Colts' First-Round Pick Projected to Lead Rookies in Key Stat

Indianapolis Colts first-round pick Laiatu Latu is projected to lead all NFL rookies in sacks.
Sep 16, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the North Carolina Central Eagles during the first half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 16, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the North Carolina Central Eagles during the first half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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When NFL teams make a selection in the first round of the draft, the expectation is most often that the player will contribute right away.

The Indianapolis Colts' first-round pick from the recent 2024 NFL Draft, defensive end Laiatu Latu, was added to a crowded position group on the roster. However, despite that, ESPN senior writer Mike Clay projects Latu to lead all NFL rookies in sacks with a projection of 5.4:

1. Laiatu Latu, Edge, Indianapolis Colts: 5.4 sacks
2. Darius Robinson, Edge,
Arizona Cardinals: 5.2 sacks
3. Jared Verse, Edge,
Los Angeles Rams: 4.9 sacks
4. Bralen Trice, Edge,
Atlanta Falcons: 4.5 sacks
5. Dallas Turner, Edge,
Minnesota Vikings: 4.2 sacks

According to Clay, "These team and player projections are my own, compiled through a process that is both quantitative (league, team, coaching and player trends) and qualitative (projected depth chart placement and role)."

Clay went on to explain some of the specifics that led to his stat projections.

"Latu (the first defender selected in April's draft) will immediately join the edge rotation in Indianapolis and could start opposite Kwity Paye," Clay said. "Robinson is in a similar position, as he'll compete to work opposite Zaven Collins in Arizona. Verse is looking to unseat Michael Hoecht opposite Young (both incumbents played 85% of the snaps or more last season).

"Trice was a third-round pick, but he's joining arguably the league's shakiest edge room, which provides a path to serious playing time," Clay continued. "And while Dallas Turner generated a ton of pre-draft hype, he'll be fishing for rotational snaps behind a terrific Jonathan Greenard-Andrew Van Ginkel duo in Minnesota."

Clay is on the target saying that Latu immediately joins the Colts' edge rotation and could start at defensive end alongside Kwity Paye. The X-factor as to whether Latu could lead all rookies in sacks, however, is playing time.

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The Colts have arguably their deepest defensive line group of general manager Chris Ballard's tenure, featuring ends Samson Ebukam, Dayo Odeyingbo, and Tyquan Lewis behind Paye and Latu, so that will likely lead to a lot of rotating of fresh players.

However, according to Paye, the step back in snaps could actually lead to more productivity for each player.

"For us, it's gonna be great," Paye told reporters recently about the Colts' defensive end rotation. "We can go out there and give it everything we've got, knowing that, 'Hey, I'm finna come off and we've got another wave that's gonna come in and do just as well.' So, it's encouraging to us to really empty the tank every single time we're out there and just compete."

Will there be enough snaps to go around for young, developing rookie like Latu to lead his peers in sacks?

Latu and the Colts begin the season at Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 1 on Sept. 8 against the Houston Texans.

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Jake Arthur

JAKE ARTHUR

Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for a decade. He is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) and FantasyPros' expert panel. He has also contributed to multiple NFL Draft guides.