With the announcement today that Marcus Lattimore will declare for the NFL Draft, the running back’s focus will now continue on his rehabilitation. A process that will certainly be an uphill climb. Lattimore had a gruesome knee injury late in October in a game against the Tennessee Volunteers where he suffered extensive ligament damage in his right knee.
While the injury may be severe, Lattimore made the right call by entering the draft. NFL scouts know what he is capable of when healthy already, and trying to comeback and play another college season could damage his draft stock even more. His raw skill set will definitely be enough for some pro team to give him a shot.
Lattimore’s situation is not unlike that of current Denver Broncos RB Willis McGahee. Playing for the Miami Hurricanes at the time, McGahee suffered a serious knee injury in the 2003 national title game that resulted in damage to his ACL, PCL, and MCL. However, McGahee still made himself eligible for that year’s draft and the Buffalo Bills took him 23rd overall. Even though many felt he would most likely fall to the third round.
After a 2002 season that saw him rush for 1,753 yards and 28 touchdowns, McGahee would have figured to be a top five selection if not for his injury. Lattimore’s situation in that regard is also similar as had he been healthy over the last two seasons and duplicated his production from 2010, he would have certainly been a top ten pick. Now where he gets taken is anyone’s guess.
The Bills risk paid off, eventually anyway. McGahee had to miss the entire 2003 season while recovering from his knee issues, but upon his return he ran for over 1,000 yards in the next two campaigns and 990 in his third year. Since then McGahee has eclipsed 1,000 yards twice more in stops with the Baltimore Ravens and Broncos. He has been a model of consistency and has never averaged less than 3.8 yards per carry in his career.
Buffalo had the luxury of taking a chance on McGahee because they already had a proven rusher in Travis Henry on their squad at the time. So could another team in that situation take a risk on Lattimore in this year’s draft? Well how about teams like the New England Patriots, Houston Texans, and Ravens who will be picking late in the first round? Each have a young running back firmly in place and are in good positions to take a risk.
Now it’s probably too early to tell where Lattimore will be taken. A lot will depend on his improvement between now and the draft. NFL teams will certainly do their homework and make sure to have him examined by their doctors before making a decision. However, these days devastating injuries are seemingly not as bad as they used to be. Look at how fast someone like Terrell Suggs recovered from an Achilles injury this past off-season.
Where ever Lattimore ends up, he needs to look at how McGahee battled back from his injury. McGahee wasn’t as flashy as he was in college, but he proved to be a steady reliable back that has had a long NFL career. Although Lattimore’s injury looked to be a nightmare, he still has a chance to do the same.
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