Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the San Francisco 49ers offseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
Over the last three drafts, the 49ers have shown no qualms about drafting players they are all but certain will contribute little or nothing as rookies. In 2011, the 49ers drafted Colin Kaepernick to sit behind Alex Smith, and Daniel Kilgore to develop his skills as an interior lineman. In 2012, LaMichael James was the only player in the draft class to provide a tangible contribution as a rookie. And now, in 2013, the 49ers made the move so many were shouting for, drafting running back Marcus Lattimore.
The 49ers decision to draft Marcus Lattimore made as much sense as any pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The former South Carolina running back was coming off a brutal knee injury that was likely going to keep him sidelined at least through training camp, if not longer. Lattimore is an extremely talented back, but in 2011 he tore his left ACL, and in 2012 he tore three ligaments in his right knee, and also dislocated the knee.
When healthy, Lattimore was arguably the best running back in college football. He earned freshman of the year honors with 1,197 yards on 249 carries. He was on pace for an even bigger season in 2011, before tearing his left ACL. He finished his sophomore campaign with 818 yards and ten touchdowns. In 2012, he was putting together another solid year, when he suffered the dislocated knee and torn ligaments.
Since then, Lattimore has been working hard to rehab his knee and get back to playing. His path is reminiscent of 49ers running back Frank Gore, who blew out both knees during his time at Miami. In fact, Gore was in touch with Lattimore after his most recent knee injury.
Lattimore is not a burner at running back, but he has a great mix of size and athleticism. No two running backs are the same, but Lattimore brings the combination to be that primary running back who can carry a heavy workload. He can really do just about anything you need from a running back.
He does seem to run a little tall at times, but other than that the only real issue of concern is the durability. Of course, that is also a pretty big deal given his injuries. Durability concerns will stick around until he proves otherwise, but he will likely have a full year to get healthy and ready for the next level.
What to expect in 2013
At this point, odds seem pretty high that Lattimore spends the entire season on the Non-Football Injury List. He already acknowledged he is probably not going to be doing training camp, which is probably the least surprising news of the offseason. His rehab has moved up to sprinting, and should continue to progress along. As long as Lattimore is on the NFI list, he will not be able to practice with the team. That being said, he will be able to study the playbook, and work with Frank Gore and Tom Rathman to learn more about being an NFL running back.
There is always a slim chance he is activated later in the season like the 49ers did with Jewel Hampton last season, but given the current depth, odds seem long for that to happen.
Odds of making the roster
We know Lattimore is not going anywhere, but I suppose we can consider the odds of him getting back on the field this season. They seem incredibly slim, and if the running back corps produces like most of us hope and expect, there is pretty much zero reason to get him on the field in 2013. if he was activated at some point this season, I'd have to think something has gone wrong.