The crop of expected RB talent in the 2013 NFL draft isn’t great, but received a fortunate boost when superstar Marcus Lattimore declared he would forego a senior season with the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Lattimore was on the receiving end of a gruesome knee injury a few months back, but is progressing nicely through his rehab and will continue doing so with the help of an NFL training staff.
Let’s take a look at where we predict the banged-up young tailback will wind up being drafted, along with two other prospects that will closely follow him off the board.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
The Gamecocks RB has serious damage to recover from in his right knee, but is making the right choice by entering the draft. He has nothing left to prove at that level and could only further hurt his chances of having a long and prosperous professional career.
He’s following the footsteps of Willis McGahee and Frank Gore, two highly successful veteran backs who suffered major injuries in college. McGahee, now on the Broncos, was selected in the first round, while Gore has played his entire career on the 49ers and slipped to the third in his respective draft.
Even if Lattimore has to sit out the entire 2013 season, he’s a solid second-round pick for a team desperate for a franchise RB. From what we’ve seen of this kid in college, he’s an absolute machine and a perfect combination of speed and power.
There aren’t many, if any, truly elite RBs in this class, so taking a flier on Lattimore much later than he would have been selected—if he were healthy—is certainly a viable option for many clubs.
Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Speaking of knee injuries, Bernard suffered an ACL tear back in 2010 as a true freshman, but that hasn’t stopped him from ripping off two straight beastly seasons.
If the 5’10”, 210-pound redshirt sophomore declares, he’d have finished his short career with the Tar Heels rushing 423 times for 2,481 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also possesses a knack for catching the ball, hauling in 92 receptions for 852 yards and six TDs in that same time period.
Because of his ability to hit holes hard, accelerate quickly and become a major threat out of the backfield (a vastly underrated skill in the modern NFL), there’s no doubt that Bernard will be selected just before or just after Lattimore come draft day.
Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Lacy finally got his chance to shine in 2012, having played behind Mark Ingram in 2010 and Trent Richardson in 2011—two players who went on to become first-round draft picks.
The big 6’1”, 220-pounder ran 184 times for 1,182 yards and 16 TDs this year and has led the Crimson Tide back to the national championship game for the second straight season.
He’s also a decent receiver, having caught 20 passes for 172 yards and another score.
Teams that are looking for a power back should certainly give this Louisiana native serious consideration in the third round of the draft, as he has a long career ahead of him and can really pound the rock.