As a freshman, Marcus Lattimore ran for 1197 yards and 17 TD. Over the last two years he has suffered season ending knee injuries in both his sophomore and junior years. When healthy, he's been one of the best running backs college football has to offer. By all accounts he's also a great kid and a very hard worker. The rumors are that Lattimore's recovery from his most recent injury is way ahead of schedule. Mike Mayock is predicting Lattimore will be a third round pick.
Lattimore could be a steal for the right team if he does go in the third round. The Falcons have a pick in every round this year and are expecting to get an additional fourth round pick to compensate for the loss of Curtis Lofton and possibly some additional seventh rounders. Would Lattimore be a good pick for the Falcons? We threw the question out there to our twitter follower and the fanbase seems interested....
@gritsblitzblog worth it if he's there in the 4th, you're going to get a guy that needs a season to get up to NFL speed at that pick anyway
— C Grant (@CoJoGrant) February 21, 2013
@gritsblitzblogyes but only after they get a quality DE and LB. So potentially round 3
— Tim wright (@T_WrightWay) February 21, 2013
@gritsblitzblog yes! From there reports of his recovery, 2nd round pick sounds good to me!
— Jeremy Moore (@CoachJMoore) February 22, 2013
Over the recent past there have been some great players who have overcome the same type of injuries Lattimore sustained and have gone on to be very successful. Guys like Adrian Peterson and Willis McGahee. Lattimore has a chance to be a very good NFL running back but I question if he fits the mold that the Falcons are looking for under Dirk Koetter. Let's face it, Michael Turner looks like a fish out of water and while Lattimore isn't built like Turner he's like him in that he's better when he gets more carries. Lattimore is a volume back. He's a guy that gets stronger as the game goes on and has the ability to wear down a defense and stick it to them when they are tired in the fourth quarter. At least that's how he was in college.
The Falcons offense is built pass first with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and (hopefully another year of) Tony Gonzalez. In 2012, Michael Turner got more carries than Jacquizz Rodgers but in the Falcons offense it was Jacquizz that ran for a higher yards per carry and also had 51 receptions to Turner's 19. There's an argument that we need a thunder to Jacquizz's lightning but I'm not so sure.
A guy who might be a better fit is Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle. In 2012, he led the Big 12 in rushing but he can also catch the ball out of the backfield. When Brandon Weeden was throwing to him in 2011, he caught 43 passes. I've seen Randle with anywhere from a second to fourth round grade.
Another guy to keep an eye on is Clemson's Andre Ellington. He didn't really show the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield (not enough footballs to go around with Nuke Hopkins and Sammy Watkins shagging balls) but he is so good in the open field and such a home run threat that he would be another great weapon to put in Matt Ryan's holster.
A third option could be UCLA's Jonathan Franklin. He ran for over 1700 yards, 6+ ypc and 13 TD in 2012. He also had 33 receptions out of the backfield.
I like Marcus Lattimore. He's a good kid and he's a good back but I'm not sold that he's a fit for what the Falcons want to do right now. I do believe we need another running back to put with Jacquizz in the backfield but I think there are better options available for the Falcons.