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About a month ago, I wrote that if he falls to the right team — a team that doesn’t need him immediately — it’s possible that Marcus Lattimore will be a third-round pick. Under normal circumstances, that would be a laughable and downright comical discount on a running back who had 3,444 all-purpose yards and 4.8 yards per carry throughout his three years in South Carolina. Normally, Lattimore would easily be a first-round pick, and the first running back selected on April 25.

But when Lattimore shredded his knee, he shredded normal too.

That happened back in late October, and the immediate assumption at the time was that Lattimore would do well to have a fully functioning knee again. Football was an afterthought.

Then that shifted to a missed 2013 season at minimum, but he’d still pursue football, which was nice. And then as Lattimore progressed, so did his optimism, although even just a month ago the doctor who performed his surgery — the famous/infamous Dr. James Andrews — marveled about his recovery, but he still wouldn’t say whether or not his patient will be ready for the 2013 season.

At South Carolina’s Pro Day today, Lattimore wasn’t afraid to make a definitive statement.

But really, what else was he going to say? While his confidence is notable — which is why I’m noting it — any shred of doubt at this point would be costly. And I mean that literally.

Even if he’s healthy and ready to contribute in some capacity, there’s a vast chasm separating playing, and playing at the high level Lattimore is capable of when he’s in optimum condition. The suggested drafting approach is still hesitant optimism. If you’re a general manager who has a sufficient stop-gap in place for one year or half a season, then invest a mid-round pick in Lattimore. At that point, the risk associated with his multiple knee injuries over the past two years has decreased enough due to the value of the pick being spent.

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