Marcus Lattimore injury opens the door for other running backs in 2013 NFL Draft

Joe Robbins

Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome knee injury that has put his NFL future on hold. Without Lattimore, the race to be the first running back off the board in 2013 is wide open. We take a look at the candidates to take his place.

Marcus Lattimore is one of those rare running backs. He's huge, 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, and has incredible speed and burst. His power can best be described as violent.

Lattimore's running style is flexible. He can make people or miss or run right through them. In essence, he is quite the NFL Draft prospect. At least, he would be if he could stay on the field.

On Saturday, Lattimore suffered one of the more gruesome knee injuries in recent memories. I'll spare you a video or details and just say the human knee is not supposed to be bent at that angle. Steve Spurrier called the injury a dislocated knee, but refused to comment on any bone or ligament issues. This devastating injury comes after Lattimore missed most of his sophomore season with a torn ACL.

Considered to be the elite running back prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft, Lattimore now becomes highly unlikely to declare for the 2013 draft and may end up missing next season, leaving him to target the 2015 NFL Draft. The door has now opened for other backs to battle it out for the top spot in April's draft.

Let's take a look at the implications this has on the 2013 NFL Draft.

Will a running back be taken in the first round?

Marcus Lattimore was considered by many to be a cut above the rest of the running back class. Despite being a junior, it was a foregone conclusion that he would declare for the draft and be the first back off the board. WIth Lattimore out of the picture, will any players prove themselves worthy of first round consideration?

The value of the running back position may be the biggest issue. The position simply isn't as important as it once was, making it tougher for running backs to earn that draft slot. Three running backs snuck into the first round a year ago, though, and chances are the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft will feature at least one ball carrier.

But who will it be?

Who is the best running back in the 2013 NFL Draft?

The case for Andre Ellington

With Lattimore's injury, Clemson senior Andre Ellington moves to the top of my running back board. He's the type of player that teams will look at in the first round. He's versatile and has the ability to make plays in a number of different ways. He's also got loads of physical ability. In short areas, Ellington has superb burst and agility, and his straight-line speed is enough to break lengthy runs. His vision is a work in progress, but he has improved leaps and bounds in this area as a senior. Essentially, a first round running back needs to have special attributes that contribute to a high ceiling. Ellington fits the bill.

Other candidates

Stepfan Taylor, Stanford

Taylor is more of bruising back than Ellington, but he has plenty of quick and speed to make people miss and pick up big chunks of yardage. He's not necessarily a game breaker, but he picks up tough yards and has shown his worth as a pass blocker. It will be tough for him to crack the first round.

Eddie Lacy, Alabama

Eddie Lacy is next in line among the junior running backs eligible for the 2013 draft. He has the overall skill set to contend with Ellington to be the first player off the board at his position. While his offensive line opens up massive running lanes at times, Lacy has displayed a violent running style and excellent burst in space to be a workhorse at the next level. If he enters the draft after this season, there is a very good chance that he will be selected ahead of Ellington.

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