I mentioned earlier this week that I had my own unique theory on which running back the Vikings should target this offseason. My answer is a simple one: The best one available.
South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore is the only first round lock runner in the class, and it just so happens he will probably be selected much, much later.
Lattimore took the college game by storm and is easily the most complete back available this year. He runs with explosion between the tackles, is dangerous in space, is a fluid pass catcher and capable blocker, and is a smart runner with a patience to follow his blockers that is rarely seen in young backs. He is also known to be of high character and as a guy that leads by example.
He actually reminds me, at least in part, of our very own Adrian Peterson.
To find Lattimore’s Achilles heal, however, you need not look any farther than his knee. When the all star runner hit the turf in pain this October, the football watching community collectively expressed their sympathy for a runner they enjoyed watching so much.
Lattimore’s ligament damage in his knee left many wondering if he would ever play football again and his availability for 2013 seemed to be in major doubt, at the very least. He fell from the top 15 to the fifth round with that one ugly hit. The snake-bitten running back also suffered ligament damage one year earlier, prematurely ending that season as well.
So why do I think he is such a great fit for the Vikings? Well, for starters, because I think the Vikings are a great fit for him.
The Vikings are fairly stacked at running back, with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart cemented atop the depth chart for next season, so the Vikings could perhaps be the one NFL team willing to be patient while Lattimore rehabs his knee.
Lattimore would also have a constant source of inspiration and encouragement simply by watching Adrian Peterson, who famously worked his way back from a gruesome knee injury and topped 2,000 yards on the season. He could be comforted by the fact that Eric Sugarman and the Vikings trainers are the same exact people that helped Peterson not only make his return, but come back even better than he already was.
Even if Lattimore turned out to be facing the worst case scenario, not being able to play in 2013, the Vikings could easily stash him on the injured reserve for a year and get him into the lineup in 2014 after Gerhart presumably becomes a free agent.
At some point I think Adrian Peterson will start to slow down and instead of being a one man show, perhaps a tandem like Peterson and Lattimore could help him elongate his career by being one half of a great backfield duo.
As of right now, with so many worries about the injuries, Lattimore is projected to go no earlier than the fourth round. The Vikings can’t afford to spend much more money or use too high of a draft pick on the running back position, with other areas in need of help, but the can surely can afford to use a fourth or fifth round pick for a guy that is well known to be a first round talent with Peterson-like problems.