Is Laiatu Latu Worth The Risk?

April 7th, 2024

UCLA DE Laiatu Latu.

If all things were even and teams primarily were worried about getting after the quarterback, it’s hard to believe UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu would last long after the run on quarterbacks to start this month’s NFL draft.

But, as always, things aren’t that simple. While at the University of Washington, Latu was forced to retire due to a neck injury. Latu found a more lenient (irresponsible?) doctor to give him a green light and Latu resumed his career at UCLA.

There, he became a total beast of a pass rusher. On video, this Latu looks just like a Bosa. Relentless pass rush.

Some believe because of his medical history, teams will be spooked and he will drop in the draft. So Joe wonders, how high is too high to draft Latu, assuming he is cleared by team doctors?

Is No. 26 too high?

That might be something for the Bucs to wrestle with. Emory Hunt of CBS, the Czar of the Playbook, believes Latu is the No. 1 edge rusher in the draft as he pointed out in his “Football Gameplan 2024 Draft Guide.”

– Has a great combination of eyes and hands. His eyes are always on the prize and his hands are the ways he gets there by constantly activating them to get off block after block.
– Relentless player who does a great job on both ends of defense in pursuit. Arguably one of the best in the class in that aspect. A very good athlete with a non-stop motor.
– An underrated POA player who can get physical in the trenches.

Areas of Improvement:
– Despite the sack production, he’s still a very raw pass rusher in terms of signified ways to get there. Can definitely smooth out the rough edges within his game.
– Needs to continue to get stronger, which will help with his balance as a player; as he’s on the ground a lot.

If Latu slipped to No. 26, for the top pass rusher in the draft to fall that far is enough of a red flag for Joe to take pause. If Latu is there when the Bucs pick, well, Joe already is having flashbacks to guitar-strumming, pistol-packing Da’Quan Bowers. He too was a stud pass rusher but fell to the Bucs in the second round due to a bum knee.

We all know how that worked out.

Then again, the Bucs are so bereft of an edge rush, Bucs AC/DC-loving general manager Jason Licht might have to roll the dice.

But here might be a reason why the Bucs don’t draft Latu and it has nothing to do with his neck. Per Sports Information Solutions, a football stats outfit, Latu is not a great run defender.

We all know how much Bucs coach Todd Bowles covets run defense. It’s difficult for Joe to believe Bowles would be OK spending a first-round pick on a defender who isn’t adept at stopping the run.

Yes, to be fair, the Bucs drafted Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in the first round even though he wasn’t known as a run-stopper. But remember, Bowles was not head coach then. It was Bucco Bruce Arians.

Just based on this alone, and not even factoring in Latu’s neck, Joe would be a little surprised if the Bucs drafted Latu even though the Bucs currently are banking on hope (YaYa Diaby) and a prayer (JTS) to put opposing quarterbacks on their arses.

62 Responses to “Is Laiatu Latu Worth The Risk?”

  1. Capt Ahab Says:

    How does Joe know or suggest the doctor that cleared him was irresponsible?

  2. Capt Ahab Says:

    This guy gets to the QB, a great pass rusher. I’d think the Bucs medical staff has looked hard at him.

  3. Beeej Says:

    He had 2 vertebrae in his neck fused, no problems there

  4. MadMax Says:


  5. Sal Says:

    Yes please #!!

  6. LouisFriend Says:

    No risk, no reward. They need guys who have a history of production. Because projection picks with pass rushers who might develop in the pros are much harder to guess on. A guy like Latu is more likely to have a shorter career but a stronger start.

    Here’s a question: Would you rather have a 50% chance of drafting a 10 sack guy who’s ready to go from day 1 but may only last 5 years? – Or a 50% chance you draft a different player with better medicals that won’t make an impact until year 3 but will last 10 seasons?

    I don’t think there’s a right answer, but I think team’s have to answer them one way or the other.

  7. LouisFriend Says:

    By the way Joe, whoever cleared him to return was exposing themselves to a heck of a lawsuit had they committed negligence/malpractice by lying about his capacity to play without further risk. Pretty wild speculation, eh?

  8. Capt Ahab Says:

    The possible irresponsible crack pot doctor that may have given him the green light needs to be vetted. Sure looks like Latu has excellent since the injury.

  9. Joe Says:

    By the way Joe, whoever cleared him to return was exposing themselves to a heck of a lawsuit had they committed negligence/malpractice by lying about his capacity to play without further risk. Pretty wild speculation, eh?

    Happens all the time. All the time. For decades.

  10. Pickgrin Says:

    Latu is for sure the best pass rusher in this draft.

    Short of taking him off their board for medical reasons which I guarantee is not the case – the Bucs would be absolute fools not to draft him at #26.

    There’s little chance that Latu even makes it into the 20s much less #26….

    If the Bucs are dead set on improving their pass rush via the OLB position in the draft this year – then they will use one of those 3rd rd picks to move up to 19 or whatever and get this player.

    Joe – you’ve been screaming for OLB help. This kid is your heaven sent answer if the Bucs can find a way to get him on the roster….

    Latu played every game the last 2 years and his production is eye popping!

    These players get medically evaluated every which way you can imagine and then some at the combine.

    So AFTER all that medical scrutiny – Anyone hear even a peep from any team or through the grapevine that there is any degree of concern about Latu as a medical risk?? Me neither…..

  11. MadMax Says:

    The ligaments settle in after injury and age grows on them. And one wrong hit that reinjures?….good luck with that. Cleared, yeah, for everyday life….not for constant strains on that injury….a 2 year window maybe….just no

  12. Hopein1hand… Says:

    Latu isn’t a risk to die on the field or get paralyzed. He simply has a significant risk of herniating the discs above and/or below his fused vertebrae. I expect him to be gone before the Bucs pick and like Chop Robinson better for the Bucs anyway. He has insane twitch and burst and is darn good when asked to drop in coverage. It’s better to draft for physical gifts with pass rushers rather than players with full repertoires of moves and ability to set the edge in the run game. Robinson is one of the most gifted backfield penetrating prospects in recent memory. He can be taught to finish, hold his edge and use technique to defeat blockers. He and Kancey flashing into the backfield with regularity is fun to think about. Robinson in round one and Edgerrin Cooper in round two would be a riot and change the personality of the defense. Cooper has the speed and instincts to excel in coverage as well as seem to appear out of nowhere in the backfield. I know, I know- interior OL, RB and Davis’s replacement are needs so after drafting for havoc to add to Kancy and Yaya’s the Bucs could draft Rutgers CB Max Melton and Georgia C Van Pran in round 3 then pick-up Coen’s versatile bull of a back from Kentucky Ray Davis in round 4. Greyson Murphy from UCLA is a pass rusher that most are sleeping on that should be available in round five… I call this my mother effin ruckus and a respectable run game mock.

  13. Booger Says:

    Now there‘s a man who LOVES FOOTBALL. Just that alone mixed with this “nonstop motor” of his gives him one heckuva shot at having a very nice long career. Supposedly now there’s a real chance of him still being there at #26. And that’s exactly why I don’t believe he will be. There has been an awful lot of silence concerning him of late while all of his momentum has seemingly cooled. But I’m not buying any of it. I think the silence is intentional. Teams are holding their cards tight while also holding their breath and crossing their fingers hit hopes of stealing him. I would feel better about him if he had put up those numbers in the SEC or BIG10 against THOSE lines. And would feel even better with taking a chance on him at the top of the second round.

  14. Joe in Michigan Says:

    The Bucs and their doctors know more about this guy than MadMax does. We’ll see what the Bucs do in a few weeks.

  15. Pickgrin Says:

    “like Chop Robinson better for the Bucs anyway”
    LOL – I guess your name is the only explanation for a comment like that….

    Chop Robinson – 3 years – 30 games played
    60 Tackles (43 solo) – 20 TFLs – 11.5 sacks – 0 Ints – 3 Passes Defensed – 2 Fumbles Recovered – 3 Forced Fumbles

    Laiatu Latu – 2 years – 25 games played
    85 tackles (51 solo) – 34 TFLs – 23.5 sacks – 2 Ints – 3 passes defensed – 1 Fumble recovered – 5 Forced Fumbles

  16. A Bucs Fan Says:

    Reading about the kind of injury he suffered he has 3x the chance to herniate a disc just walking around with that fusion in his neck during every day activity. That’s before considering him playing a violent high impact sport. It has great potential to limit him on the next level and his ability to be physical/aggressive.

    I’d pass and role the dice on Fiske, Murphy II, Darious Robinson, Chop, Isaac, or even Gabriel Murphy before considering him. Meaning he wouldn’t be on my draft board.

  17. MadMax Says:

    Yo Joe in mich….what up dude….yeah i know nothing. Only experiencing my own injuries with verts and ligaments. Somebody will take a chance on him, he’s still young….but 2 year window like i said, IF THAT!

    No thanks

  18. Capt.Tim Says:


  19. Mika_Sati Says:

    Short answer: Yes

    Long answer: Yeeeeeeeeesssssssss.

    You want to crest Detroit or Philly(again), or SF this year?
    You don’t care about 2026. Latu is the most polished pass rusher, Dejean is the instant best Nickel in this draft, probably on the roster.
    Choose between the “1 drive and a timeout” or the next 5 years Bucs Joe’s. Instant impact is almost NEVER about highest ceiling but highest floor. So pick a narrative. Draft to win now or draft for the future, they’re usually different picks for maximum potential. Evans and Odell.

  20. Joe in Michigan Says:

    MadMax: I doubt your injury is exactly the same as Latu’s, and you probably haven’t seen his medical records. So, we’ll see on Draft night what’s up.

  21. go dawgs Says:

    ahhh Vertebrae, Shmertebrae get your azz on the field and play!!!

  22. Defense Rules Says:

    Joe … ‘Yes, to be fair, the Bucs drafted Joe Tryon-Shoyinka in the first round even though he wasn’t known as a run-stopper. But remember, Bowles was not head coach then. It was Bucco Bruce Arians.’

    Nice job of defending TB by throwing BA under the bus Joe, BUT … JL was the one who drafted JTS. Can’t give him all the credit for the successes, without also crediting him for the misses & the near-misses. And at this point, JTS is simply a near-miss IMO. This is a big year for him professionally, and hopefully he steps up and puts it all together.

  23. Bucs Guy Says:

    Latu – Yes at #26
    Chop – No. He’s another JTS.

    If none of the big 3 pass rushers are available, go C with Barton or JPJ. If they’re also gone, trade back. Kneeland, Isaac and Braswell would all be good Edge picks in the 2nd along with Frazier or Van Pran.

  24. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Defense Rules Says:
    April 7th, 2024 at 6:40 am
    This is a big year for him professionally, and hopefully he steps up and puts it all together.
    It is a big year for JTS, just like last year was big for Devin White. It just seems like something is missing with both of them, the way they seem to have very little instincts, so easily faked out, and overrun plays.

  25. Bucben61 Says:

    No ..and just to add…it’s an offensive league bucs better start investing draft picks on offensive players

    Seems every year we load up the early part of our draft picking defense…help the offense

  26. DS Says:

    Need a offensive playmaker

  27. Scott Says:

    Get 5 pro bowl years and then move on and get a comp pick. Sounds good to me

  28. Doolnutts Says:

    Hopein1hand… I couldn’t disagree with you more… if guys can’t do it in college I don’t want them. Idc what chops measurable are they didn’t show up at the college level. His best year was 4 sacks the odds of him actually doing in the nfl where the worst tackles in the NFL would start at Ohio State day 1 is deeply concerning. Someone will be tricked due to his measurables to take him before round 4 and I hope it’s not us.

  29. Colin in Canada Says:

    Joes, Emory Hunt seems like a good guy but his draft grades and rankings are bizarre.

  30. Marky Mark Says:

    Those Samoan boys are huge and American football is a way off the poor island to a better life.

  31. Boss Says:

    He looks like a natural. The Bucs docs should be all over this …if he’s good to go then heck yes

  32. BelleGladeBuc Says:

    When a sport involves violent contact with another human being or violent contact with the ground then head and neck injuries occur at a much greater rate.

    Football involves repeated physical force to the head and neck of a lineman during practice and games.

    If an Offensive Lineman uses illegal hands to the face with their arm that can one arm press on a Hammer Strength Machine using four plates for 180 pounds for 10 to 15 reps, then just the right hit from that OLineman could cause Latu to reinjure his neck.

    If Latu is on the ground and an Offensive Lineman belly flops on top of Latu’s body as well as hitting his head and neck with his 300 plus pound body, then the force from that could easily reinjure Latu’s neck.

    Both of those examples are common in the trenches during practice and the game.

    Latu is amazingly gifted and would be a top 5 – 10 pick if he didn’t have the neck fusion.

    Because of that he’s too much of a risk to pick in the first round in my opinion.

  33. Buccos Says:

    I don’t think that he will be chosen in the first round. If you can trade up to get him in round 2 then go for it. He really doesn’t fit our defense with his weakness against the run

  34. Greg Says:

    I think he will be drafter by a team less desperate and can afford to roll the dice. The Bucs are NOT that team. Rather we go pass rusher, O-line or trade back, this pick is just waaay to valuable to gamble.

  35. Todd Says:


    What Would Sean Sullivan Do?

    His informed opinion is my Higher Power when it comes to any year’s draft.

    I still don’t understand why Jason Licht doesn’t go for a long test drive with Sean at Bill Curry Ford and get his full download!

  36. Jeffs grandpa Says:

    If it was up to Joe we’d never would of drafted M1K3 instead we would’ve been stuck with Johnny football

  37. Tampa Native Says:

    NO. And i feel for him. His heart Deserves a top Pick. But no

  38. BucsfaninOregon Says:

    ” And at this point, JTS is simply a near-miss IMO. “…Defense rules
    JTS is simply a re-run of D. Bowers. A guy the Bucs promoted as being the next great Edge until he was no longer on the team. He got about as many sacks as I would have. No project, no injury prone for 1st round pick. OL are the easiest position to pick.

  39. Hodad Says:

    With the 26 pick in the draft the Bucs select Adoni Mitchell wide receiver Texas. Licht loves young draftees, Adoni is only 21 years old. He’s a single father who transferred to Texas to be closer to his daughter. Grounded young man who is mature beyond his years. Licht raved about that when he drafted Godwin. Speaking of which is on his last year of his contract. Evans 31 is only signed for two years. Coen runs 11 personal 95% of the time, that’s three wides. Mitchell checks all the boxes, size, speed, and most important, production. This kid will do more to win games then any edge rusher we could draft. He’s as can’t miss pick of a pick you could take at 26. If he’s still on the board the Bucs would be fools to pass on this talented skill position pick over any IOL, or edge available.

  40. Hopein1hand… Says:

    Another Penn State LB by the name of Micah Parsons had a whopping 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 6 fumble recoveries and 99 tackles in his collegiate career. I too like to see production but it’s Latu’s neck that has him off my board. Additionally I like that the Bucs could trade back and still land Robinson. Everyone has their own draft philosophy. Scheme and coaching bear on stats. Physical gifts are somewhat represented by metrics like RAS and the three cone time but the best measure of a prospect’s potential is their tape. Latu is no bum and Robinson isn’t Lawrence Taylor but there are upgrades at center in rounds three and four and a dominant pass rusher trumps a dominant center no matter what level of the game we’re talking about.

  41. KnoxvilleBuc Says:

    Absolutely take that risk and the comparison to Bowers is something I’ve considered as well but Bowers always had the reputation as someone who was extremely gifted but not all in work ethic wise. Everything about Latu seems to be positive and he brings it everyday which is something we need in the OLB room. Too high of a ceiling not to take a chance on. As for his ability to get to the QB we don’t have a man on the roster that can bend around the edge like Latu can. Diaby and him could make a hell of a duo.

  42. DS Says:

    Would love Mitchell or Brian Thomas at 26

  43. SenileSenior Says:

    If we think we get the generational center go for it. Otherwise OG or DE or even WR is good. BPA in other words.

  44. PSL Bob Says:

    If he’s there, we grab him. Doubt he will be there at #26 though.

  45. Havingfitz Says:

    No thanks. Pass.

  46. Steven007 Says:

    Generational centers generally reveal themselves over time, not as a result of being drafted in the first round. This has been proved many times over. Best player available at 26 at a position of need. Not that hard. Maybe that’s a center. Likely not.

  47. Steven007 Says:

    * proven

  48. Tampa Native Says:


  49. Gipper Says:

    If it must be EDGE, it has to be Latu. If not Latu, seriously work on Center and OG, and TE who can block.

  50. Joe Says:

    Joe – you’ve been screaming for OLB help. This kid is your heaven sent

    Heaven sent ***IF*** he didn’t have an effed up neck. That spooks Joe.

    Dude looks like a Bosa.

  51. Joe Says:

    Another Penn State LB by the name of Micah Parsons had a whopping 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 6 fumble recoveries and 99 tackles in his collegiate career.

    Any Penn State guy has an automatic out.

    He played for James Franklin.

  52. Joe Says:

    Nice job of defending TB by throwing BA under the bus Joe

    Twisting facts again, eh? So a simple fact is “throwing a guy under the bus?” BULLSH!T!!!

    THIS is what is wrong with our country. People take facts like some personal attack and cry their feelings are hurt.

  53. Buc1987 Says:

    lol@Joe above. You’re right.

    Latu is going to be gone by 26 it will require that 3rd rounder to move up.

  54. adam from ny Says:

    neck fuse or simply confused…..he’s worth the risk…


    because the entire draft top to bottom is one big risk…

    half or more of the entire draft is busts…

    actually…….it would be interesting if someone did a study on the % of guys drafted #1 thru mister irrelevant, on who were draft busts…i wonder what the percentage would be, say from the year 2000 going forward…or the last 20 or 25 years…

    it could be like half the guys or more… so it’s really just a roll of the dice if a player fits well in the pro game

  55. RustyRhinos Says:

    “Happens all the time. All the time. For decades.”

    Are you talking about the Bucs draft of busts at DE, with medical histories?

  56. RustyRhinos Says:

    How many “GM LICHT, WHY DID YOU DRAFT this guy at #?” on JBF if this guy is injured his first season? Or is that the “plan”?

    The Bucs do not need a {what is that word the Joes don’t like}
    that proverbial “Hope” word. We will be ” Hoping” he does not get injured, “Hoping” he plays like he did in college? Slippery slope there Joes. I want Licht to draft the best Center or Guard, DT available at 26. In that order DE, LB, CB, S after we get a C a G a DT. Just not as many top DE in this draft. I would pass on Latu. Just to many RED “hope” FLAGS to me.


  57. adam from ny Says:

    nothing is certain…

    remember our good young linebacker kendall beckwith, a few years back who got in a car accident and hurt his leg or foot and never played again…?

    remember our good young o-lineman arron sears who went mentally ill and could no longer play…?

    remember alan zemaitis lol…

    remember tanard jackson, sabby, arron sears and gains adams – the 2007 draft……..yowzers

    remember myron lewis and the arrelious bennd around…yikes!

    remember daquan bowers…oh boy

    remember doug martin and josh freeman….(puff puff pass)

    remember glennon, seferian-jenkins…good gawd!

    remember one kenny bell 🙂

    remember aguayo and har-grievance….jeepers!

    remember oj and justin evans…dang shame

    remember mj stewert and matt gay………oye

    remember sneak vaughn and jaelon darden….defcon 4…

    and without a doubt at this point, logan hall is looking like he is the potential draft bust for 2022…otherwise a pretty good group from 2022

  58. adam from ny Says:

    but most of all remember our receiver and return man dexter jackson from appalachian state, who seemingly was scared of contact in a contact sport…

    so the draft is a gamble

  59. Proudbucsfan Says:

    I personally want JL to draft Brian Thomas Jr LSU at #26, if he is still there. This is not the year to draft edge rushers high. Later rounds maybe and we should definitely wait until at least the 3rd round to get a center, our chances of finding a gem is better. I read that Brian Thomas Jr really loves football and is a student of the game and that he is an extremely hard worker. That screams Buccaneer to me. Those are the type of players JL looks for. LSU has recently been pumping out great pro receivers.

  60. Shane Callahan Says:

    You would have to assume that the Washington medical staff are clueless to spend millions of dollars on this guy. I’d do tons of research on this staff and this guy’s neck before I risked it. None of us can do this, but I’m sure the Bucs can. Good luck!

  61. Shane Callahan Says:

    This kid looks like a stud, but any damage to the spine is no joke. Any time these fast giants run into each other, it’s like a car wreck to us normal-sized people. I think it’s a big risk, but I’m also not a doctor???

  62. Statguy Says:

    Cant base your draft after a pick 13 years ago under another staff that was oft injured. Also 4-3 DEs bust out at a much higher rate than stand up 3-4 edge rushers