NFL News & Analysis

2024 NFL Draft: Highest-graded edge defender in every category

2MA0M8E UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu (15) watches the ball during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. UCLA won 50-36. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

UCLA’s Laiatu Latu dominates a multitude of facets: The elite edge rusher stands atop the class for good reason, capturing five of the nine facet grades on this list, including PFF’s most stable pass rushing metric: pass rush grade against true pass sets.

Colorado State’s Mohamed Kamara made waves in crucial situations: Late-downs and red zone situations are vital to defensive success, ones in which Kamara excelled capturing the top marks in both facet grades among edge rushing prospects.

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The 2024 NFL Draft season is well underway, with the NFL scouting combine and individual pro days in the rearview.

Every player brings a unique skill set to the table. We’re breaking down the draft class’ best players in each and every facet for every position to get a more informed view of the NFL hopefuls.

Here are PFF’s highest-graded edge prospects at each key grading facet in the 2024 NFL Draft:

True pass rush grade: Laiatu Latu, UCLA: 95.4

PFF’s top ranked edge prospect showcases lethal hands that strike with speed and precision mixed with an array of pass-rush moves that make him a nightmare matchup on true pass sets. Latu racked up over 26 pressures, including eight sacks, for a phenomenal 40.5% pass-rush win rate, the highest among edge prospects in this year’s class.

No play-action pass-rush grade: Laiatu Latu, UCLA: 94.6

Latu managed to capture the top spot in both of PFF’s most stable pass-rushing metrics with the first two facet grades on this list. The UCLA product possesses a plethora of pass-rush moves made even more effective when Latu was left unburdened with sifting through run action. Latu cemented a class-leading 23.9% pressure rate, racking up 58 total pressures, including 13 sacks. 

Early-down pass-rush grade: Laiatu Latu, UCLA: 94.2

Keeping offenses off schedule with effective pass-rush on first and second downs is an increasingly more important facet in the modern NFL. The former Bruin was supremely effective in that regard, where he compiled a 13.6 pass block efficiency rate, tallying a class-leading 18 knockdowns, 11 of which went for sacks.  

Click here to see Laiatu Latu's 2024 NFL Draft profile!

Late-down pass-rush grade: Mohamed Kamara, Colorado State: 90.8

Kamara uses his natural leverage advantage to win with power, a trait he flashed frequently on late-downs. On third and fourth downs, the former Ram produced 25 total pressures, five of which resulted in a sack, on just over 100 late-down snaps. That effort amounted to an incredible 27.2% pass-rush win rate. 

Red zone pass-rush grade: Mohamed Kamara, Colorado State: 90.9

The Mountain West defensive player of the year finished as the only edge rusher in the class to secure a 90.0-plus pass-rushing grade in the red zone. Kamara produced six pass rush wins, including a pair of destructive sacks, one of which resulted in a forced fumble on fourth down.  

Pass-rush grade with three or fewer rushers: Laiatu Latu, UCLA: 92.6

Even at a numbers disadvantage, Latu generates pressure at a phenomenal clip, totaling an impressive 38.6% pressure rate with three or fewer pass-rushers on the field. The PFF All-American excelled when put into simulated pressure packages that matched him up with interior blockers where he could use his agility to dismantle guards and centers.  

Early-down run-defense grade: Justin Eboigbe, Alabama: 86.1

The Alabama edge rusher profiles as a strong run defender able to anchor well at the point of attack and absorb double teams without surrendering significant ground. That especially shined on early downs, where Eboigbe amassed 24 run stops, seven of which went for a loss or no gain. He’s one of just six edge prospects to surpass a 20% positively-graded run percentage, yet he is the only prospect to also produce a sub-6% negatively-grade play rate on first and second down..  

Late-down run-defense grade: Nelson Ceaser, Houston: 82.3

Ceaser profiles well as a late-down rotational edge defender at the next level due to his understanding and use of leverage, particularly in the run game. The former Cougar racked up five run stops of third and fourth down to pair with a phenomenal 20.4% positively graded play rate compared to just 2% on the negative side. 

Red zone run-defense grade: Laiatu Latu, UCLA: 88.9

The Pac-12's Defensive Player of the Year always has eyes on the backfield and the awareness to sift through the noise to find ball carriers, a trait that's proven invaluable when backed up in the red zone. With opposing offenses pressing inside the 20-yard line, Latu produced a 26.9% positively graded play rate, including an incredible touchdown-saving forced fumble at the goal line in Week 2. 


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