Film Room: Colts Swing on Pass Rush Potential with Laiatu Latu

The film shows that the Indianapolis Colts drafted a hugely impactful pass rusher in Laiatu Latu.
Sep 16, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) celebrates
Sep 16, 2023; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) celebrates / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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The Indianapolis Colts have selected edge rusher Laiatu Latu with the 15th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Laiatu was the first defender selected in the draft, meaning the Colts had to have had a very high grade on the senior pass rusher. 

Laiatu was forced into medical retirement by Washington back in 2020 due to a neck injury, but returned to the football field with UCLA in 2022. He went on a tear over his final two seasons, accumulating 23.5 sacks and 34 tackles for a loss in 25 games with the Bruins. His pass rush win rate at the college level rivaled that of Nick Bosa as a prospect even. 

Latu may not be a perfect prospect, especially with the medical history, but this tendency breaker of a selection by Chris Ballard shows that he is willing to do anything to find a star pass rusher for this defense. 

Breaking the Mold

Latu is hardly the type of pass rusher that Ballard falls for in the draft. In his career, Ballard has used 25% of his top 100 selections on edge rushers. Those players were all hyper athletic projects that had the potential to become stars at the NFL level with the right coaching and scheme. The problem with that mindset is it led to quite a few whiffs by the regime. 

After missing on players like Ben Banogu, Kemoko Turay, Tarell Basham, and (to a degree) Kwity Paye, Ballard had to change up his philosophy at the position. The man known for selecting long armed, explosive freaks with plus ability in run defense just selected a player that scored below average in all three of those marks. 

For what Latu lacks in arm length and explosion, he makes up for it in polish and bend. He is a true winner in the pass rush game right now, something that could hardly be said about Ballard’s past picks at the position. His past selections have all been about projection, but this one is about right now. Latu is an NFL-ready pass-rusher who will immediately produce at this level from day one. 

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Pass Rushing Film is ELITE

Latu’s pass rushing film is the best in this draft class. He possesses a wide array of moves in his arsenal, and he isn’t afraid to go to his counters to keep an offensive tackle guessing. His best overall move is his cross-chop but his dip and rip is absolutely deadly when he catches an opposing tackle playing too high. 

The most fascinating thing about Latu’s ability as a pass rusher came in his ability to win from multiple positions. UCLA’s defense was hybrid in nature, which caused them to use Latu anywhere from a stand-up 3-tech inside to a wide-nine crashing down off of the edge. In the USC game alone, he was rushing from a handful of different spots to put the pressure on this year’s top overall selection:

Latu’s pass rush arsenal was on full display against Arizona this past season. He won in multiple ways against a top offensive line in college football, showcasing his cross chop, his dip and rip, and his spin move counter in this one. 

He has legit juice off of the edge and is a technician in how he approaches his match-up. These clips show just how ready he is as a player, though. The traits that he is showcasing below are easily translatable to the NFL game, and he has the production to back it up too. A player doesn’t just luck into nearly a sack per game at a Power Five school in college. Latu was simply dominant as a pass rusher. 

There is this belief out there that Latu is more of a safe pick with capped upside at the NFL level. While some of that sentiment is understandable due to his age and lack of elite physical traits, it feels like a bit of an unfair characterization of the player. If Latu never improves from where he currently is at, he would still likely be an effective pass rusher at the next level. 

If he does continue to take positive steps forward though, he has top tier pass rusher potential. The film is legitimately that good when it comes to his ability to get the quarterback. I’m not saying that he is going to be the next T.J Watt or Maxx Crosby, but I’m also not ruling that out. Seriously, the traits he showcases on film are up there with those guys as draft prospects. 

The Bottom Line

The Colts ran away from the Build-A-Ballard trend at edge rusher, but it was a change that was desperately needed at the position. After striking out numerous times in the past, Ballard decided to change his approach at edge rusher. Will this change produce a different result? Time will tell, but the projection for Latu seems much more optimistic for past picks because the floor is already established. 

At worst, Latu will be an above average NFL pass rusher. He is simply too quick and too polished to not find some success in that department. At best though, this pick could result in a massive find for the Colts at 15th overall. Latu’s film is fantastic off of the edge, and he could be a dominant force alongside DeForest Buckner in Indianapolis.

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Zach Hicks


Zach Hicks is the Lead Analyst for Zach has been on the NFL beat since 2017. His works have appeared on, the Locked On Podcast Network,,, &