At this time last year, people were already buzzing about a promising pass rusher from UCLA: Laiatu Latu. As the draft season slowly approaches, it’s time to shine the spotlight on this emerging defensive talent and assess whether he has what it takes to make a significant impact in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Height/Weight: 6’5″/265 pounds
40 time: 4.85
Draft Projection: Early First Round
Laiatu Latu has a lot going for him as one of the most dominant pass rushers in college football. He burst onto the scene as a highly-rated 4-star recruit, and his collegiate career got off to an impressive start with UCLA, racking up a remarkable 10.5 sacks in his first year for the Bruins. He has earned many accolades and praise from both teammates and coaches, establishing himself as a cornerstone of UCLA’s defense for the 2023 season.
While there is a lot to be excited about with Latu, some skeptics wonder if the hype surrounding him is warranted. Concerns have been raised about his athleticism and whether he benefited from favorable situations in his early years. However, diving into his tape reveals the true nature of his talent.
-Explosive off the snap, impressive first step
-Possesses good strength to overpower blockers
-Effective at collapsing the pocket and disrupting plays
-Agile and has excellent bend when turning the corner
-Versatile and scheme-friendly, capable of fulfilling various roles
-Solid size and athleticism for his position
-Just an average athlete for an NFL-caliber edge defender
-Occasional lapses in run defense awareness
-Needs to improve disengaging from blockers in the run game
Laiatu Latu is undoubtedly a promising edge rusher with plenty of potential. His impressive NFL-ready height, weight, and versatility make him an intriguing prospect. Latu’s ability to disrupt plays and collapse the pocket showcases his natural talent.
However, there are areas where he needs improvement. His awareness in run defense can be inconsistent, leading to missed opportunities to stop ball carriers. Latu also occasionally struggles to disengage from blockers, limiting his effectiveness in the run game. Also, he struggles to win consistently off of the line due to his average explosiveness. That being said, he is still an elite rusher who will most likely hear his name called in the first round of next year’s draft.
Pro Comparison: Demarcus Lawrence
Laiatu Latu has the raw talent to become an elite pass rusher. His game shows flashes of brilliance, but he needs to work on consistency as a run defender. There’s no doubt he could be a top edge rusher in the 2024 NFL draft class. As the college football season unfolds, all eyes will be on Latu to see if he can fulfill the high expectations and make his mark on the NFL draft community.