RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Drafted: Fourth round, No. 131
Selecting running back Marcus Lattimore was a real quality draft pick for the Niners. You might be thinking the 49ers have enough RB’s on the roster to get them through next season. You are right, but selecting Lattimore is a pick for the future.
We all know Jim Harbaugh loves sitting his rookies to groom them until they are fully ready to be unleashed on the NFL. That will be the case with Lattimore as he is still rehabilitating from a devasting right knee injury he suffered last season and will likely not be ready by the time training camp starts. As he recovers he will be an understudy to Frank Gore, who like Lattimore, suffered a similar knee injury in college that put his NFL future in jeopardy. But just like Gore, Lattimore will fully recover and hopefully be just as productive as his mentor.
Harbaugh on Lattimore:
If he doesn’t play this year, he doesn’t play this year. But I think if there’s anyone who can overcome what he’s been through, it’s him.
Lattimore is a real talented running back that was available in the middle of the draft. The reason for him slipping in the draft was a lot of teams could not afford to have a project on their hands with a player who may not be ready until the 2014 season.
STRENGTHS – While clearly not at full speed coming off his 2011 knee injury early this past season, Lattimore clearly possesses an outstanding burst out of his initial cut and very capable of getting into space before defenses are able to close off gaps. He is an aggressive, physical runner that does an excellent job of absorbing big hits and maintaining his balance and forward momentum. As a receiver out of the backfield he demonstrates natural hands and an ability to consistently find open zones in the defense where he can present himself as an easy target for his QB. He is an outstanding blocker, as he is quick to diagnose and attack the free man, and can sustain blocks with good punch and base as well as time cut blocks appropriately to take his man out at the thighs.
WEAKNESSES – Lattimore tore his left ACL in October of 2011 and on October 28th of 2012, injured the same knee (reportedly dislocating his kneecap). He is high cut which limits his ability to change directions fluidly, and must add bulk to his lower body, which appears thin “on the hoof.” He is not an elusive runner in space, which further leaves him exposed to heavy hits. At times he runs with the ball exposed, leaving him susceptible to fumbling.
SUMMARY – Marcus Lattimore will be one of the more hotly debated prospects in NFL War Rooms this year, as his talent is very apparent when on the field, but two straight years of major knee injuries bring into serious question his long term viability. While he flashes just average change of direction, he is very aggressive running downhill and is able to consistently power through the initial tackler for extra yards, and brings the same aggressiveness when he has the ball in his hands as a receiver out of the backfield. He is also a skilled blocker that consistently diagnoses blitzes correctly and is aggressive meeting his target in the hole. Because of his one-cut burst he best fits in a zone blocking system like Washington’s but considering his physical running style, his lack of elusiveness and his extensive injury history, he may continue to struggle with injuries at the next level.
Click here to see the 49ers 2013 draft grades for rounds 1-5.