Based on talent, running back Marcus Lattimore should have been a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. But devastating injuries to his left knee in 2011 and his right knee in 2012 made it possible he would go undrafted, until the San Francisco 49ers took him in the fourth round (131st overall). He was cleared to practice in November, but the 49ers played it smartly by not activating Lattimore and his rookie season effectively became a redshirt year.
All indications are Lattimore will be ready for OTAs in April, and he said he feels close to 100 percent healthy earlier this week. Should fantasy football owners have the South Carolina product on their radar for next season?
San Francisco has a clear-cut No. 1 running back right now in Frank Gore, but he will turn 31 in May and will likely reach 2,200 career carries in Week 1 of next season. He still averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2013, but it would make sense for the 49ers to look to reduce Gore’s workload as he enters the age where the decline for running backs can come quickly.
Lattimore and Kendall Hunter look like the top two candidates to be Gore’s primary backup next season right now, though LaMichael James could enter the mix if he is not traded or released. In any case, Lattimore’s ability to stay healthy will surely be a big factor in how things shake out.
Lattimore is worth owning in deep dynasty leagues, but his injury history and uncertain future keeps him from being a top option in that format, and it goes without saying he will not be draftable in single-season leagues this summer. But if Lattimore can stay healthy and be effective, even in what will be far less than a workhorse role, he could make big strides toward securing a more prominent role for 2015.