49ers select RB Marcus Lattimore with the 131st pick
The 49ers select running back Marcus Lattimore out of South Carolina with the 131st pick in the NFL Draft.
Lattimore signed with South Carolina rated by some recruiting experts as the elite running back prospect in the country two years ago. He quickly proved well worth the hype, rushing for 1,197 yards and a scoring a school-record 19 touchdowns (17 rushing, two receiving) to earn not only First Team All-SEC honors but also earn recognition as the consensus SEC Freshman of the Year and national Freshman of the Year.
Lattimore’s success early on may have been due in part to opponents game-planning for the traditional Steve Spurrier-led passing frenzy, but by the end of the year the powerful and determined Lattimore had transformed the Gamecocks into primarily a run-based team.
Lattimore was well on his way toward improving his gaudy totals last season (818 yards, 10 TDs through seven games) before suffering a devastating knee injury against Mississippi State that ended his year. Lattimore was held out of spring practices as he recovered from surgery to repair the torn ACL.
Strengths: Outstanding burst and balance to stay on his feet through contact. Strong finisher, lowering his pads and continuing to pump his legs.
Very good at keeping defenders off balance, showing excellent acceleration, anticipation and footwork. Natural balance and feel between the tackles with good vision and patience to follow his blocks. Reliable receiving target, adjusting well to the ball with good focus.
Never goes down easy and rarely goes out of bounds, running with toughness and confidence. Good effort in pass protection and not shy about giving up his body. Taking better care of himself off-the-field with improved practice habits and stronger work ethic.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite speed to consistently win the edge or out-run defenders. Strong durability concerns with two serious knee injuries the past two seasons and currently rehabbing a right knee injury from last October. Didn’t look 100 percent this past season after his 2011 left knee injury and wore down late in games. Will he ever be able to return to form or will he a shell of what he once was?
South Carolina’s high school “Mr. Football” in 2009 (after racking up 1,898 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns his senior year) decided to stay in-state for his collegiate football career, and made his presence felt as a true freshman the following fall. The National Freshman of the Year by many media outlets also earned a spot on the Walter Camp All-American second team and first-team All-SEC accolades from league coaches after rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 scores his first year on campus. Only Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star back George Rogers ran for more yards in school history (in 1979 and 1980). Three games accounted for a large share of his season totals, though all were in wins over SEC East opponents that helped the Gamecocks win the division (182 yards against Georgia, 184 against Tennessee, 212 (with three TDs) at Florida).
Lattimore started his sophomore season strong, rushing for over 100 yards in four of the first six contests (including 246 yards and three scores against Navy). He suffered a season-ending torn left ACL against Mississippi State, however, which led to six missed games and a November surgery. SEC coaches voted him second-team all-conference after 2011 season despite his injury, recognizing his playmaking ability.
Lattimore came back strong in 2012, and was having an impressive season, until Oct. 27 in a game against Tennessee, during which he suffered a devastating knee injury that ultimately would end his college career. Lattimore tore all three ligaments in his right knee. After the season, Lattimore decided he was going to rehab and declare for the NFL draft.
Strengths: Taller north-south runner who plays with good lean to plow for yards between the tackles. Possesses vision and quick feet for his size to slide into a rushing lane and the speed to get upfield once finding the hole. Quite effective on zone runs when used in that capacity. Has the wiggle to freeze and elude tacklers to space. Spins off piles inside and keeps his legs churning to pick up the extra yard. Gets into his routes fluidly out of the backfield and flashes the hand to adjust to poor throws. Good build for pass protection, and is willing to hustle and make contact to keep his quarterback clean.
Weaknesses: With back to back seasons ending in traumatic knee injuries, durability is a major red flag. There are also the questions of how his medicals will check out, and how much he will be able to contribute his rookie season. Even before his injuries, struggled to get into a second or third gear in order to break off longer gains.
NFL Comparison: Arian Foster
Bottom Line: Lattimore offers an extremely intriguing blend of power, balance, vision and production. However, it’s hard not to question his future durability and how much of the same player he will be going forward after major injuries to both knees in consecutive seasons. While his talent suggests a late first-round pick, it’s much more likely that he is a Day 3 pick.