Rarely do we see the type of freshman season Marcus Lattimore had in 2010. While the statistics speak for themselves (1609 total yards, 19 total TDs), it was his smoothness as an athlete, big play ability combined with decisive/compact short area runs, and the type of ceiling you rarely see in running back prospects. But after a torn ligaments (ACL and MCL) in his left knee in 2011’s mid-October, along with more ligament damage in his right knee just a little over a year later, Lattimore has decided that, despite these severe injury concerns, he’ll forfeit his final year of eligibility at South Carolina (via Joe Schad), and move onto the NFL.
The decision comes as a questionable one to many, but I stand in the group that feels it was the right decision for Lattimore. He’s had two straight seasons cut short due to severe knee injuries, yet there will still be serious NFL interest. While Lattimore lacks the great big play speed that some may feel holds him back, he’s as developed in the nuances of the position (pass catching, blitz pickup, pass protection, etc.) as any running back I’ve seen in a recent years. Combine that with decisive cuts, fantastic size and balance through contact, and the consistency every NFL team would love in a running back, and it’s clear why this isn’t as much of a “chance” as it is to rehab in the NFL, where he’ll be getting paid, have long-term security, and take the next step in his career.RELATED: 2013 NFL Draft Underclassmen TrackerHere's what OS Scout Alex Brown had to say: "Although the injury sustained was horrific to look at and much more heartbreaking for Lattimore as a competitor, early signs point to a full recovery from the S.C. student athlete. For more, here's a quick look at Lattimore's skill set pre-injury. It is important to note that these characteristics describe Lattimore pre-injury and realize that there may or may not be a regression in some of these aspects. Though he lacks outstanding speed or elusiveness, Lattimore has more than compensated for those deficiencies with elite vision and decisive cuts out of the backfield. Doing a great job of pressing the hole and setting up each of his blocks, Lattimore continually impresses with his patience behind the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Lattimore displays ideal burst to consistently get to and through the hole at the next level. What made Lattimore such a special running back, was his combination of crucial attributes such as, burst, balance, vision, and pad level. Able to lower his shoulders, avoid direct contact and present a smaller target, Lattimore produced at an extremely high level between the tackles. The former South Carolina back wastes no time in getting upfield once the football is in his hands, possessing rare feel and instincts at the position. Lattimore can deliver pop and snap on contact, when he plants his foot and accelerates through the hole, and his leg drive would have been viewed as another plus attribute.
Moving on from his running skills and summing up, Lattimore is a complete back. Having soft hands and good ball skills, as well as polish as a pass protector, Lattimore excels on third downs and passing situations. Lattimore has been tasked with difficult scan protection assignments since his freshman season and I have yet to see him misread a protection scheme. Capable of playing with a base and anchoring down or leaving his feet at the last moment for a cut block, Lattimore’s blocking ability should give him an added boost in value for next level teams, who will at the bare minimum be drafting their third down tailback."
As of now, I’m with Alex is thinking this injury alone drops him a round or two in grading, but the 2nd-3rd round area is certainly within reason. NFL scouts know the type of upside he possesses, and if he can recover from his injury back to 95-100% of his old self, a team is going to get an every down back with best-in-the-league type potential for the price of a non-1st rounder.His draft stock will be determinant likely on what the doctors at the NFL Combine can determine about Lattimore's long-term health. Also, NFL teams will be curious to see how he interviews, what type of things has he done in his recovery process to show responsibility, and hope he can run at a later pro day before the draft, to at least ease their mind a little.But with 3rd rounders having less than half of their players be impact starters, and a fourth not lasting more than a few years in the league, Lattimore certainly shouldn't be picked much lower than that, or some team is getting a very worthwhile investment.