Arguably the best story of the 2013 NFL Draft, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore worked his way up from two major knee injuries to get drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers may have landed a potential top-tier runner in the fourth round, but durability concerns prevent Lattimore from being a lock to take over for Frank Gore.
During Lattimore’s three-year stay in South Carolina, the bruising tailback trucked his way to 2,677 rushing yards and 38 rushing touchdowns. In recognition of his personal accomplishments, Lattimore was named the SEC Freshman of the Year while making the All-SEC First Team in 2010.
Despite his stellar performances, Lattimore’s collegiate career was overshadowed by two devastating knee injuries. On Oct. 15, 2011, the star running back tore his left ACL while blocking for a teammate. A year later, he tore his ACL, LCL and PCL in his right knee on a run play. Lattimore is still recovering, and there is no timeline for his return.
Gore had similar injury troubles coming out of Miami as he tore the ACL in both knees. Because of those concerns, Gore slipped to the third round of the 2005 draft. Since then, the former Hurricane has turned himself into one of the league’s best running backs. As a longtime 49er, Gore accumulated nearly 9,000 rushing yards and 51 rushing touchdowns.
When the new season kicks off, Gore will be 30 years old. Given his age and mileage, his time as an every-down runner is approaching the end. Could Lattimore take over the mantle as the franchise’s next great back? The jury is still out. However, standing at 5’11’’, 221 pounds, he at least has the physical measurements to withstand the pounding of an NFL season.
While LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter are already on the roster, it’s questionable if they can handle a 16-game workload to be tagged Gore’s “heir apparent” based on their small statures.
Schematically, Lattimore is a perfect fit for the 49ers’ rushing offense. The college standout is a powerful, downhill runner, much like his idol and new teammate Gore. With San Francisco’s physical offensive line, Lattimore is capable of piling up the numbers at the pro level. He possesses the size and talent to be a complete three-down back.
But when we’ll get to see him in pads is another question. Whether that opportunity comes in 2013 or 2014, nobody knows.
Unfortunately in the world of sports, injuries do not take sides or play favorites. Lattimore has been dealt a bad hand, but given his always-positive mindset, don’t count him out just yet.