American Football

ESPN analyst sees Seahawks as ‘ideal landing spot’ for former UCLA star

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UCLA Bruins defeated the Colorado Buffaloes 28-16 to win a NCAA Football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

Laiatu Latu has a lot of talent, but he also has one serious medical concern.

ESPN analyst Matt Bowen recently published an article detailing his 20 favorite prospect-team fits ahead of the NFL Draft in Detroit. Every prospect listed is projected to be drafted by the end of the second round, and the criteria for the most ideal fit is based on “skill sets, scheme, potential and organizational needs.”

For the Seattle Seahawks, I was fully anticipating the umpteenth Troy Fautanu column. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case. Bowen’s fit for the Seattle Seahawks is still a Pac-12 player and a former Washington Husky, but he closed out his college stint at UCLA.

EDGE Laiatu Latu to the Seahawks

Height: 6-5 | Weight: 259

College: UCLA

Where Seattle could get him: Pick No. 16

Latu, the most skilled and refined pass-rusher in the 2024 class, could be used from multiple alignments under new Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald. Here, Macdonald can use loaded fronts to scheme one-on-ones for Latu off the edge. He could play as a stand-up rusher to crate interior matchups or drop late to patrol the underneath zones in pressure concepts.

Latu, who had 23.5 sacks over his final two seasons at UCLA, has the traits to produce early in his rookie season. His 20% pressure percentage last season ranked second in the FBS and was the best mark of any Power 5 player.

There’s no doubt that Latu is one of the best pass rushers in the draft, and I think it makes sense for the Seahawks to continue investing at the position given the lack of depth that was exposed when Uchenna Nwosu went out last season. Boye Mafe made a major second-year leap, but Derick Hall was a non-factor, Darrell Taylor was inconsistent, and Frank Clark had nothing left. Whether that means using a first-round pick on an edge is a different debate altogether, but I can see how Latu is seen as a possible Seahawk.

The one caution regarding Latu is the fact that his career very nearly ended before he even transferred to UCLA.

The Sacramento, California, native did not play in 2020 or 2021 after he was advised to “medically retire” from football by the Washington staff. Latu had suffered a neck injury in preseason workouts for the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and later had surgery — Latu said Wednesday he had neck fusion surgery — to try to repair lingering numbness.

Doctors at Washington would not clear him to return and advised him not to play football. His mother, Kerry, however, researched Latu’s injury and kept coming across Dr. Robert Watkins’ name before arranging for Latu to see the noted back and neck surgeon in late 2021.

Latu said Watkins cleared him to return to football after a battery of tests, but Washington would still not clear him to play for the Huskies. He transferred to UCLA in January 2022.

If for some reason Latu drops during the draft then it’s safe to assume there is some sort of concern about his health. Apart from that, he hasn’t missed a game since he was medically cleared to return to football.

Here’s a look at his highlights, along with some film breakdown from Brett Kollmann.

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