NFC South: Marcus Lattimore

Over the past few months, I spent a lot of time out at the Fired Football Coaches Association office in Tampa. That’s where Jon Gruden works and that’s where Gruden’s QB Camp was filmed.

My assignment was to help Gruden write scouting reports on all the players who were coming through and it was a blast. I learned a lot about X's and O's, especially when it comes to quarterbacks.

But one of the most memorable sessions was one for a guy who isn’t a quarterback. South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore was the most intriguing guy (at least in my eyes) to come through the camp.

Lattimore’s coming off a major knee injury. You can read Gruden’s entire Insider scouting report here. But I learned to read Gruden a bit and I instantly could tell he thinks Lattimore can be a special player.

That got me thinking. The Atlanta Falcons are good for the moment at running back with Steven Jackson taking over for Michael Turner. But the Falcons have the luxury of having 11 picks in this draft. They also have the luxury of being a team that doesn’t have many holes.

They’re the type of team that can afford to take a shot on Lattimore somewhere in the middle rounds and bring him along slowly. Jackson’s not young and Lattimore could be his eventual replacement.

“I would think that putting him on the shelf for a year would be the way to go,’’ Gruden said. “It would be a luxury. It would be an expense. You've got to put him on injured reserve and you've got to pay his rookie contract. But he's 21 years old and he's only a true junior. So he's just a kid.

“You put this kid in the bullpen and get him with a great training staff and the right support system. He'll learn the offense and get himself ready to be a 22-year-old kid who comes back the next year, knowing the offense and has a big impact.’’

Ranking the needs: Running backs

April, 23, 2013
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We continue our pre-draft rankings of position-group needs with the running backs.

Remember, the earlier the ranking, the greater the need.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are in great shape with Doug Martin as their starting tailback and Erik Lorig as their fullback. The Bucs brought in Brian Leonard to replace D.J. Ware as the third-down back. But this team still could use a workhorse back just in case something happens to Martin. LeGarrette Blount remains on the roster for now, but it sure looks as if the coaching staff doesn’t have much faith in him and he could be traded or released.

Atlanta Falcons: Steven Jackson should be an upgrade over Michael Turner and I expect Jacquizz Rodgers to continue to emerge. But Jackson is not young. The Falcons are in a situation where they might be able to draft a running back (South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore perhaps?) in the middle rounds and bring him along slowly.

Carolina Panthers: Carolina is overloaded with DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert in the backfield.

New Orleans Saints: They are even more overloaded than the Panthers with Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas. The New York Jets reportedly have shown interest in trading for Ivory.
Since late February, I’ve been working on a side project. I’ve been spending a lot of time out at the Fired Football Coaches Association offices in Tampa.

For those that don’t know what the FFCA is, it’s the headquarters of former Tampa Bay and Oakland coach Jon Gruden and his television show, Gruden’s QB Camp. My assignment was to work with Gruden to help turn his scouting reports on each prospect coming through into the written word.

These Insider scouting reports have started to run. Here’s Gruden’s scouting report Insider on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and here’s his take Insider on Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson. Over the coming days, we’ll have a bunch more on all the prospects that came through the camp, so watch our main NFL page for them.

I’d keep a close eye on some of the quarterbacks that are viewed as mid-round picks because Atlanta and Tampa Bay are in the market for backups, New Orleans could be in the market for a project as a third quarterback and I’ve been hearing some rumblings that even though Carolina has Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen as backups to Cam Newton, the Panthers have been doing some homework on some of the later-round quarterback prospects.

In addition to the nine quarterbacks that came through, Gruden also brought in Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.

When the scouting report on Lattimore runs, I’ll have an accompanying blog post because I think there’s one NFC South team where he could be a very logical fit.

Around the NFC South

February, 20, 2013
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Time for a look at some news and notes from around the division:

ATLANTA FALCONS

D. Orlando Ledbetter throws out the possibility of the Falcons taking South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore in the second round of the draft. Lattimore is a great talent. But he’s coming off a knee injury that might prevent him from being much of a factor in 2013. I don’t think the Falcons are in a position where they can afford to redshirt a running back. They need an immediate impact at that position and there should be other running backs available in the second or third round.

CAROLINA PANTHERS

The team took another step forward in its attempt to get financing for renovations at Bank of America Stadium. The Charlotte Chamber threw its support behind the plan and asked the North Carolina General Assembly to make a quick decision on if it will raise food and beverage taxes to pay for the upgrades. Charlotte City Council already has agreed to pitch in $144 million, but that’s contingent upon the state throwing in $62.5 million.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Draft analyst Mike Mayock mentions LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Oregon’s Dion Jordan as possibilities for the Saints with the No. 15 overall pick. They both are guys who could play outside linebacker in the 3-4 system that new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be running. I could also see the Saints going with a defensive tackle with that pick.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

An official at Tampa International Airport said authorities there would have tried to help defensive end Da’Quan Bowers properly transport his gun if notified. But Bowers was in New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Monday when he told airline officials he was carrying a gun and ended up getting arrested. New York has stringent gun laws and it’s a criminal offense to carry a registered weapon outside your home or place of business. All indications are that Bowers didn’t have any bad intentions, but it still is possible he could face prison time.

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