PFF ranks Colts Laiatu Latu as Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite

Pro Football Focus ranked it’s top Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates following the 2024 NFL draft. At the top of the list on the defensive side of the ball was Colts’ defensive end Laiatu Latu.

The two key factors that PFF looked at when putting this list together was what they know about the player from his time in college and the situation they landed in.

Here is what PFF had to say about Latu and why he was at the top of the list on defense:

“Latu was the first defensive player off the board this year after his dominant 2023 season at UCLA. He earned a 94.3 PFF pass-rush grade, winning 26.2% of his pass-rush reps last season. It will be tough for him to replicate that in the NFL, with Will Anderson Jr. winning the award in 2023 after winning 17.4% of his pass-rush reps for the Texans. That’s the target for Latu to be a front-runner for the award.”

Latu comes to the NFL after being one of the most dominant pass rushers in college football for the last two seasons.

In 2022, Latu’s 64 pressures were the fourth-most among edge rushers, while in 2023, his 62 pressures ranked as the fifth-most. Latu would also have the highest pass-rush win rate this past season as well.

But going beyond the impressive production that Latu had, how he won those pass rush reps are a good indicator of the immediate impact he can have, potentially resulting in a push for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Following the draft, Colts’ GM Chris Ballard would call Latu a “polished” player. While other members of the Colts’ organization would note Latu’s high motor and array of pass rush moves he already utilizes.

“I think he’s going to produce pretty quickly as a rusher, I think he knows how to rush,” Ballard said. “Now of course, there’s going to be an adjustment period as there is with any rookie rusher and he’s pretty polished. This guy is a pretty polished product in terms of rushing.

“Of course, you’re going to have to learn especially against the tackles who are so good in our league and the protection schemes are so good. So, that will be an adjustment for him. But, smart kid – he’ll figure it out.”

Latu joins a Colts’ defensive front that ranked fifth in sacks last season. Having disruptive players like DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Kwity Paye, Samson Ebukam, and Dayo Odeyingbo next to Latu will help take some of the attention off of him as well.

With that said, despite the sack numbers, this is a group that has to get after the quarterback more consistently in 2024 if they hope to duplicate that level of production after ranking 22nd in pressure rate last season.

Along with Latu on PFF’s list were edge rusher Jared Verse, cornerback Quinyon Mitchell, and edge rusher Dallas Turner.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire