With the 131st pick in the fourth Round of the NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers made a pick which caught the eyes of all those commenting and watching the draft by selecting Marcus Lattimore, running back out of South Carolina.
The decision to draft Lattimore alone represents a risk, given that Lattimore had a gruesome season ending injury in a game vs. Tennessee on Oct. 27, 2012. It also represented his second major knee injury as he had suffered a torn ACL the season before. Therefore, any team drafting Lattimore was fully aware and knew that they could in essence expect Lattimore’s 2013 rookie season to be a “redshirt” season as he continues to recover from his injury.
Yet, by being drafted by the 49ers, Lattimore is going to a team that can wait and let him recover without feeling rushed. Because of what’s in place with the 49ers, the drafting of Lattimore represents one that could end up being the best for Lattimore and for the 49ers down the line.
Now, why is it a potential win-win for Marcus Lattimore and the San Francisco 49ers? For Lattimore, he is going to a team that does not have an immediate need for him to play at the running back position with the likes of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon. Therefore, Lattimore does not need to rush his rehab and can fully concentrate on strengthening that knee back to 100 percent.
Conversely, Lattimore can learn and receive guidance from a fellow RB, who like him, had two serious knee injuries while in college, and that is Frank Gore. Gore can serve as a mentor to Lattimore, helping him learn and feel his way in the team, and he can lean on him to get through the final phase of his rehab.
Finally, Lattimore was drafted by a team that was five yards away from winning a Super Bowl and although how well many teams perform from year to year can fluctuate, there are a handful of teams which consistently are competitive and it is fair to say that the 49ers are at the level now. So, Lattimore can someday be a contributor to a perennial playoff team.
And what do the 49ers potentially gain from having drafted Lattimore? For starters, they get a player who was a first round talent and that represents a value pick that can pay off in 2-3 years when fully fit and healthy. Second, Lattimore physically is a type of player that the 49ers like in terms of his size (6 feet tall, 233 lbs.), and runs with bad intentions.
Because of Lattimore’s considerable talent and skill, he represents a guy who could easily run for 1,500 yards and 15 rushing TDs. That is despite the fact that the run game in today’s NFL has been downgraded a bit, but it is still something to be in awe of and doable with the right back. The third thing the 49ers get in drafting Lattimore is a quality character guy. When you read and hear about Lattimore from college teammates and coaches, it is how he is a wonderful individual and has a great character.
Evidence of this was when he suffered his latest knee injury, where the entire Tennessee team went onto the field to check on his well being. That alone tells you about how much he is respected as a person. Having a player(s) like that in your locker room is always a valuable thing, and to go along with his skill level, it means that he will fit right into a locker room with several quality characters and will enhance that aspect of the team.
We will not know for at least several years whether or not Marcus Lattimore will turn out to be an All-Pro running back or just another guy, but what can be said is he happened to be drafted by a team that presents him the best fit for his physical and professional development. Lattimore presents them with their next great player. For those reasons and the others stated above, this is a win-win situation.