Heading into the NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders could use a defensive tackle, especially one that can plug up gaps against the run. Bilal Nichols and Jerry Tillery are primarily pass-rushers and Andrew Billings was an underrated loss for the Raiders in free agency. However, one way that they can replace Billings’ run-stuffing ability is by spending a mid-round pick on Baylor defensive tackle, Siaki Ika.
During his last season in Waco, Ika was listed on the roster at 358 pounds and nearly impossible to move in the ground game. He ended the campaign with a 69.1 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus and logged 20 solo tackles against the run which tied for third among Big 12 defensive tackles. That’s pretty good production from a guy who primarily lined up as a nose tackle, and isn’t the only way he can contribute.
As a pass-rusher, the Bear wasn’t terribly productive last year with just 18 pressures and no sacks, but he did manage to finish third at his position within the conference with a 76.4 pass-rush grade and ranked in the top 10 with a 12.2 percent win rate. He was even more impressive as a junior, leading Big 12 DTs with an 85.7 grade as a rusher and finishing tied for second with 33 pressures.
So, not only can Ika plug up gaps against the run, but he also has the potential to help collapse the pocket from the interior of the line. What exactly does that look like? Let’s turn to the tape!
Can’t ask for a better rep against a combo block than what Siaki Ika does here pic.twitter.com/lmpHEHae5t— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 17, 2023
When I say Ika is nearly impossible to move as a run defender, this is an example of what I’m talking about.
BYU calls a split zone run here so that the right guard and tackle can combo block Ika as the backside 3-technique and the tight end working across the formation can take care of the defensive end. Ideally, the guard and tackle wheel the 3-tech out of the gap and the guard comes off the block to work up to the second level and go pick up a linebacker.
However, Ika does a great job of getting his helmet under the guard’s to get a leverage advantage and feeling the tackle coming. Once he starts to feel that pressure, he sinks his hips to get his base underneath him and he isn’t going anywhere he doesn’t want to go from there.
To cap the play off, the Baylor product gets extension and sheds the block so he can escape to the inside and make the tackle about three yards past the line of scrimmage. This would be a great rep if he were to just create a stalemate against those two offensive linemen, so the fact he makes the play, from the backside mind you, turns it into an elite rep.
Love how Siaki Ika beats the man he’s lined up across from against this scoop block pic.twitter.com/Qv7afDzdpL— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 17, 2023
This next clip is similar to the last one only the Cougars are running an outside zone with a read option built into it and Ika is on the front side of the play.
Still, BYU’s trying to combo block him, this time with the center and guard, but one thing he does well when he has to take on two offensive linemen is beating the man he’s lined up across from. In this play, Ika attacks the guard and resets the line of scrimmage which makes the center’s job more difficult because he can’t get hip-to-hip with his partner.
Again, the defensive tackle does a great job of getting extension—this time with one arm—so that he can get off the block and go factor into the play. It took some help from his teammates to show up on the stat sheet, but any defensive coordinator will take this type of block destruction.
Can’t single block Siaki Ika… pic.twitter.com/0zIB0YyHQv— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 17, 2023
You’re not going to find many 2i-techniques or nose tackles who can make plays against outside zone runs which is part of what makes Ika special as a prospect.
West Virginia is running a lead outside zone where the running back is blocking on the designed quarterback run. With Ika playing inside shade of the guard on the playside, the center and guard are responsible for scoop-blocking him and working up to the middle linebacker in the box. However, the center doesn’t give the guard any help and immediately works up to the backer, leaving his teammate to one-on-one block a 350-pound behemoth.
Again, look at Ika’s pad level at the point of contact against the guard. He gets his helmet under the guard’s chin and that allows him to gain control of the block. He then keeps his feet running and works laterally to stretch the play out which are rare movement skills for someone of his size.
If you’ve ever heard the saying ‘one arm is longer than two’, this is a great example of that. As he’s running his feet, he turns his shoulders slightly and uses his inside hand to get extension and that makes it more difficult for the offensive linemen to latch onto him.
To finish, the Bear recognizes the running back starts to cut back, sinks his hips to change directions, and shucks the block to make the tackle about a yard past the line of scrimmage.
I repeat, you can NOT single block Siaki Ika pic.twitter.com/SLqVos4S0m— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 17, 2023
To be honest, Ika’s technique isn’t great in this clip and that’s part of the reason why he doesn’t make the tackle as he did in the others. However, I wanted to include it to show how physically dominant he can be against one-on-one blocks.
This is another zone run where the backside guard is just trying to cut off Ika to create a cutback lane for the back. However, to quote Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The Cyclones’ plan doesn’t exactly come together as the backside guard just gets physically dominated and driven about five yards into the backfield by Ika. Unfortunately, the front-side defenders don’t do their job but there is no room for the running back to cut back as the guard just missed making an unintentional tackle for loss...
Nice bull rush from Siaki Ika pic.twitter.com/vXET9VJ2ED— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 17, 2023
We’ll move on to a couple of pass-rush clips and the first one is a great example of how Ika can collapse the pocket, especially when he’s single-blocked.
He’s lined up as the 2i-technique and at the point of contact, we see a lot of similarities between this rep and how he plays the run. He gets his helmet underneath the guard’s to get a leverage advantage and does a great job of keeping his hands inside and on the guard’s chest.
Also, Ika keeps his feet pumping through contact and that prevents the offensive lineman from being able to anchor. The ball is out before he can get a sack, but he’s done a great job of collapsing the pocket to prevent the quarterback from being able to finish this throw.
Beautiful swim move from Siaki Ika pic.twitter.com/o0Ogqkm33B— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) April 17, 2023
This last rep will show off Ika’s quickness, which was more evident on his junior tape than this past season.
He lines up head up on the center and uses that to his advantage by working vertically with his first two steps to give himself a two-way go or not tip which direction he’s going to work with his pass-rush move. That also helps sell the bull rush.
Right before the point of contact, he uses his quickness to get on an edge and, simultaneously, works the center’s hands to win with a nice arm-over or swim move. Now, the left guard for Ole Miss does a great job of looking for work and picking Ika up. I’d like to see Ika do a better job of fighting through and staying upright through contact, but make no mistake about it, this is an excellent pass rush rep from a nose tackle.
Again, he won’t show up on the stat sheet here and the quarterback is able to escape the pocket. But with a guy like Maxx Crosby out on the edge, this will be what I like to call a “team sack” where one defensive lineman forces the quarterback to move and another is there to clean it up and get the glory.
I alluded to this earlier, but Ika’s junior tape was a lot better than his senior tape, especially as a pass rusher. It looked like he put on some bad weight in the offseason and his quickness suffered. To his credit, he did weigh in at the NFL Combine at 335 pounds—nearly 25 pounds lighter than his roster weight—which is a step in the right direction.
However, his athletic testing numbers were still pretty ugly with a 2.76 RAS score. Now, I’m not terribly concerned with how athletic a nose tackle is, but it would have been more re-affirming to see the weight loss coupled with better testing numbers. The latter would have confirmed my theory that the extra weight is what held him back this past season.
Keeping his weight under control will likely always be a battle for Ika as it already has been throughout his college career. He was listed at 372 pounds on his high school recruiting profile, then LSU—his first school—had him billed at 340 pounds as a sophomore before tipping the scale at nearly 360 pounds at Baylor.
If he can stay disciplined and maintain a good diet, Ika would be a welcomed sight in Las Vegas as a Day 2 pick.