Laiatu Latu Draft Profile | UCLA, EDGE Scouting Report

UCLA EDGE Laiatu Latu has the scouting report to be one of the first players at his position selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. What is his NFL projection?

The EDGE1 mantle in the 2024 NFL Draft seems to be up for grabs … unless UCLA’s Laiatu Latu has something to say about it with his scouting report. Latu has been one of college football’s most prolific pass rushers for two years, and his tape matches up.

Laiatu Latu Draft Profile and Measurements

  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 260 pounds
  • Position: Edge Rusher
  • School: UCLA
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior

For a time, it wasn’t clear if we’d ever get a chance to see the 2021 and 2022 versions of Latu.

Latu started his college football career at Washington, where he arrived as a four-star recruit in 2019. He flashed promise in his true freshman season, but during fall camp ahead of 2020, he suffered a neck injury.

That injury would keep Latu off the field for the entire 2020 season, and in the spring of 2021, head coach Jimmy Lake told the media that Latu had been medically retired. Doctors said he’d never play again — he’d be at risk of paralysis if he did.

But Latu kept grinding and working to heal behind the scenes. He transferred to UCLA after the 2021 season, and in the spring of 2022, he was medically cleared to play football by UCLA’s doctors.

Fast forward to today, and Latu has been a devastating force against opposing offensive lines. He had 10.5 sacks, 12.5 total tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles in 2022, and in 2023, he logged 49 tackles, including 21.5 total TFLs and 13 sacks, two picks, two pass breakups, and two more FFs.

MORE: FREE Mock Draft Simulator With Trades

Latu’s 2023 performance made him the first UCLA Bruin ever to win the Lombardi Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive lineman. He also won the Ted Hendricks Award, which recognizes the country’s top defensive end.

Now, after a triumphant return to the CFB stage, Latu is set to make the leap to the NFL. His production bodes well, but how exactly does his game translate as a 2024 NFL Draft prospect?

Latu’s Scouting Report

Strengths

  • Has a strong and compact frame with good mass and solid length.
  • Explosive, unnaturally energized rusher with the control to offset and exploit blockers.
  • Twitched-up energy allows him to instantly recalibrate hands after initial moves.
  • Possesses elite ankle flexion for his size and routinely uses flexibility to finish reps.
  • With hip flexibility, can redirect at the apex and pinch 270-degree angles to the QB.
  • Can sustain acceleration while dipping below the corner and pinching the pocket.
  • Flashes the ability to leverage his burst into force and power through interior gaps.
  • Advanced hand-fighter whose hips rest on a gyroscope, unlocking torque on punches.
  • Understands rushing angles and knows how to manipulate tackles to open paths.
  • Stacks inside-outside hand counters and combos with rare quickness and efficiency.
  • Can win with swims, chop-clubs, chop-rips, club-rips, and other lightning-quick volleys.
  • Deep pass-rushing bag allows him to have a counter for any situation and any leverage.
  • Has shown he has the play strength and leveraging to stack and shed run blockers.
  • Relentless attacker whose motor never dies, granting second- and third-effort chances.
  • Athletic and fluid enough to drop in coverage, hinge around, and patrol the flats.

Weaknesses

  • Arm length isn’t elite, which does detract a bit from raw power capacity.
  • Doesn’t always take advantage of opportunities to drive forward inside the blocker’s frame.
  • First-step explosiveness might be a notch below the elite tier.
  • Occasionally diverts too far upright when stunting across alignments.
  • Doesn’t always have the elite strength to pry himself through gaps after stunting.
  • Can be jarred by violent snatch moves when threatening the apex.
  • Sometimes loses his balance and is uncontrolled when attempting to set the edge.
  • Lower-body strength can improve in run defense in order to more often prevent displacement.
  • Will turn 24 years old in December of his rookie season.
  • Medically retired from football while at Washington due to a neck injury.

Current Draft Projection and Summary

On my 2024 NFL Draft board, Laiatu Latu grades as a top-20 prospect and one of the top EDGE prospects in the class. If his medicals check out, he’s worthy of early-to-mid first-round capital and has the upside to be a game-changing presence for an NFL defense.

MORE: When Is the 2024 NFL Draft?

Latu is perhaps the most exciting pass rusher to watch in the 2024 NFL Draft EDGE class. Not only is he explosive, twitched-up, and insanely flexible for his size, but he also has deadly hand-fighting chops. He has a barrage of moves at his disposal, and he stacks combos and counters with elite quickness and reaction speed.

Latu is unique in that he doesn’t have one go-to move he sticks to. Latu has the ability to vary his attack in real time based on the leverage he encounters, and he can adapt just as quickly with his free-flowing athleticism and ruthless hand precision.

In run defense, Latu isn’t quite as consistent. He can still improve his overall play strength when anchoring and resisting displacement, and his balance when setting the edge can be inconsistent as well. Latu also diverts upright at times, making him easier to corral.

Additionally, as a pass rusher, Latu isn’t quite as power-oriented as you’d expect. While he has shown he can drive power forward, he can be more opportunistic in using his twitch and energy to widen tackles, and he doesn’t quite have elite raw power capacity.

Nevertheless, Latu has the physical and operational traits to hit the ground running as an impact pass-rushing force at the NFL level — preferably as a stand-up EDGE in odd and hybrid-front schemes — and he has enough strength, awareness, and urgency in pursuit to hold his own on running downs.

Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast

Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.

Join the Conversation!

Related Articles