Former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore insisted last month that he would be recovered from his devastating knee injury in time for the start of the 2013 NFL season.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock backed up that sentiment on a Monday conference call. Citing people familiar with the rehab, Mayock hears that Lattimore is "way ahead of schedule." Dr. James Andrews previously had predicted that Lattimore is going to "shock the world" with his post-injury form.
Mayock has compared Lattimore's prospects to those of Willis McGahee (2003, 23rd overall pick), Bruce Carter (2011, 40th pick) and Ryan Broyles (2012, 54th pick). McGahee's injury was the most similar, and he spent his entire rookie season on the PUP list before breaking out for 1,128 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns in his second season.
After raising eyebrows over the weekend by ranking Lattimore as a top-five prospect at his position, Mayock told reporters the former Gamecocks star will likely be drafted somewhere in the third round. Viewed as a potential early first-round pick prior to a 2011 ACL injury, Lattimore was believed to be drawing late first- or early second-round grades before tearing his right anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in October.
Since teams shouldn't expect an NFL impact from Lattimore for two years, Mayock believes the third-round tag is "fair for him."
What's worrisome about Lattimore compared to McGahee is that the former had already shown a loss of explosiveness -- particularly as a receiver out of the backfield -- before his latest knee reconstruction.Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.