They were a team with few real needs and were able to simply draft the best player on their board in each round, minimizing their risk by saving them for the late rounds. That sentiment rings no more true than when they selected running back Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round.
The short version of the story of Lattimore is this: Less than a year ago, he was the top running back in the country until he tore three major knee ligaments and his season was lost. It was honestly one of the most gruesome sports injuries I have seen. Lattimore had successful surgery on the ligaments and has spent the entirety of his time since training and rehabilitating.
His recovery has been spectacular, but as he continues to recover, what will his first NFL training camp be about?
It’s likely be about rehab. While he has made tremendous progress, there is no rush for him or for the 49ers to get him on the field. This running back group is deep. Starting running back Frank Gore is one of the best in the NFC, and his primary backups Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon are also very talented.
To further illustrate just how deep this unit is, 2012 2nd round pick LaMichael James, one of the most explosive players in college football the year before, didn’t even find the active roster and the field until week 14.
This year for Lattimore is going to be as close to a redshirt season as an NFL player can have. His time at training camp will be spent working on recovery and getting acclimated to the 49ers system. But, the odds of 2013 being a year where Lattimore has a real impact on the field are long. His story is inspirational and I will be rooting for him. With Gore 30 years old, Lattimore might be the long-term solution at running back for the team.
If all the 49ers running backs are healthy, I’d have a hard time saying Lattimore isn’t the most talented of the group. But for now, fans are just going to have to be patient, because his recovery is far from over, and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh understands that Lattimore isn’t needed this year, and the more complete his recovery is, the better he will be.