South Carolina junior running back Marcus Lattimore has decided to skip his senior season and enter the 2013 NFL Draft, according to ESPN. After suffering a torn ACL in his left knee last year, he injured several ligaments in his right knee this past season after an ugly collision Oct. 27 against Tennessee.
Lattimore has first-round talent and ability, but obviously the knee issues and durability concerns will weigh heavily on his draft stock. According to Joe Schad's report, Lattimore's recovery "is on schedule" but there is still a chance he might not be ready for the 2013 NFL season.
Lattimore is currently rated as NFLDraftScout.com's No. 6 RB for the 2013 NFL Draft and the No. 91 prospect overall, projecting him in the 2nd-3rd round range.
Few thought Willis McGahee would be a first-round pick after he suffered a devastating knee injury in the BCS Championship Game in 2003, but after a remarkable recovery, he was drafted 23rd overall by the Buffalo Bills a few months later. It's unlikely Lattimore will be drafted as high, but his draft projection won't become clear until closer to the draft when he hopes to jog and make some football moves for NFL teams.
Some might not agree with his decision to go pro, especially coming off back-to-back seasons ended by knee injuries. But making the jump now allows him to receive medical treatment from NFL teams and also sign a contract to get paid while he rehabs. There is also the concern that if he returned to school and suffered another injury, that his career could be over without a chance in the NFL.
A native of Duncan, S.C., Lattimore finishes his Gamecock career with 2,677 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns. Thousands turned out for an on-campus celebration of Lattimore the week after his October injury, also celebrating his 21st birthday. Coach Steve Spurrier, who once called Lattimore perhaps the most popular South Carolina player ever, was in attendance and gave fans even more reason to cheer.
“The message he gave me was, 'I'll be back,'" Spurrier said. "So he's coming back."
Apparently Lattimore changed his mind. And it's tough to blame him.