Marcus Lattimore   RB   South Carolina

TALENT BOARD ROUND  4

 

STRENGTHS

Profiling Marcus is like profiling a bicephalic running back, or a running back with two heads and two different running styles. He is a natural athlete when running the ball or catching the ball out of the backfield. Both Marcuses have a lot of talent, but at the same time, the styles of running are diametrically opposed. Before Marcus' first knee injury, he was a power back with excellent speed, size and strength in his lower body. He was outstanding at making first downs and breaking tackles. He ran behind his pads with good knee bend and it was impossible to arm tackle him. When Marcus came back from his knee injury, he was very tentative to attack the hole and tried to bounce the play outside. Unfortunately, his lower body lacked the bulk he previously had that made him a power runner. He did not run with good knee bend and could be easily tackled behind the line of scrimmage, but was productive and as the year progressed, before his second knee injury, he was starting to settle in and run more like the Marcus earlier in his college career. Marcus has always had quick feet, excellent balance and vision in the hole. He was always very difficult to stop in the red zone because of his strong lower body, excellent leg power and strong strides that made it easy for him to gain yards in bunches. The difference was in how he accomplished gaining yardage from one knee injury to the next. Marcus has excellent size, strength and speed along with all the running back skills you could ever expect from a running back coming out in the draft. If he comes back mentally from his knee operations, he will be one of the better running backs from this draft class and will impact because Marcus always had top ten talent.

 

CONCERNS

There are two big questions that Marcus will have to answer once he gets on the field. What style of running back will he be and when will he mentally recover from his knee injuries to be an impact player and not just a player with the potential to impact? There are no questions about his athletic talent, skills or football intelligence – the real questions are going to be in his approach to running after a full recovery.

 

BOTTOM LINE

Marcus was a much better power back than he was finesse back. He is the only running back that I have ever seen make Steve Spurrier call his number on a third and five for a first down. Marcus is the only running back that I ever saw Steve Spurrier hug when he got to the sidelines. In fact, until Marcus, I believe Spurrier did not know you could gain a first down running the ball on any down and distance.  In Steve's mind, the running back position was to be included in a game plan as a distraction for the other team to worry about, but not something you could use to score touchdowns or first downs. Marcus changed all of that thinking for Steve Spurrier and that, my friends, is an impact football player. If Marcus can become the power back that he was before his first knee injury, then he will impact and become a Pro Bowl player. If he continues on the path of becoming a finesse back, who knows what kind of impact he will have for the team that drafts him?  Mental recovery from a knee operation is more of a problem than physical recovery. Some never do get over it and it inhibits their ability to impact. Marcus struggled to come back from his first operation and although he had stats equal to his production before the knee injury, his style of running and his body type was totally different. Just as Marcus seemed to show some life in turning it around and becoming the style of back he once was, he injured his knee again with added complications. If I'm a team that has multiple picks in the first three rounds like 49ers, Bengals, Dolphins, Texans or Rams in this draft, I would take a chance on drafting Marcus and not expect too much from him the first year. In fact, I might stash him on the unable to perform list for the year and let him work his way all the way back physically first. That second year I would expect him to be fully healed and would use him sparingly to let him work his way back on to the field.  Then, in the third year, I would hope that he puts his cape back on and becomes the back he was in his first years of his college career. That's the running back that has the potential to be a Pro Bowl running back for the team that drafts him. If you’re a team who does not have multiple picks in the first three rounds, wait and be patient; if Marcus is there to draft in the later rounds, do it and give him the same two years to come around.  However, don't draft Marcus thinking he will hit the field running quickly after the draft. That's just not smart drafting.

  

Drew "The B.S. Detector" Boylhart

Apr/2013