The Kansas City Chiefs will be in the market for a defensive tackle in the NFL Draft later this month, and Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika should be someone they are keeping an eye on.
Ika is a massive player, standing 6'3" and weighing 335 lbs. At this size, he would project to be a 0-technique (lined up head up over the center), much like he did at Baylor as a 1-technique (outside shoulder of the center).
While his athletic testing at the NFL Scouting Combine and his Baylor pro day may have been a cause for concern due to poor numbers, it is important to look at those tests compared to what he will be asked to do in the NFL.
Ika is a classic example of a space eater, a player who will fill gaps and will remain stout against the run. He may not be the most graceful athlete, but he does not play a graceful position. Instead, he uses superior leverage and strength to win in the trenches.
Ika used his massive frame to plug up the interior on running plays, and he can take on double teams and play as a two-gap defender.
A two-gap player must be able to read and react to what they see in the backfield while also remaining stout on the line of scrimmage. Giving up movement is not an option, and Ika thrived when put in these situations.
Siaki Ika does a phenomenal job of playing two gaps here. Stands up the LG and rags his way into the A gap to make Robinson bounce the run to the outside. pic.twitter.com/EYvIGVC9Ze— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) April 2, 2023
On the snap, Ika contacts the left guard and gives up no movement on the line of scrimmage. Using his superior strength and leverage, he can extend his arms and hold off the blocker while eyeing Bijan Robinson in the backfield.
For a moment, it appears an interior gap has opened up for Robinson, but Ika defends the gap nicely and reacts to the movement. Robinson is forced to bounce the play to the outside for a minimal gain.
While Ika is one of the better two-gap defenders in this draft class, he also can take on double teams blocks and muddy up the interior.
The C & RG attempt to double Ika. They get no movement and Ika works his way back into the left A gap where Robinson was looking to go. Forces the run outside. pic.twitter.com/V3Pp8rUjjk— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) April 2, 2023
Ika is lined up directly in the A-gap, and on the snap, the left guard attempts to block down on him while the center hips back in.
Ika stands his ground and creates no movement, eventually working his way into the B-gap, where Robinson was looking to run. Once again, he quickly cuts outside for a minimal gain.
The role of a traditional nose tackle and interior run stuffer in the NFL has lost some value as the league has become more pass-happy, but it is still something that all teams should look to invest in.
Disrupting the pocket
Although his athletic testing numbers were not great, Ika does have an impressive burst and level of quickness in short spurt for being such a big man. He may never make a significant impact as a pass rusher, but he will bring some surprises to the table every once in a while.
Siaki Ika spin cycle. Nimble for a big man. Gets his shoulder into the body of the C, then swings the elbow through and Burts up field. pic.twitter.com/Ninm1K4Opk— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) March 23, 2023
Lined up as a tight 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard), Ika fires off the ball and looks to go through the A-gap. The center slides toward him and gets ready to deliver contact to slow down the big power rush.
As the center leans forward, he comes off balance, and Ika hits him with a nasty spin move— Dwight Freeney would be proud. He's able to get into the backfield.
The quarterback got rid of the ball quickly to the running back, making the spin not as effective, but had he held the ball another half a second, Ika would have been there. Knowing that most offensive linemen will try to "bow up" and prepare for the power rush, Ika quietly incorporated this quick pass-rush move into his game to take advantage of one-on-one pass-rush opportunities.
When not immediately contacted at the line of scrimmage and given time to build up his speed, Ika can become a bowling ball, knocking anything down in his path.
Siaki Ika wrecks this play. Lined up as a 2i he blows through the B gap. WV is running a zone action pass with the H headed to the flat. Ika demolished him and then showed off his quickness putting a big hit on the QB. Listed at 6'4" and 357 pounds. pic.twitter.com/y36bNEiKvP— Caleb James (@CJScoobs) December 28, 2022
In a rare instance where Ika ends up in space, he quickly shoots the B-gap after some poor footwork from the left tackle. The play is intended to be a roll-out pass with the tight end running a flat pattern out of the backfield.
Ika blasts the tight end in stride, taking him out of the play. He continues to accelerate laying a big hit on the quarterback and forcing an incompletion.
Despite his great size, Ika's motor runs hot when he is on the field, and he typically finds himself either in the backfield or around the ball to end a play.
With five sacks during his college career, Ika showed that he does have some potential to rush the passer at the next level.
The bottom line
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and defensive line coach Joe Cullen have both put emphasis on stopping the run over the years, and that has started with them having large, physical, interior defensive linemen.
In the Chiefs 4-3 under scheme, Ika would align as the 1-technique and would be responsible for controlling both A gaps while also taking on double teams nearly every play.
Ika fits this bill and could be an immediate contributor to the Chiefs' run defense while also being given a chance to develop some other pass-rush moves to take advantage of the plays where he is one on one.
Projections for Ika have been all over, with some predicting him to go in the second round while others have him going near the end of the draft.
I would put Ika somewhere in the middle, likely fourth to the fifth round, which would be a steal for whichever team takes him.