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Dr. Saturday

Marcus Lattimore will reportedly enter the NFL draft instead of returning to South Carolina

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Once Marcus Lattimore found out that he could return and play football after a harrowing leg injury, the South Carolina running back faced a tough choice.

He was put in this bind because the NFL and NCAA continues to exploit athletes with its outrageously unfair rule that a player has to be three years out of high school to declare for the draft. Lattimore should already be in the NFL. But, the reality of the situation is he had to make a decision.

He could rehabilitate at South Carolina and presumably take a medical redshirt with an eye on coming back to play in 2014. Then he could show NFL teams he was healthy and should be drafted high. Or, he could go to the NFL now, gamble on where he might be drafted and make rehabilitation his full-time job. And then, if he's not drafted high, work towards making back that money on his second contract once he showed he was healthy.

Lattimore chose the latter option and will enter the NFL draft, according to ESPN.

This is what Willis McGahee did. McGahee suffered a bad knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl at the end of the 2002 season, then left school early to enter the draft. He was selected in the first round of that draft by Buffalo and has had a very productive NFL career.

Perhaps the same can happen for Lattimore, especially if he is far enough along in his rehab to convince NFL teams he can make a full recovery. This isn't the strongest of drafts for running backs. Lattimore does have elite talent. But, it will also be very difficult for an NFL team to invest a high pick in Lattimore after two major knee injuries (he tore his ACL in 2011 as well). The medical examinations at the scouting combine will be very important for Lattimore, as NFL teams try to determine how quickly Lattimore can return and if he can return to full speed.

Going to the NFL now means that Lattimore can work with an NFL team's doctors, training staff and strength and conditioning staff full time. That's probably the best option for a quick recovery.

By entering the NFL draft, Lattimore's college career will be over. Hopefully, this decision works out best for his NFL career.

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