The 2022 NFL season saw some interesting offensive developments. Defenses switched from playing predominantly Cover 3 defenses to playing more Cover 4 to help prevent the explosive passing plays which had driven the offensive explosion over the previous couple seasons.
And while that did result in reduced offense league-wide, it also lead to teams having much more success running the ball league-wide. That, of course, benefitted the New York Giants, who leaned heavily on their rushing attack last year. The Giants also struggled to defend the run, but not because they played a lot of Cover 4.
The Giants’ issues defending the run were a big reason for their defense struggling as a whole on a down-to-down basis. They could certainly use a linebacker (or two), but building their defensive line depth would help as well.
Baylor’s Siaki Ika is going to be one of the top nose tackle prospects to come out of this draft. He is a massive and powerful human, and one of the best run defending defensive tackles in the draft.
Prospect: Siaki Ika (62)
Games Watched: vs. BYU (2022), vs. Iowa State (2022), vs. Oklahoma State (2022), vs. West Virginia (2022)
Weight: 350 pounds
Games Played: 37
Tackles for a loss: 10.5
Passes defensed: 3
Games Played: 12
Tackles for a loss: 2.0
Passes defensed: 2
Best: Size, power, get-off, short-area quickness, run defense, competitive toughness
Worst: Long speed, pass rushing, endurance
Projection: A primary nose tackle in a defensive line rotation with 3-down upside
(Ika is Baylor iDL number 62)
Baylor’s Siaki Ika is a big, powerful, and surprisingly athletic nose tackle prospect.
Ika has a prototypical frame for a 0 or 1-technique nose tackle and looks every bit of his listed 6-foot-4, 350 pounds. He also appears to have long arms with the kind of strength you expect from a player of his proportions. However, Ika’s massive frame belies surprising athleticism with impressive quickness and agility for such a big player.
Ika possesses an explosive first step off of the line of scrimmage. He times his first step well and is often one of the first players moving at the snap of the ball. He combines that with a very efficient get-off that sees him drive forward out of his stance without wasting any energy on bucket steps or popping up. Ika’s athleticism includes a relatively flexible lower body that allows him to play with great pad level and maximize his already impressive power.
Ika is, predictably, a very good run defender. He does a very good job of diagnosing runs quickly and is seldom fooled by misdirection. Ika’s initial quickness allows him to get his hands up and onto centers immediately, taking inside leverage and controlling the A gaps. He shows very good hand placement, even when taking on double teams and flashes the ability to use his hands independently to occupy multiple blockers. His strength, hand usage, and quickness allow him to shed linemen and make plays on ball carriers as they attack his gaps.
Ika is a handful for offensive linemen in one-on-one situations. His explosiveness and power allow him to overpower guards or centers, often driving them into the backfield and disrupting the play.
While Ika shows great competitive toughness and hustle in pursuit of the play, his quickness doesn’t translate into long speed. His play speed quickly slows when he’s forced to run over any kind of distance. He can also struggle slightly when asked to navigate traffic and occasionally finds himself on the ground.
Ika is also of limited use as a pass rusher – at least in and of himself. He lacks variety as a pass rusher and can be stymied if his initial move fails. Blockers who are able to absorb his initial power can often force him to try ineffective speed counters. His limited long speed also makes it relatively easy for quarterbacks to buy time or ball carriers to out-run him.
Ika was also taken off the field for chunks of time, not just in obvious passing situations. Teams will want to investigate to see if he has significant issues with endurance or conditioning.
Overall Grade: 7.5
Siaki Ika projects as a primary nose tackle in an active defensive line rotation.
Whether or not Ika is labeled a “starter” would likely come down to individual teams’ defensive scheme and their match-up that week. However, he will quickly capture an important role in just about any defense into which he is drafted. Ika will be an impact run defender from the jump, and has the potential to be a useful piece in a pass rush. His pass rushing impact is limited to commanding double teams and collapsing the pocket. And while that doesn’t make him a dynamic pass rusher on his own, it is useful in the larger context of a defensive scheme.
Ika is not only massive and powerful, but he has surprising athleticism for a player of his size. He doesn’t have the kind of freak athleticism as Jordan Davis or even Dexter Lawrence, but he does have a rare “quick twitch” for a nose tackle. Ika isn’t just able to control double teams and create a pile in the middle of the offensive line, but drive blockers into the backfield and disrupt plays before they get going.
Ika’s draft stock could be limited by the fact that he may be a part-time player early in his career. His size and power are assets, but he was also frequently taken off the field by Baylor. Like many massive linemen, he will need rest throughout the game so he can be fresh when it matters most. That, and his limited individual impact as a pass rusher, could temper his draft stock despite his uncommon physical traits.