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Broncos select UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft

In his first mock draft of the year, ESPN’s draft analyst Mel Kiper has the Broncos selecting UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu.

UCLA v USC Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

ESPN’s draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has released his first mock draft of the year and has the Broncos upgrading their defense. In his first mock of the year, he has the Broncos selecting UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu to improve their pass rush.

Kiper notes that he believes Latu can become a 10-sack per season player for the Broncos and would be a boost to the Broncos pass rush and defense overall.

I love Latu’s ability to bend the edge and get after the quarterback. He’s a toolsy pass-rusher who has a variety of moves and always has a plan of attack. He ranked second in the FBS in total pressures (57) and pressure rate (20.4%) this past season, and he ranked first in the same categories in 2022 (55 pressures, 19.1% pressure rate). And I did mention he had 23.5 sacks in that time frame? Those are two seasons of phenomenal production. The questions with Latu will come at the NFL Combine in a few weeks , as he medically retired from football because of a neck injury when he was at Washington in 2021. He was cleared to play for the Bruins , but what will his medical checkups show?

For Denver, Adding Latu would be a boost to a pass rush that was just OK last season. The Broncos tied for 21st with 42 sacks, but overall they ranked 30th in yards per play allowed (5.8) and 32nd in yards per carry allowed (5.0). Latu has the potential to become a 10-sack per-season defender.

Latu is a 6’4, 260-pound edge rusher who is coming off a very productive two years at UCLA. He has good bend, good explosion off the edge and he is NFL-ready because of the amount of pass-rush moves he currently has. However, his medicals will be key because if there are red flags there, he will likely drop a good bit in the draft. As Kiper noted, he was medically retired from football at Washington in 2021 but then went on to be one of the nation's top edge rushers the following two years at UCLA. So, how these all shake out at the combine will determine his draft stock moving forward.

As for the need, edge rusher is one of the Broncos' biggest needs on the roster. Sure, the quarterback will, and rightfully so be the number one need and talking point all offseason but they have needs up and down that roster. They have a group of edge rushers who do good things but none are the total package or a difference maker. Getting a player who can consistently get after the quarterback and be an issue for defenses each week is a big need for the Broncos. Latu has the potential to be that sort of player for the Broncos moving forward.


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