No player has more at stake during his orthopedic evaluation at the combine this week than Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore has had dual rehab goals since dislocating and tearing three ligaments in his knee last fall. By all accounts, he’s easily meeting his first goal. Dr. James Andrews says he’s three months ahead of schedule after having surgery to repair his ACL in early November. Meeting the second goal – rehabbing his draft stock before April – could prove the more difficult challenge.
There are three things working in his favor as he arrives in Indianapolis.
First, there are reports that Lattimore only needed his ACL repaired and had no nerve damage from his knee dislocation. If true, that could be seen as a best case scenario for what could have been an even more catastrophic injury.
Second, the successful rehab and recovery of Adrian Peterson, who tore two ligaments and his meniscus nine months before returning to his previously elite form, is fresh in the mind of front office personnel around the league. Both Peterson and Lattimore had their ACL repair performed by Dr. Andrews, which could also lessen the worries of scouting department decision makers.
Finally, there’s precedent for a strong recovery from a similar injury. Though he needed an extra year of rehab and recovery, Willis McGahee averaged 290 carries and missed only three games in his first four seasons in the NFL.
The combine medical exam will be the first time teams will examine and test Lattimore’s knee. But he’s already been building his case around the league. In January, he sent video of himself running in a pool to all 32 teams. And he reportedly expects to do a limited workout before the draft in April.
Lattimore was considered a potential first round talent before his injury. It’s doubtful that he’ll be able to rehab his draft stock back into that range by late April. But proving that his knee is on (or ahead of) a nine month recovery schedule could push him into consideration earlier than anyone expected.
This year’s running back draft class is light on elite prospects. Many teams in the NFL are comfortable with a committee approach in the backfield. Others may be happy to ease a young back into a larger workload over a year or more.
Lattimore isn’t a lock to sail through the rest of his rehab or return to full form. But the positive buzz has already started. And it will only take one team willing to take a chance for Lattimore to find his way into the second or third round.
If reports from the combine are favorable and he can get on the field for a limited workout in April, Lattimore could be this year’s version of the Price is Right mountain climber.
Hopefully, Lattimore is still yodeling in late April.
Categories: Injury Updates