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Texans Bolster Pass Rush, Pick UCLA Star Laiatu Latu In Latest NFL Mock Draft

With Jonathan Greenard likely out, the Houston Texans turn to UCLA Star Laiatu Latu for his replacement in CBS Sports' latest mock draft.

Where do the Houston Texans turn in the first round of the NFL Draft? 

According to one draft analyst, edge rusher is the move. 

In the latest CBS Sports mock draft, Houston lands UCLA pass-rusher Laiatu Latu to replace impending free agent Jonathan Greenard. Latu is considered a top-five edge defender in the class after revitalizing his career with the Bruins under now-USC defensive coordinator D'Anton Lynn. 


"As long as the medicals come back clean, Latu will not reach the second round," CBS Sports said. "After grabbing Will Anderson Jr. with their second pick last season, the Texans bookend him with Latu."

After medically retiring while at the University of Washington, Latu worked his way back to the gridiron. After missing both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Latu returned with vengeance as a member of Chip Kelly's Bruins in Westwood. 

He flourished off the edge, totaling 23.5 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss in two seasons while helping UCLA become one of the conference's best defensive units. Last season, the 6-5, 261-pound Latu finished with career-highs in sacks (13) and tackles for loss (21.5) while earning consensus All-American honors. 

Latu was also named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. 

From a skill standpoint. Latu is a top-10 prospect and could be this year's top defensive player, but the neck injury is a concern. Latu needed surgery after a preseason practice in 2020 and was told by doctors he needed to step away from the game. 

Despite being cleared medically to participate at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month, running drills and running plays differ. One wrong hit and the potential franchise cornerstone could be hanging up the cleats for good. 

Houston, which looks to build off an 11-8 record under first-year coach DeMeco Ryans, is in the market for a pass-rusher with Greenard likely leaving in free agency. Sources indicated to that No. 3 defensive end Derek Barnett could return as a third-down specialist alongside Will Anderson Jr. 

The Texans currently could also bring back defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins on a long-term deal, thus solving the interior need entering free agency. Former Miami Dolphins star Christian Wilkins is reportedly on Houston's radar, but following Justin Madubikue's massive extension, the AFC South champions could turn elsewhere. 

Medicals will determine Latu's projection. If Houston feels content with the findings, the former Bruin should be atop its big board. If not, the Texans could pivot to other pass-rushers like Penn State's Chop Robinson, Missouri's Darius Robinson, or Washington's Bralen Trice. 

Other positions Houston could target on April 25 are cornerback, defensive tackle, and receiver.