Laiatu Latu Draft Profile
Laiatu Latu attended Washington, where he made a name for himself by recording fifteen tackles and a half-sack as a freshman linebacker. Unfortunately, he was forced to give up football after he suffered a severe neck injury in fall 2020, which required him to undergo surgery. This incident made it impossible for him to play in the two following seasons.
Despite the setback he experienced, Latu was determined to return to playing football. He decided to enroll in UCLA, where he made a remarkable comeback during the past year. He excelled on the field and registered impressive stats of 36-12.5-10.5, which included three forced fumbles on 494 snaps. This feat made him one of the most prolific college football pass-rushers in 2021.
His excellent size, combined with a varied rush approach, suddenness, and quick play-recognition skills make him a formidable player. His natural aggressiveness is also a plus, which he could use to create disruption. However, to maximize Latu’s potential, he needs to be in a team that allows him to play to his strengths. This team should let him harness his natural aggressiveness to create disruption, rather than playing off of blocks. His size would make him a great fit in such a scheme.
Despite his remarkable talent on the field, questions still exist about Latu’s health and if his neck injury from three years ago has fully healed.
Laiatu Latu Scouting Report Introduction
Laiatu Latu is a collegiate football player with a fascinating and somewhat tumultuous history. He was originally a four-star recruit, which placed him under high expectations when he began his collegiate football career at the University of Washington. Despite being a true freshman, he played well and appeared to be headed for a promising career. Unfortunately, he was forced to retire the following season due to a serious neck injury.
Despite this setback, Latu was able to recover and re-enter the college football arena with a bang. Halfway through the current season, he is the sack leader and has quickly become a player to watch. He possesses a good size and above-average athleticism, which allows him to align as an outside linebacker in his team’s multiple front system. He can rush from both a two-point and three-point stance, and he has good initial quickness that enables him to win the edge. Additionally, he possesses above-average power, which allows him to convert speed to power and catch the offensive tackle off guard. He also has very good lateral agility, which allows him to evade opposing offensive linemen. Latu is particularly effective when he reduces down inside, as his quickness and agility are often too much for guards to handle. He is known for his relentless motor and his ability to finish at the QB.
Of course, there are some downsides to Latu’s game. While he has been incredibly productive since his return from injury, much of his success comes later in the down, as he relies heavily on his strong effort. He also lacks the ability to bend and flatten the arc due to his tight ankles and hips. As a result, Latu has impressive length, but he could use it more effectively by playing with better leverage. Additionally, given his injury history, his medical condition will need to be closely monitored.
Laiatu Latu has certainly faced his share of adversity during his collegiate career. However, despite his injury and time away from the game, he has managed to return as a dominant force in the college football landscape.
Laiatu Latu is a big and well-built edge defender whose outstanding performance in his first year back after being out of the game for three years has earned him recognition. He is a stand-up edge rusher who is able to use good extension with his arms to play off of blocks in the run game, displaying solid discipline in his run fits. Latu is able to locate the football relatively quickly and has solid flexibility, allowing him to slip under the punches of opposing linemen. His excellent length also gives him a solid tackling radius.
Latu brings a relatively refined and varied approach to rushing the passer. He has a quick first step that allows him to threaten the edge with speed in the passing game, and shows adequate bend for his size. Latu is also able to set up blockers as a pass-rusher, using his nice spin move to threaten inside. He is active with his hands and generally doesn’t play out of a three-point stance, although he will occasionally line up with his hand in the dirt, sometimes even as an interior defender. In these situations, he shows good suddenness to threaten gaps with his swim move.
Latu’s ability to make limited drops into zone coverage also adds to his overall versatility as a player. With all these skills combined, it is no surprise that he has put himself on the map as an outstanding stand-up edge rusher.
Latu’s status is a matter of concern due to an injury in his neck, which is expected to impact his prospective draft stock.
In addition to his medical situation, there are other elements of Latu’s game that have generated both praise and criticism from analysts. While he had a breakout year last season, Latu has only been a consistent presence on the field for a short period. The lack of consistent top performance in college is of serious concern to scouts.
Another critique is that Latu’s pad level tends to be high, which can impact his ability to generate strength and leverage when engaging with opposing players. Furthermore, he has a tendency to become overly aggressive and lose control at times, which can result in penalties and mistakes.
Despite his size, Latu’s power element is not as pronounced as some would expect, on account of his dependence on suddenness and activity. While Laiatu Latu has shown flashes of potential and skill on the football field, some areas of his game need improvement. How each team’s medical teams will evaluate his tests at the Combine will probably determine his draft stock for than anything else.
Laiatu Latu is our 68th prospect on our draft big board.