Packers Land 'Best Pure Edge Rusher' in Mel Kiper's Latest Mock Draft

The Green Bay Packers could look to add to their defense in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft.
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The Green Bay Packers are one of the few teams in the latter half of the first round in the 2024 NFL Draft that could use their first pick to address the defense. 

Green Bay has done a tremendous job over the last two seasons, allocating draft capital on the offense, which paid huge dividends this past season. However, it’s time for the Packers to add some more young playmakers to the defense at all three levels as they look to compete in an interesting NFC North division.

Last year, the Packers used their first-round pick at No. 13 overall to bolster their defensive line, selecting Lukas Van Ness. Ness didn’t have a huge role last season, but he still had 32 combined tackles, 10 quarterback hits, eight tackles for loss, and four sacks.

With that in mind, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. unveiled the third version of his 2024 NFL mock draft on Tuesday (subscription required), which includes a few surprising picks. When it came to the Packers, Kiper has them landing former UCLA outside linebacker/EDGE rusher Laiatu Latu.

Latu has been consistently mocked in the 20s in multiple drafts despite being one of the best pass rushers in the class. In his breakdown, Kiper wrote that Green Bay could be one of those teams who could draft an offensive tackle at No. 24 overall.

However, he believes Latu is the “best pure edge rusher” in this year’s class and has “elite pass-rushing skills” that might be too hard for Green Bay to pass up. Latu had an outstanding final season at UCLA, recording 49 combined tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, and two interceptions.

Latu had 111 quarterback pressures and 23.5 sacks in his two seasons at UCLA after medically retiring from football in 2021 because of a neck injury at the University of Washington. 

If teams aren’t worried about Latu’s medicals, he could hit the ground running next season and be an instant factor as a rookie. Heading into this coming season, Green Bay has Rashan Gary and Preston Smith off the edge. Smith is coming off another productive year in 2023, but he’s 31, and the Packers need to plan for the future.

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