Former Dallas Cowboys personnel man and current NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt put together an article earlier this week, looking at players he expects to take a big step forward in their second season. His list of breakout candidates included a mix of 2013 starters, backups and injured rookies. Among the players listed includes San Francisco 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore. Here's some of what he had to say about Lattimore:
Lattimore is a tough, one-cut runner with great instincts, exactly the type of power back the 49ers like to run with, in the mold of incumbent starter Frank Gore. I wouldn't be surprised to see Lattimore get some crunch-time carries this season and become the starter by 2015, when Gore is set to hit free agency. Lattimore -- who is a great person, by the way -- has plenty of promise; I think he's an even better running back than Eddie Lacy.
Brandt provided projections for each of the players, and for Lattimore he projected 650 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
I'd like to do some projection stuff later this summer, but for now, what do you think of those numbers? One problem with 49ers running back projections is that we really don't know how they will all sort out when the season starts. Kendall Hunter has been Frank Gore's primary backup. LaMichael James is there, but is not getting much work. And now we'll see Lattimore in the mix, with Jewel Hampton trying to earn more than a practice squad spot.
The last time the 49ers began the transition to a new starting running back, Kevan Barlow was the starter and Frank Gore was the backup. In 2005, Barlow rushed 176 times for 581 yards, while Gore rushed 127 times for 608 yards. The following year, Barlow was gone, and Gore set the franchise single season rushing record.
I don't expect to see that kind of thing play out in 2014, as even at this point in his career, Gore is still far and away better than Barlow ever was. But where will Lattimore work into the mix. He could put together a solid season, but could his total counting stats still be relatively low given all the running backs in the house?