An elite defensive back in the NFL is a commodity many teams just can’t afford. Having a stud on the outside who can cover the opposition's best receiver on an island costs a premium price, and the defensive backs of the world know it.
So when Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore’s name comes up in war rooms across the league, teams should get excited. While he isn’t the best secondary option in the draft, Lattimore is an elite prospect who may come at a discounted price.
That’s because during his time with the Buckeyes, Lattimore struggled to stay healthy. His hamstrings were the primary culprit, forcing him to sit out his entire freshman campaign and miss the final six games of 2015. Things got so bad he even had hamstring surgery during his time in Columbus.
As a defensive back, your legs are vitally important. The ability to keep up with wide receivers in coverage, especially when plays break down, is what separates the good from the great. Some scouts may be weary of his injuries, but in 2016 when he was healthy, Lattimore proved just how valuable he could be.
Along with being named to the first-team All-Big Ten, Lattimore intercepted four passes and broke up nine more. According to NFL.com, Lattimore was targeted 35 times in 2016 and defended 14 of them. That means 40 percent of the passes thrown his direction did not find their intended target and either fell incomplete or were picked off.
Like this one.
Along with his ball skills, Lattimore has exceptional speed at the line of scrimmage and is able to disrupt opposing wide receivers entering their routes. His speed allows him to shade fade and corner routes but still jump passing lanes for interceptions on quick outs and screens.
It's also what allows him to get in the backfield to make plays near the goal line.
Despite his upside, Lattimore only started one season collegiately. His track record, especially with injuries, will be a major question mark for many GMs around the league. Lattimore also did not face many elite receivers at Ohio State, so making the transition to the NFL may not come easily.
Lattimore has tremendous potential, but does not come without risk. Will his hamstrings hold up? How will he fare against the Dez Bryant’s and Antonio Bryant’s of the world? With no crystal ball, its impossible to tell.
I have Lattimore going 11th in my mock draft to the New Orleans Saints, but his draft stock his subject to fluctuation depending on which GM you talk to.
Where do you see Lattimore going in the draft? Share your predictions with Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.