In the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers made waves throughout the league by selecting former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore was seen as a top five talent before suffering season ending knee injuries in back to back season prior to declaring for early entry into the NFL Draft. Many analysts and pundits applauded the decision San Francisco made in drafting him.
Why? Because the Niners scooped up a potential steal at the running back position, and because they have seen this before in 2005. In the 2005 NFL Draft, the Niners selected Frank Gore out of the University of Miami in the third round.
Last season, the first NFL player to get in touch with Lattimore following his latest injury was Gore through mutual teammate Chris Culliver. Lattimore said that Gore just wanted to know how he was handling everything, because Gore had been in a similar place at one point in his career.
Gore was a highly touted running back recruit coming in to play for his hometown Hurricanes. Much like Lattimore, Gore had an impressive freshman campaign sharing carried with Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee, which he averaged a ridiculous 9.1 yards per carry and looked poised to explode into a superstar. The following season saw Gore beat out McGahee for the starting role in spring practice, only to see his season end when he tore his ACL in his left knee. He tried to return the following year but tore his right ACL early into the season. He returned for his junior season and ran 945 yards on 197 carries while splitting touches.
Gore’s draft stock suffered like Lattimore’s due to the prior injury concerns. Heading into the draft, Gore was projected to go somewhere in the fourth round. The Niners went into the draft looking to begin a rebuild with the franchise. They selected Alex Smith with the first overall pick to be the new face of the franchise, but unknowingly they selected their offense’s cornerstone for their offense in third round when they took a chance on Gore. At full health, Gore exploded on to the scene and eventually became the key cog of the offense.
The Niners are hoping again to find their future feature back by taking a chance on an injured college star. Looking at the scouting report, it looks like history can repeat itself in Lattimore. Lattimore and Gore share a similar skill set in their running and receiving abilities. They also share similar leadership skills and are both extremely high-character players.
Lattimore is seen as a patient, instinctive runner that will wait for a hole to open up and then burst through the hole. He is tough runner that has the ability to break tackles and falls forward after contact. Lattimore is bigger than Gore and is more of a traditional power back with the ability to thrive at the goal line. Both running backs are elusive runners, despite not possessing great top end speed and acceleration.
Their running styles are not the only similar skill set they share. Both backs are exceptional receivers out of the back field. Gore had 23 catches for 225 yards during his career at Miami, while he has amassed 315 receptions for a total of 2,631 yards. Lattimore comes into the NFL with even better receiving potential than Gore. During his career, Lattimore has 74 receptions for 767 yards. This ability will help Lattimore stay on the field for all three downs, much like Gore. Also helping him to stay in is his ability to pass protect. Lattimore’s scouting reports show him to be a strong and sound blocker in the passing game. Gore is an elite pass protector and is big reason why the Niners have been successful as an offense.
Their strongest similar is their ability to lead their teams. They are both lead by example type players that work harder and put out more effort than everyone else on the field. Gore is not the most vocal of leaders, but he is truly the heart and soul of the offense. The same can be said of Lattimore. When Lattimore went down with his second injury, the entire South Carolina bench came on to the field and surrounded their teammate in a show of support. Both players have a quiet intensity in their personalities and Gore will be an excellent mentor for the younger back and getting him to work harder than he has before.
Lattimore can not have been put into a more perfect situation. Lattimore is able to go to a team that is willing to wait for him to be fully healthy. While he heals, Lattimore will have a chance to work with and learn from the one man that has been from where he is now. Gore has blazed that trail and now it is Lattimore’s turn to follow it himself. They not only share similar abilities, but a story as well.