Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
The San Francisco 49ers spent a fourth round pick on running back Marcus Lattimore in the 2013 NFL Draft. Lattimore was expected to miss the season due to his nasty knee injury the previous fall. The 49ers went into the draft with a solid amount of depth, and a ton of draft picks. It came as no surprise then that the 49ers drafted Lattimore and other injured players and basically red-shirted them for 2013.
Lattimore joined the team after the draft, but did not take part in any team drills during OTAs and minicamp. When training camp got started in late July, Lattimore was placed on the Active/NFI list. That meant he was not able to take part in practice until he passed a physical. He could do rehab work on the side, but he could not engage in drills with the rest of the team.
Lattimore was moved to Reserve/NFI when the season started, which meant he would miss at least six weeks of the season. Late in the season, the 49ers reached a point where they had to get him on the practice field, or end his season. They had a three-week window to work with him on the practice field. At the end of the three weeks, rather than activate Lattimore, they shelved him on the NFI list. Doing so tolled his contract, which means he will be signed through the 2017 season, instead of 2016 as originally intended with his contract. The 49ers essentially bought another year by keeping him on the NFI list.
What to expect in 2014:
Your guess is as good as mine! Anybody that can predict what we will see from Lattimore in 2014 is a psychic. We know he'll compete in training camp for time behind Frank Gore. We know he is back on the field, and seemingly ready to take part in a normal padded practice with live contact. What we don't know is how he will look when he hits the field in the preseason and opposing players are coming after him. How will he respond to that first hit in the first preseason game? We hope he bounces up and is ready to go, but until we actually see it happen, who knows.
If he is healthy and ready to go, my expectations are somewhat moderate. Frank Gore will handle the starting work, but we could see plenty of Lattimore, Kendall Hunter, and Carlos Hyde. One option is to have Lattimore and Hunter split carries behind Gore in terms of spelling him, and then Hyde handles a lot of short yardage work. Hyde can emerge as a starting candidate, but for year one, why not play to his strengths. Lattimore and Hyde's roles will depend a lot on if the 49ers decide to trade Hunter at some point in August.
Odds of making the roster:
The only thing keeping me from saying 100 percent is the knee. Until we see how he looks, there is always that small bit of doubt. Once we see him out there running, taking hits, and dishing out some hits of his own, then I can officially feel 100 percent comfortable. But if the knee is alright, he's not going anywhere.