The Oregon Ducks have become an overwhelming force in college football in the past decade. Their offense gets much of the attention, but their defense has a ton of talent as well; enough to where some of their role players are worth watching for the NFL Draft including defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi. On a unit that does not get a ton of attention, he is virtually ignored, but his play at nose tackle is important in the Duck defensive scheme.
Keliikipi tends to operate as a 1-gap nose and while he occasionally will draw double teams, usually ends up working one on one with the opposing center. He is pretty strong but not overwhelmingly powerful. Keliikipi tends to hold his own up front, but the amount of time he is able to collapse the pocket tends to be inconsistent. He shows a decent amount of agility and while he does not get to display it too often, Keliikipi can show off a decent amount of quickness and beat opponents from that standpoint. Right now, Keliikipi looks more of a rotational defensive tackle and he might actually be better served in a 4-3 defensive scheme as a nose guard, but he does have some potential going forward and warrants a late round pick and could possibly be an undrafted free agent.
Vitals & Build
Keliikipi is listed at 6’3” 306lbs and he looks decent with a pretty good amount of physical potential there to be utilized. He shows pretty some pretty good functional strength and more agility and overall athletic ability than some might expect, especially since he is playing over the center most of the time. He also displays a solid motor. Keliikipi can accelerate quickly and has shown a decent amount of range. He seems like the type of player that could have some interesting results in an NFL strength and conditioning program really working to add bulk. So much of what Oregon wants to do is predicated on speed and stamina, so while they will take and use size, they want their players to avoid getting too big if it might hurt their ability to play a lot of snaps or slow them down too much. It might take some time, but there is some interesting potential with him.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Keliikipi gets off of the ball reasonably well. His first step is average and at times, he can come off of the ball really well with a good pad level, but there are some times when he will stand up too much. When that happens, he loses his ability to all of his power and gets bent backward that makes it more easily and allows the opponent to drive them off of the ball.
For the most part, Keliikipi is trying to create havoc and get blockers on him, so his teammates can make more plays, so while he does not do a ton of block shedding, he shows some intriguing ability. Much of the time, Keliikipi locks on with his arms and looks to drive the opponent into the backfield, and then tries to locate the football and make a play.
When he is in a position to try to shed and make a play, they are usually on pass plays. In those scenarios, Keliikipi shows pretty active hands and can work to beat opponents with a decent rip move.
For run defense, Keliikipi looks to fire off of the ball, bench press the opponent into the backfield so his teammates can make a play, but if the ball carrier is in range, usually when they are next to him, he will come off of his block and make the play. In this situation, Keliikipi shows a decent amount of quickness and range. He is not a dynamic defender but he will catch opponents by surprise at times with what he can do at given times.
The problem Keliikipi runs into is that too often, he does not end up demanding a double team and while he can beat the center one on one, it does not happen consistently enough. Usually, Keliikipi wins simply by holding his ground and then when he can collapse the pocket with the momentum he can generate quickly, that is a huge bonus.
The times he does demand a double team, he will flash the ability to hold his ground. When Keliikipi demonstrates good pad level, he can be tough to move off of his spot. When he gets too tall or opponents can uproot him, they can drive him down the field.
Keliikipi does not offer a ton as a pass rusher in this system. He has a tough time beating the center one on one as is, so getting a pass rush can prove difficult. There are times when he will show some potential there as he will win with a mix of quickness and power.
Keliikipi shows pretty good lateral agility and has been able to win going from one shoulder to the other in order to beat an opponent. He has also shown some ability to shift from power to quickness or vice versa.
Keliikipi could be put on a team that runs a 3-4, but he really seems better suited to play as a nose guard in a 4-3 scheme. He is more athletic presently than most 3-4 nose tackles tend to be and shows more agility that suggests he might be able to do a little more than 3-4 noses tend to, but he also is not dominating enough to consistently demand double teams in a 3-4. A 4-3 team is going to want that as well, but with his athleticism, they can add bulk and be more inclined to hold onto him with more roster spots to keep players.
Regardless of the scheme, Keliikipi projects as rotational defensive lineman and potentially could be someone put on the practice squad for a year or two and just work to improve and expand his technique while working to get him bigger and stronger. The potential is there for Keliikipi to develop into something in the long term.
Keliikipi bears some resemblance to Ian Williams, formerly of Notre Dame who has found a home with the San Francisco 49ers. Williams was an undrafted free agent out of college in part due to a broken leg that ended his season, but with similar physical ability. Williams earned a shot with the 49ers, spent time on the practice squad and just kept working and developing. Eventually, he became a solid contributor and even the starter for the 49ers before an injury ended his season. Keliikipi could have a similar path to success in the NFL.
Keliikipi is a physical talented project. He is not finished in his technical ability or physically, but there is some ability there and some intrigue with what he can do now and what he could potentially do in the future. The NFL has a habit of keeping 300lbs with strength and agility and giving them quite a few changes. As long as Keliikipi continues to work hard and progress in the NFL, it is hard to know just far he could end up going. He projects as a late round pick and possible undrafted free agent as a long term project for a nose guard or nose tackle position.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com