Shockingly, fans seem to agree on 1 of 2 players as top choice for Rams Draft at 19

2013 NFL Draft, Roger Goodell
2013 NFL Draft, Roger Goodell / Al Bello/GettyImages
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UCLA Edge may drop into team's lap

While the LA Rams front office may see the rise of defensive back Quinyon Mitchell as a good thing, elevating the young man's value above and perhaps beyond the reach of the team holding the 19th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the next of two candidates that the team may be considering is that of a falling star at the edge position.

UCLA's edge rusher Laiatu Latu is unarguably the fiercest edge rusher in the 2024 NFL Draft. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing a burly 261 pounds, he very much looks the part of a quarterback's worst nightmare. So what business do the Rams have sitting in the middle of Round 1 salivating over the top pass rusher in the class?

It's the dreaded spectre of medical history. Latu suffered a significant neck injury while playing for the University of Washington, an injury that was so significant that he medically retired from football in 2020. He subsequently transferred to UCLA, was medically cleared to play, and the rest is history.

The passion to play the game is as strong as the Force is in Luke Skywalker, but can he deliver on a football field?

NFL Draft Buzz profile. UCLA. Laiatu Latu. 51. Edge rusher. player. OLB Laiatu Latu Draft profile. PFN Draft profile. Laiatu Latu. 19

You bet he can. Even in the midst of the 2023 NCAA season, Latu was already turning heads and being praised as the best pure pass rushing in the 2024 NFL Draft:

But will he fall to the Rams at 19? That is the multi-million dollar quest, right? After all, while he is a very compelling investment in Round 1, will teams agree to accept medical risks on a player whose injury-history in a very physical game could shorten his NFL career significantly?

When facing a decision point like this in the past, NFL GMs have typically gone the safer route. Injury risk, whatever the probability, can derail plans of success instantly and irrevocably. The 2024 NFL Draft has a plethora of talented prospects who all make complete sense to select in Round 1. So why would the Rams consider doing so?

Well, in this universe, proximity does play a significant role in familiarity with college football players who hope to advance to the NFL. Even without trying to do so, UCLA players are recognized and known by Rams and Chargers personnel, simply due to local coverage and casual conversations. So what did the Rams staff learn about Latu?

For starters, he possesses a complete set of refined pass rush moves that allow him to win on the point of contact out of sheer variety. And his ability to move in virtually any direction allows him to juke offensive linemen out of position and off balance. Perhaps best of all, he does have the ability to drop into coverage as well, and showcases solid football instincts.

One or the other. Which one will it be? For many fans, simply a situation with both players appearing on the draft board when the Rams do step up to the podium is a small victory unto itself. And either way, the Rams can be confident in landing a starter for years to come.