While Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch earned much of the buzz in the preseason for the Bulls, once the season began it was obvious that Lattimore was the best player on the team - just as he had been throughout much of his career. Lattimore was a highly productive player for the Bulls, starting 48 of a possible 49 career games after redshirting in 2009, and finished second in team history with 337 tackles (213 of which were solos). He also ranked second in forced fumbles (6), seventh in sacks (15) and 10th in tackles for loss (32.5). He was named team captain and MVP in 2013 after posting a career-high 98 tackles and four forced fumbles in 12 games. Lattimore isn't a special athlete, but gives you a little bit of everything you look for in an NFL-caliber linebacker - toughness, instincts, versatility and strong fundamentals. With the NFL increasingly shifting toward the pass, a hardnosed run-stuffing inside linebackers like Lattimore won't earn a high selection, but he possesses the grit and physicality to earn a roster spot.
STRENGTHS: A thick, compact and muscular athlete, Lattimore exhibits big-time first step explosiveness, agility and space, and plays with ideal aggression and physicality for the position. When lined up on the outside, he displays fluidity in space, and can be an absolute menace blitzing off the edge with his ability to get low around the corner, and close in a hurry. From the inside, he shows good diagnostics against the run and takes good angles to the football. In coverage, he displays good recognition and an ability to track receiver movement while maintaining an eye on the backfield, and looks plenty quick in the hips when asked to flip and run.WEAKNESSES: Split time between inside and weak-side linebacker at USF, but does not appear to have the straight-line speed to handle coverage duties in the NFL. Can be too aggressive, leaving himself vulnerable to play-action. Doesn't possess ideal arm-length or size for the position and as a result struggles to get off blocks once engaged. Relies on his instincts to beat blockers to the action or his tenacity to overcome them, which may not be enough in the NFL. COMPARES TO: Tim Dobbins, Houston Texans - Dobbins bounced around with the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins before latching on with Houston. His journeyman status after a terrific career at Iowa State serves as an example of how the NFL is evolving away from gritty run stuffing inside linebackers and instead searching for more hybrid defenders. Lattimore could find a niche, but to stick he can't rest on his laurels. --Derek Stephens, Rob Rang (2/4/14)
01/13/2014 - 2014 SHRINE GAME: TOP-10 PROSPECTS TO WATCH: 9. ILB DeDe Lattimore, South Florida (6-0, 237, 4.83, #34)...One of the top middle linebacker prospects in the draft, Lattimore led South Florida in tackles this past season and his competitive motor shows on tape. He needs to improve his awareness to be in better position to make plays, but he is physical at the point of attack and fills hard against the run. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com