The NFL is not always fair and the rich are about to get richer. It is a well-documented fact that the San Francisco 49ers have 14 picks in the upcoming 2013 Draft, the most of any team. This comes just months after the team won the NFC and represented the conference in the Super Bowl, ultimately falling to the Baltimore Ravens 34-31.
San Francisco has 11 regular picks plus the three compensatory picks they received on March 19. The Niners have a first-round pick, two second-round selections and a pair of picks in the third round in addition to two choices in both the fourth and fifth round, respectively. Their draft will come to a close with a sixth-round pick and four selections in the seventh round.
The 49ers already have a great roster. The team ranked fourth in the NFL when rushing the ball and fourth when defending the run. Colin Kaepernick terrorized defenses and should continue more of the same next season. His secondary pulled their weight. The unit was ranked fourth in the league when it came to defending the pass.
These picks will be used as insurance to provide capable backups and future stars. Some picks will undoubtedly be traded away.
This all sets the scene for the Niners to draft and stash injured South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. The talented star has sadly seen his past two college seasons cut short by gruesome knee injuries. In his sophomore year, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament. That would be a horrible circumstance for any player, but the injury bug caught Lattimore once again as he tore three ligaments in his right knee last fall.
It is worth noting that Lattimore rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns in his freshman season. He put up 818 yards on 163 rushes in 2011 and last season carried the ball 143 times for 662 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Those numbers would obviously be much higher if it wasn't for the injuries he sustained. But through all the pain, Lattimore has kept his sights set on making a return. He is confident that he can play in the NFL and rightfully so after watching Adrian Peterson win MVP after suffering through an ACL tear and following surgery. The South Carolina student had this to say about Peterson:
"There will never be another Adrian Peterson, but that definitely gives me a lot of motivation knowing he came back from it, the way he did, he came back better. And that's what I plan on doing -- just coming back better. Seeing him do what he did this year, I think about that all of the time."
It is obvious that Lattimore is really pushing himself and his body in order to make a return and his efforts should be celebrated, but his draft status is still up in the air. Teams will get a clearer picture of the running back as he will work out for NFL scouts at South Carolina's Pro Day next week.
He might never fully return from these devastating injuries, but if he does then he has the tools to be an All-Star player.
This should be enough to allow San Francisco to draft him with one of their many mid- to late-round picks. If Lattimore never returns to full health and is stuck on the injured reserve for much of his career then it is okay. The Niners still have Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in the backfield.
However, if it does work out then the Niners look like geniuses. If Lattimore pulls an Adrian Peterson-esque recovery then he can succeed Gore and lead the red and gold to many playoff appearances.
It is a win for the rookie running back. He gets a low-pressure situation. He isn't expected to start or be the savior for the team. He gets a chance to heal and in a couple years down the road then he might be able to take the reigns from Gore.
He will be able to take it slow and completely submerge himself in the recovery process. On the other hand, Head coach Jim Harbaugh will not have to waste a pick on a player that might not pan out as the Niners have more picks than the average team.
This is the year for the team to take a risk as it won't hurt them. If Marcus Lattimore works out then it would be amazing. If he doesn't then the Bay Bombers can move forward with an already stacked roster.
There is little to no downside with this move. Out of all the teams, the San Francisco 49ers are in the best position to draft Lattimore.
All they have to do is pull the trigger.
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