Thanks to his great combination of size, speed and overall athletic ability, the star back was considered to be one of the best prospects in the class during the regular season. In his three-year career, he totaled 2,677 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns for South Carolina.
This was not Lattimore's first major injury either. On Oct. 15 against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, he tore a knee ligament, ending the rest of his 2011 season.
Still, the running back claimed that he will be ready to play in Week 1, telling Robert Klemko of USA Today:
I feel like, personally, I need three more months before I put some pads on. I know my body. I know when I'll be ready to play. It takes time I know, but at the beginning of the season, I feel like I should be ready to go.
Of course, he still saw his stock drop to the end of the fourth round before he was finally taken by the 49ers.
San Francisco already has veteran Frank Gore in the backfield, as well as young studs in Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. However, the young player can take his time to recover before possibly taking over as a lead back a few years down the line.
There is also already plenty of goodwill between Lattimore and Gore, according to Jeff Darlington of NFL Network:
Lattimore told me Frank Gore actually sent him a nice text after his knee injury. He'd never met Gore... Gore got his number on his own.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) April 27, 2013
Gore also dealt with knee injuries before going on to be a very productive NFL player.
Additionally, Lattimore compares well to another player who suffered a devastating leg injury late in his collegiate career. Willis McGahee of Miami tore two ligaments in his knee at the 2002 Fiesta Bowl and still declared for the ensuing NFL draft.
While some teams avoided the risk, the Buffalo Bills drafted him with the No. 23 pick in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft. McGahee then sat out his entire rookie season before rushing for 1,128 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2004.
The running back has gone on to a solid career on various teams around the league, accumulating over 8,000 rushing yards and two Pro Bowl appearances. If San Francisco can follow this example and bring Lattimore along slowly in his recovery, it could lead to great things in the future.