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2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Laiatu Latu (DE – UCLA)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Laiatu Latu (DE – UCLA)

As the college football season barrels toward, FantasyPros will be taking a look at early NFL Draft scouting reports before the Combine in March. Here’s a look at Laiatu Latu.

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Laiatu Latu

Laiatu Latu (DE – UCLA)

6’5” – 265 lbs.

Background:

High school outside linebacker and tight end who originally attended Washington. He picked up 15 tackles and a half-sack as a freshman linebacker but did not play in either of the two following seasons with a neck injury that required surgery in 2020. Latu returned in 2022 at UCLA and finished with an outstanding line of 36-12.5-10.5 with three forced fumbles on 494 snaps. He’s having another outstanding year in 2023.

Positives:

Big, well-built edge defender who stepped right in after three seasons off and had an outstanding year to put himself on the map playing as a stand-up edge rusher. Gets good extension with his arms to play off of blocks in the run game, shows solid discipline in his run fits. Locates the football quickly. Active with his hands. Able to slip under the punches of opposing linemen, with solid flexibility. Excellent length gives him a solid tackling radius. Brings a very refined and varied approach to rushing the passer, with rips, swipes, swims, clubs and spins. Has a quick first step to threaten the edge with speed in the passing game, with solid bend for his size. Knows how to set up blockers as a pass-rusher. Has a nice spin move to threaten inside. Generally doesn’t play out of a three-point stance, but will occasionally line up with his hand in the dirt, sometimes even as an interior defender, and shows good suddenness to threaten gaps with his swim move. Shows some ability to make limited drops into zone coverage.

Negatives:

Status of his neck could have a large impact on his draft stock, so his Combine medical examination will be crucial. Pad level is a little bit higher than you’d like. Can get overly aggressive and play out of control at times. Doesn’t have quite the power element anticipated given his size; relies much more on suddenness and activity, and it would be nice to see him convert speed to power and walk back opponents with his bull rush more consistently. Can occasionally be driven deep of the pocket.

Summary:

Has been one of college football’s most prolific pass-rushers over the past two years, combining excellent size, a varied rush approach, impressive suddenness, and quick play-recognition skills which could make him a threat at the pro level as well. Despite his size, would fit best in a scheme which lets him harness his natural aggressiveness to create disruption, rather than playing off of blocks. Looks like a likely first-day pick as long as his neck checks out.

Projection: Round 1-2

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