Laiatu Latu 2024 Draft Profile


Laiatu Latu




Measurables (via UCLA Football

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 265 lbs.




If you’re a fan of comeback stories, Laiatu Latu’s  collegiate career is pretty remarkable. From a medical retirement after a neck injury in 2020 to being a potential top ten pick in next year’s draft is quite a revivaling feat. 


He was a popular recruit coming out of Jesuit High School in Sacramento, CA, earning a 4-star rating from ESPN and 247 Sports. Amidst a competitive battle between PAC 12 teams, Latu decided to sign with the Washington Huskies in 2019 where he was very coveted. 


He played sparingly as a freshman (8 games) but injured his neck in practice heading into the 2020 season. By the spring of 2021, Latu was deemed unable to play due to complications from the neck injury and medically retired from Washington.


By 2022, he entered the transfer portal and committed to UCLA where he was actually cleared to play by team doctors in the spring heading into his sophomore season.


From there, he has not only showcased the resiliency to bounce back from that devastating injury, but also established himself as one of the best DE prospects in the entire country.      


KEY STATS (via Sports Reference CFB

2019 (Washington): 8 games, 10 tackles, 5 assisted, 1.5 TFL, .5 sack, 1 PD

2022 (UCLA): 13 games, 23 tackles, 13 assisted, 12.5 TFL, 10.5 sack, 1 PD, 1 FR, 3FF

Latu draft profile

UCLA defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15)- Ric Tapia/ Icon Sportswire via Getty Images




Vast array of pass rush moves

He has a toolbox on avenues to get to the football. He’s a technician and can exploit every weakness in offensive linemen. From bullrush, to strong-arm, to speed – Latu has the elusiveness and the robust frame to win in an assortment of ways. Pair all of that with a great initial burst and great instinct for making plays, it’s really easy to see how his play is going to translate to the NFL. You wouldn’t necessarily equate the term “fluid” with an edge rusher, but that’s the first thing that kept coming to mind when watching his film. He’s smooth and deliberate with his play and it all accumulates to being a dominant football player.


Hand Technique


Latu has an arsenal of moves and techniques to get to the quarterback – aforementioned as probably his best attribute. But the initial burst and hand placement are probably his most-touted strengths in that regard. That translates to great initial separation and capitalizing with his physical attributes, quickness and strength.  


Excellent motor/nose for the football


He’s tough. As apparent with coming back from his tragic injury, Latu shows a resilience and motor that just doesn’t quit. It’s demonstrated on every down when he’s on the field as well. Whether it being an obvious passing down or run play, Latu possesses a great drive – no matter the circumstance.




Not as bendy 


From all the different ways Latu can win on pass rushes, dipping and bending isn’t one of them. However, that’s just not his style of play. He wins because he is extremely shifty and strong. That previously mentioned burst and hand placement allows him to maximize that toolbox of means of getting to the quarterback.   

Latu draft profile

UCLA defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15)- Scott Chandler/ UCLA Bruins

Struggles to disengage in the run game


He’s an adequate run defender but can get jammed up quite readily when he gets blocked downfield. His hands are where he wins and if he doesn’t get the proper placement initially (which is uncommon) or he simply gets schemed up against his alignment, he does show lapses of lacking an escape plan. Which is really shocking with his skillset. 

It’s not super apparent, but it did show up quite a bit in the 2022 season. He has gotten much better as the 2023 season progressed, however. 



Medical history


Obviously, the neck injury is going to draw some concern. He doesn’t seem to favor it or play with reckless abandon either. It hasn’t exposed any means of affecting his overall game but being forced to medically retire at a young age is definitely going to require a thorough medical evaluation – especially with expending top ten draft capital on him.




Latu is best going to be schemed up as an OLB/DE in a 3-4 defense. But what was most surprising when watching his tape was how much UCLA lined him up inside on passing downs and how often he won. He was a mismatch for every guard. He has adequate size – not enough to be lined up inside frequently. But seeing that initial burst and quickness being used soundly lined up as a 3 technique was amazing. It just goes to show how special of a player Latu can be. 


He’s what you would expect out of his position when asked to be used in coverage: it’s not dynamic, but it’s not a detriment either. And obviously, he’s not going to be schemed to do that very often. His run defense can use a little work, but you’re not drafting him to highlight that. He is an excellent pass rusher. I cannot reiterate that enough. Pretty cemented as the best in this draft class. And he’s going to transition to the NFL without much drawback.      




You’d imagine Latu’s injury would have caused somewhat of a hindrance to his game, but with his style of play, it’s actually just the opposite. He’s smooth and prudent, but a menace and tenacious all at the same time. He somehow makes his relentless effort look effortless. You could argue the injury may have added an intentional aspect to his already prolific pass rush profile. 


He’s fared well against a few highly regarded tackles in this class alone (Morgan and Fuaga) and he seems to get better each and every week.


He’s more than worthy of a top ten pick and injury aside, it’s hard to argue any other pass rusher is better than him in this class. He’s a high floor and still a high ceiling guy with the amount of moves he has in his arsenal. It’s hard not to be a fan and root for a kid that overcame such an adverse obstacle in his career.

For more draft profile check out Cooper DeJeanJordan TravisMalik Nabers, and more!