• Akash Anavarathan

Why CB Marshon Lattimore is a Dark-Horse Candidate at No. 2 Overall

With less than a month to go for the NFL Draft, there are numerous players being connected to the San Francisco 49ers. One such name that doesn't come up as often, but could be a dark-horse candidate is Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore.

A two-year player at Ohio State, Lattimore came alive this in his sophomore season, starring in a secondary that feature potential first-round picks S Malik Hooker and DB Gareon Conley.

Hooker's a more common name that's being mocked to the 49ers these days, but let's take a look at why Lattimore is also worthy of that consideration.

Evaluating The Numbers

Lattimore comes in at 6-foot-0, with 31 inch arms, so he has the ideal size to play outside cornerback in the NFL. His combine numbers were also no surprise, showing how athletically gifted Lattimore is.

He had the third-fastest 40-yard dash time among defensive backs, coming in at 4.36 seconds. He also had the third highest vertical leap of 38.5 inches, giving him a freakish combination of speed and size.

Taken from Sports Reference, Lattimore had four interceptions and nine passes defensed this past season. To go along with that, the OSU defensive back also had 41 total tackles.

From Pro Football Focus, Lattimore was a shutdown corner, only allowing a passer rating of 30.2 when's he's the cover corner.

Tackling isn't a concern with Lattimore either, not missing any of the solo tackles he attempted in 2016.

If you're looking for a guy to match up against your best receiver and take him away, Lattimore's the guy in this draft class.

Evaluating The Tape

In this first clip below, taken from the CFB Semifinal game against Clemson, Lattimore doesn't shy away from contact, running downhill after QB Deshaun Watson and taking him down. Who says Lattimore doesn't like to tackle?

Next, he shows off his insane athleticism, chasing down this OU receiver and making the interception look easy. His speed in this play is unreal, to be able to make up that ground.

In the same game, Lattimore shows off his mirroring skills, running this route better than the wide receiver himself, almost coming up with the interceptions. Watch how quickly he opens up his hips and just flies down the field.

Next, in the game against Michigan, Lattimore proves once again how physical of a tackler he is, as he lowers his shoulder and lays the BOOM.

In the same game, is where I saw one of Lattimore's mistakes in coverage. Against WR Amara Darboh, he gets beat in the red zone, for a game-tying TD in overtime. He makes the wrong first step and doesn't have the time to make it up with his athleticism.

Evaluating The Scouting Reports

According to Pro Football Focus, Lattimore uses his hands really well, but sometimes is daring the referees to throw flags with his aggressive play. He does a really good job of opening up his hips at the right time, as seen on tape, and is able to get up the field quickly.

He does a great job covering a variety of routes, first allowing only two completions on go routes, and then allowing a passer rating of 2.8 on slants.

Some of the concerns in Lattimore's game stems from injury, as he missed a lot of games in 2015, and primarily only played the right side of the defense, so he may not be a corner that travels across the field.

According to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, Lattimore is the best cornerback in this draft class, he's a physical freak who can just take a receiver out of the game. He has all of the skills in his toolbox to be a successful corner, he just has to put it all together in the NFL.

What Does This Mean for the 49ers?

The 49ers will go into the NFL Draft with a young group of cornerbacks, led by veteran CB Tramaine Brock. San Francisco will likely start Brock and Robinson on the outside, with K'Waun Williams handling nickel duties.

This is based on the assumption that the 49ers follow through on John Lynch's word and have Jimmie Ward play FS. Marshon Lattimore can come in and bump Brock out of his starting job, and immediately take over the RCB position.

The 49ers have a variety of needs and fans shouldn't be surprised regardless of who they choose with the No. 2 overall pick, because they don't have any position group that strong. Lattimore, although not a favorite for the No. 2 pick, is definitely a dark-horse candidate for the 49ers.

Let us know what you think of the potential Lattimore to 49ers selection on twitter @49ersHub or @akashanav!

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