2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Alabama TE Cameron Latu

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Alabama TE Cameron Latu.

#81 Cameron Latu, TE, Alabama (rSR) – 6040, 242LBS

Senior Bowl / NFL Combine

Measurements

Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Cameron Latu 6’4 242lbs 9 1/2 32 3/8 79 1/8
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone  
4.78 N/A 4.32 7.31   
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press    
N/A 32.5  14    

The Good

Willing to stick his nose in as an in-line blocker
Has solid hand placement in his blocks with a decent punch
Versatile in usage, possessing the size to line up everywhere from H-Back to the slot
Consistently uses his hands to haul in passes
Runs his routes tightly, careful not to round off or be out of rhythm on timing routes

The Bad

Only three years of experience at the position
Struggles with concentration drops
Struggles to break away from contact in man coverage
Slight lower frame, doesn’t create much leg drive as a blocker
Doesn’t create many opportunities after the catch

Bio

Birthday: February 24, 2000 (23 years old)
Four-star prospect out of high school in Utah
Originally signed with Alabama as an edge linebacker in 2018 before redshirting and converting to tight end in 2019
Broke Irv Smith’s single-season touchdown record for tight ends at Alabama with 8 in 2021
Attended the second annual TEU Summit alongside Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Michigan’s Erick All through an NIL deal with Levi in partnership with 49ers TE George Kittle
Career Stats: 56 receptions for 787 yards and 12 touchdowns – 38 career games at tight end

Tape Breakdown

The 2022 season was supposed to serve as a breakout for Cameron Latu, even if it was just his third season playing tight end. A training camp knee injury only caused him to miss one game, but nonetheless seemed to have hampered his progression enough to see a dip in production and notoriety.

While Latu is short on experience, he did take to the position quite naturally. He showed tremendous work ethic behind the scenes to win the starting tight end job in 2021, one that was expected to go easily to Jahleel Billingsly, who has since become an afterthought in this draft class after a disappointing stint at Texas. Even while breaking Irv Smith’s single-season tight end touchdown record, Latu struggled to show that he was a dynamic piece in Alabama’s offense in either of his two seasons.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t show promise of being a serviceable option with intriguing potential at the next level. Despite Alabama being a more pass-happy team in recent years, Latu was a sound blocker who was at the very least willing to stick his facemask on a chest.

In this first clip against Texas you can see Latu motion back into the H-Back position and wham across the play to put a good lick on the edge defender. Jahmyr Gibbs bounces the play on the backside, but it shows off the punch and grit that Latu brings as a blocker.

Still, Latu’s willingness doesn’t always translate to success. As an in-line blocker, his slight lower frame makes it difficult for him to generate a push while his upper half struggles to turn defenders away from the play. Here’s an example of Latu stalemating a defender only to relinquish the tackle near the line of scrimmage.

He also struggles to reach defenders in space. He’s either not aggressive enough, buzzing his feet and taking too long to measure his blocking assignment, or he’s overly aggressive and gets his head in front of his feet and whiffs entirely. In this next clip, Latu is overly aggressive and misses his assignment, allowing his target to break down this screen play near the line of scrimmage.

His biggest struggle is getting open. He doesn’t leverage his body well to break tight-man coverage and he’s not quite athletic enough to be relied upon to win very many jump ball situations against larger defensive backs. In the next clip against LSU, the pass and attempted reception aren’t the key. Instead, it’s how Latu struggles to create any separation from the Tigers defensive back, giving his quarterback little opportunity to squeeze the pass in.

That’s not to say Latu doesn’t show some promise. He wins matchups he should win. Against Tennessee, he made life rough on the Volunteers linebackers in man coverage. This reception over Jeremy Banks shows off Latu’s hands quite well as he secures the pass away from his body and retains possession through contact.

Latu is at his best on timing routes against zone coverage. That’s not the most dynamic thing to write about a tight end, I know, but Latu is a reliable safety valve who takes what is given. Here against LSU, he shows that he can stay on schedule, running the quick dump-off route and hauling in the pass for an easy first down with a display of toughness across the line to gain.

One more clip against LSU, and this time he sneaks in behind the zone coverage and the Tigers lose him entirely. Latu runs a crisp route here, ripping through the defender to get free before he looks the ball in with his hands around the referee and heads upfield.

One thing that didn’t show up quite as much in the three games I watched was his concentration drops, though as a former Alabama analyst, I can assure you Latu dropped a lot of passes, and often times they came in the red zone. They’re concentration drops because it’s obvious he has great hands otherwise. Leaning in his favor is he has a short memory and can quickly rebound from these occasions. The best example came against Tennessee. Latu drops the first pass designed for him before hauling in the scramble-drill touchdown on the very next play.

Conclusion

Latu has a fun story and he’s a hard worker. Unfortunately, he’s fairly average at everything he’s been asked to do up to this point as a tight end. His size profile is average, his hands are great until they aren’t, his route running is solid until he’s matched up with a competent man-coverage defender and his blocking is below the line in execution despite toughness and effort.

The positive outlook is that he’s got plenty of potential to develop into a solid player, most likely as an H-Back with short-yardage routes who will give everything he has as a special teamer. The negative outlook is that he lacks any traits that suggest he can be more than a solid number two in-line tight end. 

The Steelers may draft a tight end, but I have a hard time seeing Latu as an option as his traits don’t adequately compete with either Connor Heyward or Zach Gentry and what they provide. If he were to wear black and gold, maybe that makes Heyward more of a true H-Back/fullback hybrid, but then it’s hard to see Latu doing anything except cover kicks and punts as he develops. Not unreasonable options, but the limited late capital the Steelers possess is better spent elsewhere.

Projection: 5th Round

Depot Draft Grade: 7.0 – 5th Round (Backup/Special Teamer)

Games Watched: Texas ‘22, LSU ‘22, Tennessee ‘22

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