past season the opposition ran his way 47 times and he held those runners to minus 26 yards. Kikaha is a very good pass rusher. He fires off the line of scrimmage and has a nice burst on the edge. He has violent hands and some good moves. Kikaha plays with a great motor. He projects best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation


Instant Analysis from Scout's Jamie Newberg:

Playmaker is the best way to describe Hau’oli Kikaha and he’s headed to a team in the Saints that needs playmakers on their defense. He started 38 of the 48 games he played in at Washington. He did everything for the Huskies defense, recording some huge numbers – 206 tackles, 36 sacks and 51.5 tackles for a loss as a defensive end. At times Kikaha was flat out dominant. This past season the opposition ran his way 47 times and he held those runners to minus 26 yards. Kikaha is a very good pass rusher. He fires off the line of scrimmage and has a nice burst on the edge. He has violent hands and some good moves. Kikaha plays with a great motor. He projects best as a 3-4 outside linebacker, which is what the Saints run.

Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:

With a new name and healed knees, Hau'oli Kikaha became a force again for the Huskies in 2013. He changed his last name from Jamora and overcame two ligament tears in his left knee to earn a spot on Washington’s defensive line. As a junior, he was in on 70 tackles and 15.5 stops-for-loss, as the left end’s 13.0 sacks ranked 13th in the nation. In 2014, he became just the fifth unanimous All-American in school history, delivering 72 tackles as he led the nation with 19.0 sacks (second with a 1.36 average) and also placed second with 25.0 stops-for-loss. On 47 running plays directed at him, he held those runners to minus-26 yards, delivering 11 third-down hits in 2014.

The rush end might lack bulk, but he is proportionately built in his upper body, with good hand size and strength to shed blocks vs. bigger offensive linemen. He is very effective bending down the line and shows no hesitation when laying out to make plays on the move. He shows very good dip and body lean coming off the edge and has the flexibility and sudden burst to leave the bigger offensive tackles grabbing at air while he arrives “home” with a big sack on the passer.

Kikaha’s feet and hands are generally active in pursuit, as he has the flexibility to flatten, demonstrating shake and counter ability, along with the shoulder dip that makes it difficult for a blocker to telegraph his moves. The Husky seems to relish his ability to get into the backfield, as he’s become very creative working the offensive lineman, generating the burst needed to consistently finish when he gets a lane to the passer.

There is no hesitation in his back-side charge and he does a good job of changing speeds when he sets himself free in attempts to close. He has the balance and feet to close well down field, and with his short-area burst he would be an ideal blitzer from the strong-side linebacker position.

To say that Kikaha is explosive off the snap would be an understatement. He can get on the edge and keep advantage with the best in the 2015 draft class, and while he is sudden coming out of his stance he also has a good feel for knowing when he needs to burst and close on the quarterback. With the suddenness in his initial step, he is able to get up field and turn his shoulders to bring pressure off the edge.

Kikaha uses and keeps his hands very active in attempts to shed and will surprise a lethargic blocker with the thud he puts behind his arm swipes and hand punch. His arm length is shorter than ideal, so maintaining quickness with his hands prevents him from being stalled by reach blocks. He has a “no quit” attitude combating blocks on the move and shows above average hand placement to get off second-level blockers to make tackles in pursuit.

Moving Kikaha to linebacker would be a natural, thanks to his change-of-direction agility. He plays with a relentless motor and constantly is in the backfield to apply pressure or run down plays from behind the line. He is very effective when needed to bend down the line and shows no hesitation when laying out to make plays on the move. He has good chase speed to get downfield and deliver impact hits from the backside.

Kikaha shows good hand usage and the ability to cross the face of an offensive lineman or lead blocker, as he plays with leverage, showing good engagement and shedding ability when he does not try to stand in the trenches and simply battle it out with a bigger opponent. Because of his active hands and decent arm extension it is hard for blockers to reach him, as he always does a nice job of keeping his feet free, especially when taking on double teams. He needs to improve his strength, though, as he does get absorbed when bigger blockers get their hands on his jersey.

Kikaha has developed explosive pass-rush moves, but must rely more on avoiding blockers to generate the backside pursuit he enjoys on the way to the quarterback. His feet and hands are generally active in pursuit, as he shows the flexibility to flatten. The thing I see most on film is his shake and counter ability, along with the shoulder dip that makes it difficult for a blocker to telegraph his moves.

He is very creative working the offensive lineman and has that burst to consistently finish when he gets a lane to the passer. There is no hesitation in his back-side charge and he does a good job of changing speeds when he sets himself free in attempts to close. He has the balance and feet to close well down field.

Hau'oli Kikaha Scouting Combine measurables


6-2/253
32 1/2-inch arm length
9 5/8-inch hands<
No lifting, running or jumping (flu)

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.

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