ESPN future power rankings: Marcus Lattimore and the running backs

Jason O. Watson

As part of their future power rankings series, ESPN projected the top ten running backs in 2016. We take a look at the member of the 49ers that made the list.

Earlier this week, ESPN rolled out their "2016 NFL power rankings", as a way to break down rosters, coaches and front offices moving forward. And of course, as a way to provide discussion fodder during the slowest period of the NFL offseason. They ranked the 49ers as the top team, giving them strong marks across the board.

These power rankings are accompanied by rankings at each position or position group, projecting out the top ten for each group. In the link above we looked at their offensive line rankings, which included no 49ers players. It was a bit of a surprise given guys like Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis. At the same time, when you are ranking all offensive linemen together, I suppose there will be plenty of room for error. You're looking at over 150 players, so it happens.

ESPN also looked at running backs, and the 49ers made an appearance. Trent Richardson had the top spot, but here was your top five:

1. Trent Richardson, Cle
2. LeSean McCoy, Phi
3. Doug Martin, TB
4. Marcus Lattimore, SF
5. Christine Michael, Sea

Well, isn't that interesting? Here's what they had to say about Lattimore:

Let's put some faith in modern medicine on this one, as Lattimore obviously needs to get his knees right before he can make any impact whatsoever at the NFL level. But I love the situation Lattimore has been thrust into in his rookie year in San Francisco. The Niners don't need to lean on Lattimore. In fact, they would be wise to put him on the shelf for the entirety or majority of the season, before eventually making him their lead back in one of the best rushing attacks in the league.

If things play out the way the 49ers likely are hoping, this makes a whole lot of sense. If Lattimore gets his knee back to 100%, and stays healthy moving forward, he is the kind of work horse back they are looking at to lead the rushing game.

Of course, it will be interesting to see how the 49ers rushing attack even looks heading into the 2016 season. Kendall Hunter is a free agent after 2014, and LaMichael James is a free agent after 2015. Lattimore would be a free agent following the 2016 season on his current rookie deal.

Who will still be around at that point? The 49ers have drafted one running back in five straight drafts. That group includes, Glenn Coffee, Anthony Dixon, Hunter, James and Lattimore. That doesn't mean they'll just keep drafting running backs, but as Gore eventually moves off into the sunset, and the young guys take the reigns, who will stick, and when will the 49ers consider replenishing the roster? They've shown few qualms about drafting a player that won't contribute right away, but depending on if Jewel Hampton sticks around, this group could be incredibly deep the next few years. Things obviously can change in the blink of an eye, but for now, things are intriguing to say the least.

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