NFL Draft Position Betting: Will Laiatu Latu Be Chosen Before the 17th Overall Pick?

Gabriel Santiago
Gabriel Santiago@gps_onthemic
NFL Draft Position Betting: Will Laiatu Latu Be Chosen Before the 17th Overall Pick?

The opening round of the 2024 NFL Draft -- hosted in Detroit, MI -- will have no shortage of offensive players selected, but there are a few defenders that we can count on going relatively early.

He probably won't be the first drafted player on D this year, but I would not expect UCLA Bruins edge rusher Laiatu Latu to remain on the board very long. He was named to the All-Pac-12 First team in each of the past two seasons, and brings skills that any football team can appreciate.

FanDuel Sportsbook has you covered with various NFL Draft odds, and in particular, player draft-position over/unders. For Latu, FanDuel lists a position total of 16.5. Based upon that, the 2023 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year should be in high demand.

With the draft starting this Thursday (April 25th), let's take a look at both sides of this market for Latu -- will he be drafted before or after the 17th overall selection?

NFL Draft Odds

Laiatu Latu Draft Position Over/Under

Why Laiatu Latu Could Go Before Pick 16.5 (+152)

Off the bat, Latu has potential to be one of the most impactful defenders from this draft class. With just two days left until the big day, Latu yields +175 odds to be a top-10 selection. Incidentally, his payback is slightly shorter (+152 odds) to come off the board prior to pick No. 17.

A native of Northern California, Latu commenced his collegiate career as a member of the Washington Huskies before transferring back to the Golden State. Upon arriving in Westwood, Latu transitioned into a certified gamewrecker.

Through two seasons as a Bruin, Latu instilled nightmares within opposing Pac-12 offensive coordinators. The 6-foot-5 pass rusher plays with both speed and strength, creating mismatches across the board. In 2023, his 13 sacks paced the conference. Latu also displayed dynamic ball skills by nabbing two interceptions and forcing two fumbles last year.

NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein sees similarities between Latu and former AP Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, citing brutish strength, high-end techniques and a relentless motor. Along with Alabama's Dallas Turner and Florida State's Jared Verse, Latu will be one of the most in-demand pass rushers for 2024.

The initial picks of this draft will give way to myriad offensive players, but there are some teams in the top 10 with needs on defense. According to Pro Football Focus' latest mock draft, the Atlanta Falcons will select Latu with the eighth overall pick. Latu could be a cohesive fit for Atlanta, as the Falcons' recent acquisition of quarterback Kirk Cousins (along with a coaching change) signifies an "all-in" mentality.

Any team that takes Latu will be getting a instant contributor; FanDuel Sportsbook has him listed as the favorite (seven-to-one odds) to win the 2024-25 AP NFL DROY. Still, the draft-position market says it is more likely that Latu gets chosen after pick No. 16.

Why Laiatu Latu Could Go After Pick 16.5 (-205)

Undoubtedly, Latu has great potential to thrive on Sundays. Still, it would not be surprising if he falls out of the top 15 and into the 20s.

Latu will certainly come off the board on Thursday as opposed to Friday or Saturday, but if he does slide at all, it will be for one of two reasons: prior injury history and a competitive edge-rusher pool.

After a solid freshman year at Washington, Latu suffered a substantial neck injury prior to his sophomore season. UDub medical personnel recommended retirement from football, but Latu elected on having a cervical fusion procedure -- he went on to produce 23.5 total sacks and 34.0 TFL for UCLA.

Whether prospective NFL organizations are deterred by Latu's broken neck from 2020 or not, his recovery and subsequent on-field performance have been astounding. Latu claims that interested teams have expressed no consternations about the injury. Still, it is the elephant in his room.

Latu is a world-class defender, but of teams in need, some could prefer a more athletic selection. As noted, Dallas Turner and Jared Verse are also in this draft class.

Both Turner (4.46 seconds) and Verse (4.58) ran faster 40-yard dashes at the 2024 NFL Combine compared to Latu (4.64). Turner's vertical leap of 40.5 inches largely cleared Latu's at 32 inches. From there, Verse chucked up 31 bench-press reps to lead all edge rushers while Latu was a DNP for the exercise.

Looking at current demand, there is a strong chance that the first six or seven selections of this draft are reserved for players on offense. For Latu's draft-total market, that leaves under bettors here with a narrow window between picks No. 8 and 16. According to draft analyst Bucky Brooks, Turner (eighth to the Falcons), Verse (12th to the Denver Broncos), and Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell (15th to the Indianapolis Colts) will be the only defenders taken within that range.

For reference, the team currently in possession of the 16th overall pick is the Seattle Seahawks, but Brooks has Latu falling all the way to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 26th. Tampa would be incredibly lucky if this scenario comes to fruition; Latu would be a natural fit in the Bucs' fierce defensive front.

Naturally, FanDuel Sportsbook offers odds for which on-field position specific franchises will be taking with their first pick. Of those 24 available draft markets, only four teams have "defensive lineman/EDGE" listed as the favorite: Denver (12th), Tampa Bay (26th), the Houston Texans (42nd) and Cleveland Browns (54th).

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.