49ers RB Marcus Lattimore Cleared to Practice, Should Be Ready for 2014


May 22, 2013; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore heads towards the locker room during organized team activities at the 49ers training complex. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus top running back in all of college football heading into the 2012 season, now 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore, has been cleared to practice after rehabbing and recovering from a devastating leg injury suffered against Tennessee last fall.

Lattimore was shrewdly picked up by the 49ers in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, where the Niners had an embarrassment of riches in terms of number of draft picks. With Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and LaMichael James ahead of him on the depth chart, there was seemingly no place for Lattimore amidst a crowded backfield, but the Niners weren’t just thinking for 2013 with this move.

Lattimore will compete for backup duties in 2014 assuming Gore is healthy and ready to go, but the thinking among most people is that he will eventually take over the full-time duties for them.

This is a supremely talented player who is not to be forgotten about. Had Lattimore not been hurt (twice, actually) he would have been the first back off the board ahead of guys like Gio Bernard, Eddie Lacy, and Montee Ball. Lattimore’s combination of vision, explosiveness, size, and speed set him apart as an elite running back, so much so that I thought we might have another Adrian Peterson caliber player on our hands.

With the injuries, Lattimore has obviously suffered plenty of setbacks but according to the Sacramento Bee, he’s now been cleared to practice. The 49ers have absolutely no need to rush him back to the field, so he will likely remain on the team’s injured reserve even though he is eligible to be placed on the 53-man roster at any moment.

I wanted to rehash my scouting report on Lattimore so we could all remember just how good this kid is. If you are a die-hard fantasy football player and you’re in a dynasty league, you ought to have this guy stashed away and if you don’t, he’s worth possibly buying low just as a little risk-reward move. Here’s my report on Lattimore:

Marcus Lattimore is one of the top running backs in all of college football–when healthy. Lattimore missed over half of the 2011 season after tearing his knee up in October. Prior to missing time, Lattimore was having an up-and-down 2011 campaign after completely taking the college football world by storm as a true freshman in 2010. As a frosh, Lattimore had 1,197 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, but that’s not the extent of his game. He looked well beyond his years in terms of his pass catching abilities, hauling in 29 passes for 412 yards and two more scores. Because of his size, he is very hard for defenders to take down, especially on initial contact, but he’s not as powerful of a back as you would expect for someone who is over 230 pounds. He is elusive in the open field and able to make defenders miss pretty easily, which is impressive at his size. He has excellent burst and is very decisive with his cuts and with the hole he is hitting. His quickness to the edge is elite, and he can make something out of nothing in a hurry. There are times when you are watching him where he makes a busted run up the middle look like it was designed to go outside because of how quick he is. I don’t see him running in the 4.3 or maybe even 4.4 range, but his quickness and agility are up there among some of the best backs I’ve seen.

Very good student and has those intangibles that you look for. Going to have to work really hard to get back to full strength from that ACL injury, but for a prospect, that’s not the worst thing because you can come back from those types of injuries bigger, better, stronger, and in better shape and with more time to dissect things off the field. For his position, it’s not a good injury to have on your resume’, especially because there is a decent chance of it potentially happening again, and that could drive down his status if he is unable to stay fully healthy for a season. South Carolina needs to do the right thing for his future and not rush him back just so they can compete in 2012. If he is rushed back before he’s ready, it could be a very short NFL career for him.

If he is healthy, he is a no-brainer first round prospect in my opinion. There are virtually no flaws to his overall game. He has the potential to be a 25-30 carry workhorse back in the NFL, and do it for a long time provided his knee holds up. I think the sky is the limit for Lattimore, who will go down as one of the best backs to play in college football.