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2024 IDP Rookie Profile: Laiatu Latu, EDGE

Laiatu Latu is one of the best stories of the NFL Draft. @Glosser13 brings you a full breakdown of the UCLA EDGE rusher.

The Player

  • Laiatu Latu
  • College: UCLA
  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 259 lbs.
  • Age: 23 (December 31, 2000)
  • Arm: 32 ⅝”
  • Hand: 9 ⅝”
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.64
  • 10-Yard Split: 1.62
  • Vertical Jump: 32”
  • Broad Jump: 9’8”

High School

Laiatu Latu attended Jesuit High School in California. He played both outside linebacker and tight end. Latu had a fantastic senior season with 94 tackles and 29.5 tackles for loss. He was named to the USA Today All-California First Team. Despite being unable to bring a state championship home, he would receive many accolades, including a co-Delta League All-Purpose Player of the Year winner. He accomplished this in his junior season, where he racked up 12 sacks. 247 Sports ranked him as a four-star prospect and the fifth overall weak-side defensive end. He would decide to leave home and attend Washington to play football.

College 

Laiatu Latu has had a roller coaster of a college career, and his story is truly inspiring. He would play in all but one game as a true freshman as a rotational player. Latu recorded 15 total stops, including one half-sack and a safety. He had a promising start to his career as a Washington Huskie. Unfortunately, Laitau Latu would face adversity of the worst kind when a preseason practice ended with a career-threatening neck injury. The potential stud pass rusher for the Huskies would be forced to retire from football. He chose to show his true character and planned on finishing his degree while being a student coach.

After two years out of football, the once promising EDGE rusher vowed to make it back on the field. He would transfer to UCLA before the 2022 season, determined to chase his dream and provide for his family. Latu would reunite with his position coach from his freshman season at Washington, who would eventually become his defensive coordinator at UCLA. This was a blessing for Latu, who was named one of the 2022 Comeback Players of the Year.

Laiatu Latu would rack up 23.5 sacks in 25 games for the UCLA Bruins. He had a fantastic senior season with 49 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks. He turned what looked to be a devastating end to a promising career into a great story of redemption. There is a very strong chance he’ll hear his name called in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Strengths

Dynamic Pass Rusher

At times, Laiatu Latu put on a clinic as a pass rusher over the last two seasons. His highlights over the past two seasons are plentiful. It was difficult to only find a few clips to show his strengths as a player truly. Although Latu isn’t the most impressive athlete, he steals the show with his technique as an EDGE rusher. He brings a rare combination of football IQ and advanced hand technique that stands alone in this class. He possesses a combination of pass-rush moves and lateral agility, which is very difficult to handle for offensive tackles.

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If you’re following any draft coverage, we have all seen Laiatu Latu beat tackles around the end with his dip-and-rip move time and time again. The play I picked here was him lined up on the inside. This play shows the whole package for me. It shows why he’s one of this class’s most complete pass rushers. His explosiveness and ability to keep an offensive lineman guessing are tools he uses to his advantage very well.

He uses a quick step toward the tackle to get the offensive guard flat-footed, allowing Latu to get by him nearly untouched. Latu is in the backfield before the quarterback finishes his dropback, and he can get him down for a big sack on third down. It’s such a bonus to see a player who is so effective as an EDGE rusher win inside with ease like the UCLA defender does.

Motor

There are some concerns surrounding the UCLA pass rusher, but his hustle on each play is not one of them. This is the type of attitude you love to see in a young defender and something hard to teach. IDP managers won’t be disappointed in a player who never seems to give up on a play and always finds a way to be around the ball. Those hustle plays can easily be the difference in turning an average fantasy-scoring game into a big week when he is in your lineup.

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If I were to show you a play that shows Laitau Latu’s hustle, there was a strong chance it would be against Caleb Williams, who excels at extending plays. The UCLA EDGE defender just smokes the left side of the offensive line with an inside move; the quarterback sees an opening to turn a disaster play into a positive gain.

Latu circles and covers nearly 30 yards on this play and finds a way to meet the quarterback right at the line of scrimmage for a minimal gain. This is a play I love because it would have been straightforward to give up after missing a sack on a beautiful rush, but he refuses to let his team down and tracks the quarterback down for a tackle. It is amazing to watch anybody make a play of this caliber, let alone a player who was staring at early retirement just a few years prior.

Development Opportunities 

Health

I don’t want to spend much time on this because it’s unfair to the player who has done so much to put this significant injury behind him. This is a player with first-round talent, and if he is not selected that high in the NFL draft, it would have to be because of the injury risks. The EDGE position is arguably one of the most important in football, so I think all the work Laiatu Latu has put in will be rewarded with high draft capital in April.

Landing Spot 

The real truth is there’s not an NFL team out there that could afford to pass a player with Laiatu Latu’s skill set. The teams that make the most sense are the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Carolina Panthers. The Rams and Buccaneers have picks in the back half of the first round, while the Panthers would need to see Latu drop until the start of the second round.

All three teams have lost veteran leadership along the defensive line. Those teams could use a young, dynamic pass rusher to add to their defense. IDP managers would love to see the UCLA pass rusher drafted to a team where he could have a chance for snaps early. All three of these teams give him a chance to do that. If he is selected in the top 15 picks, that’s even better for his short-term value, so it’s a win-win for the IDP dynasty community.

Fantasy Outlook 

The DL position in IDP fantasy football never seems to have enough depth. It has improved over the years, but the real truth is by mid-season, most of us are starting at least one waiver wire addition at the DL position. Having young fantasy scorers at the DL spot is such an advantage. Depending on your league scoring and lineup requirements, those players carry great value. In 2023, four rookie DLs scored 150+ fantasy points and made consistent contributions to dynasty rosters. As an IDP manager, you must be willing to take risks on players who have productive college careers. If they have high draft capital, it’s even better. This can be the difference in a rebuild taking significantly less time than you originally anticipated. 

The Wrap-up 

It’s hard not to come away impressed with Laiatu Latu’s story and want to root for the young man. He’s dealt with adversity head-on and is on the verge of being a first-round pick in April. There might be a pass rusher you prefer more in this draft, but at the end of the day, whoever ends up with Latu on their roster will have a very productive player with outstanding potential to score a lot of fantasy points. I’m genuinely excited to see him reach a goal he never thought possible just a few years ago.


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