When the San Francisco 49ers drafted Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round of last year’s draft, most people didn’t expect him to play in his first year. Lattimore suffered multiple gruesome knee injuries in college, and he was still recovering from one at the time of the draft. The 49ers didn’t need Lattimore during his rookie year and sat him the entire season to let his knee heal completely. Lattimore says he’s ready to run and he feels his knee is healthy. But just how much playing time will he get?
The two things that need to be remembered when talking about this topic are that the 49ers are already crowded in the backfield, and there’s only one ball to go around. We’ve all been asking the same questions about LaMichael James for the past two years and now we will begin to ask the same for Lattimore. In fact, you could probably take one of the many articles about James and just replace his name with “Marcus Lattimore” and it will probably still make sense.
The 49ers have Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore. Anthony Dixon is a free agent and there’s no guarantee that he will be back on the team. Even without Dixon, the team is stacked at the running back position. I mentioned James earlier, but James and Lattimore are two totally different kind of backs. Lattimore will probably see much more playing time than James because Lattimore fits the 49ers scheme much better than James does.
Lattimore is a clone of Gore. He’s a back that can run up the middle and still hit the outside, and he can also catch the ball out of the backfield. The 49ers like versatile backs that can do everything. They also like that they can run their power run game with Lattimore because he’s the type of back that can handle it.
Just how many carries will Lattimore get?
Here’s how many carries each 49ers’ RB got last year:
Gore will be 31 years old next season. Over the years, Gore’s body has taken a beating, and he just can’t take the same workload as he has in the past. We saw how ineffective he was towards the end of lat season and that’s where Lattimore comes in. Lattimore can pick up some of the slack because he is the same kind of back as Gore. The 49ers will most likely give some of Gore’s carries to Lattimore to try and keep Gore fresh. If Dixon leaves, then Lattimore will probably take most of his carries or split some of them with Hunter.
If I had to make a prediction, I would guess that Lattimore will get anywhere between 50 and 80 carries for the season. Will that be enough for Lattimore to make a difference on the field? Including times that the he becomes a receiver out of the backfield? I think it will be.
49ers fans shouldn’t expect Lattimore to jump right in and carry the ball 15 times a game. Towards the beginning of the season, the 49ers will probably ease Lattimore into the game by giving him a couple carries per game. As the season progresses, he’ll most likely see the field more and more, until he’s fully adapted to the game at the professional level.
Lattimore probably won’t be a work horse RB this year for various reasons, so NFL fans might have to wait one more year for Lattimore to completely pick up the load of the running game. Lattimore is a great guy on and off the field, and mostly everyone, even 49ers’ rivals, are hoping to see him have a long and successful career.
One thing that could completely change his career course, however, is a man named Carlos Hyde. Hyde was taken by the Niners in the second round out of Ohio State. With all of the Niner fans focused on Hyde as the future RB for the Niners, attention has shifted from Lattimore, who is filled with a lot of promise.
All of this positive speculation about Lattimore may just be completely wasted, because of Hyde. I suspect that now, something like what happened to LaMichael James may happen to Lattimore, except he may not “tweet” his feelings and risk being ridiculed.