2024 Bears Draft Target: Laiatu Latu
Trevor Ruszkowski - USA Today Sports

2024 Bears Draft Target: Laiatu Latu

by - Senior Writer -

Although it can't become official until draft night, Caleb Williams will likely be the top pick of the 2024 NFL draft and will take over as the new Bears quarterback. That will be an important day in Bears' history, as the dawn of a new era will begin. Chicago hopes that era will come with more winning than the previous era, but at least they have the pieces in place to become the team they want to be.

What they will do with that first pick is one of the biggest remaining questions, as it feels like the Bears have been the biggest question of the entire draft. With one of those questions answered fans will have to see what this team does with the rest of free agency to answer the second question, which falls at pick No. 9.

With Ryan Poles still actively looking to add a pass rusher to pair with Montez Sweat, the current free-agent options are starting to dwindle, but Yannick Ngakoue could be an option should the Bears want to bring him back. Considering how his first year in Chicago went, that could be an option, considering the cost, but look for Poles to look for pass-rushing help in the draft.

If that is the case, the No. 9 overall pick is where he could find his man, and Laiatu Latu is an option that many are starting to consider more. The senior defensive end out of UCLA is coming off a decorated career and is ranked as one of the three best pass rushers in this class.

Given his 6-5 and 265-pound frame, Latu won't be able to play on the line in the NFL, but should he move to the edge position, it would be a massive win for the Bears.

Latu was a sack specialist in three years at UCLA, with 23 sacks in three years including a career-high 13 this past season. He added 49 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions to that sack total, showing he was more than just a sack artist.

Unlike Dallas Turner, who is nothing short of an athletic freak, Latu has the speed you would expect from an edge rusher as he was clocked at 4.64 for his 40 time. That isn't going to deter teams from taking him high in this year's draft, as he is so much more than just your prototypical pass rusher. Latu shows a veteran-like maturity, remarkable effectiveness as a run defender, and a well-thought-out approach to pass-rushing.

His field awareness extends beyond mere blockers, and he has a relentless motor despite some concerns from a previous neck injury. Neck injury or not, you would've never guessed it, as he moves exceptionally well and has emerged as one of the best overall defensive players in this year's class.

Latu has the motor to get through any type of block, and he also does an excellent job timing up the snap to make plays happen. He is quick off the snap, which allows him to win often against his man, but he has also shown the ability to drop into coverage if needed. That is especially crucial when looking at the Matt Eberflus scheme, as his players need to be good in coverage and making plays.

If you had to pick out one massive concern, it would be his past injury history, especially a neck injury. Granted, he appears to be fine now, but you still have to wonder how long he can contribute until that neck injury returns. Latu is also in a tough spot. He is too small to play on the line in the NFL but would be bigger than most Edge rushers.

Ideally, he will make his living at the edge, but he may have to lose a few pounds or add some quickness for his potential to be fully reached. At the NFL level, one thing to keep an eye on is the overall leverage, as bigger defenders often took the leverage away from him and stood him up at the point of attack. He must be more creative in the NFL to reach his potential.

When it comes to player comparisons, TJ Watt has been mentioned, and if he is anything close to Watt, you have a winner. Turner will most likely be the highest-drafted pass rusher in this year's class, but there is a consensus that Latu is the most skilled pass rusher in the class, which is what Poles may be looking at.

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