Marcus Lattimore announced his intentions Wednesday to enter the 2013 NFL Draft, confirming reports from earlier this week and immediately making him one of the most intriguing prospects teams will have to consider.
Lattimore missed a chunk of the 2011 season with a torn ACL in his left knee, then suffered a gruesome right knee injury against Tennessee this season.
He's a dynamic runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield, and he said that his rehabilitation is on schedule.
But here's the rub:
Marcus Lattimore expects to return to playing in "12 to 15 months" "It may be before then," he said.
— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) December 12, 2012
ESPN's Joe Schad reported earlier this week that Lattimore "believes that focusing entirely on his rehabilitation with NFL team doctors will help him recover the quickest."
The challenge will be convincing a team to use a pick on a player that may not be available before 2014. Schad added that Lattimore hopes to jog and catch passes for teams at the end of March -- or about five months removed from his latest devastating knee injury.
Will that plus his South Carolina game tape be enough to earn him a selection?
In three seasons with the Gamecocks, Lattimore racked up 2,677 yards rushing and caught 74 passes, while scoring 41 touchdowns. There is no doubt that he is an elite talent when he's healthy. But will he ever be 100 percent again, from a football standpoint?
Adrian Peterson's rapid recovery from a torn ACL may have swung the pendulum in Lattimore's direction. Willis McGahee also shredded his knee on a play similar to Lattimore's and has gone on to have a long NFL career.
Despite Cleveland using a high pick on Trent Richardson (and Doug Martin and David Wilson going in the 2012 first round), though, teams have grown more and more cautious of spending the draft hunting for running backs. And Lattimore, on top of major injuries to both knees, still carried the ball 555 times over three seasons -- so he has some wear and tear on his tires, even if you take the injuries out of consideration.
The flip side is that some team out there may consider Lattimore a huge bargain late on Day 2 or on Day 3 of the draft. He was one of the better backs in college football throughout his career, when he was able to suit up and play. Lattimore needs some team to swing for the fences here. If he recovers as he hopes, Lattimore would be well worth a mid-to-late-round pick. For now, however, that is a big "if."