Could the Los Angeles Rams find an “edge” to their defense in their own backyard in the next draft?
SB Nation’s J.P. Acosta posted his first 2024 mock draft and slotted the Rams with the 18th pick based on early season results, which could end up giving L.A. a chance to find a real potential star on defense in lieu of not getting Caleb Williams.
With that, Acosta has the Rams selecting UCLA defensive end Laiatu Latu.
Expected to measure around 6’5, 260 lbs, Latu was described as “unblockable” in a game against Coastal Carolina by PFF earlier this season.
On 28 pass rush reps, he earned a 94.7 pass-rush grade with 10 total pressures, a 35.7% pass-rush win rate and three sacks. Those sack and pressure numbers ranked first in the FBS from Week 1.
Latu stands a shade under 6-foot-5 and around 260 pounds, which would put him around the 70th percentile in height and 40th percentile in weight for edge rushers in the NFL, so he checks the size boxes. That is evidenced by how UCLA deployed him in 2022, as he played 363 snaps as an on-ball outside linebacker, 100 snaps as a defensive end and even 29 snaps as a defensive tackle. Size and power are not an issue for him.
Latu was a former four-star recruit who started his career at Washington. He played in 12 games as a true freshman, but going into his sophomore season, he suffered a neck injury that almost ended his career. He missed all of that season and after the year, team doctors determined his neck did not heal well enough to clear him to play. He medically retired but stayed at Washington for the fall semester before entering the transfer portal, ultimately landing at UCLA, where he was cleared to play.
UCLA's Laiatu Latu (#15) was unblockable against Coastal. pic.twitter.com/QuY1EAxR2e— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) September 4, 2023
Acosta has the Rams selecting Latu ahead of Duke quarterback Riley Leonard, although quarterback could be a consideration for Les Snead no matter where L.A. is slotted. The class is expected to be deep with interesting prospects and the Rams certainly could use an heir apparent to Matthew Stafford and a better backup situation than their current depth chart.
However, there is probably no position that wouldn’t make some sense for Los Angeles. It gives Snead the best opportunity to pick the player who has fallen way past where he maybe should have gone, be it a tackle, cornerback, receiver, tight end, linebacker, defensive tackle, or quarterback, etc. Could an elite running back prospect even be a consideration, should there be one?
In any case, Latu wouldn’t be a bad choice and he wouldn’t even have to move.