Colin Kaepernick Projections: Putting It All Together

If you decide to search the web either through Bing or Google and put in Colin Kaepernick's name, a slew of different scouting reports will be found. The funny thing is that some of these reports are basing their information off of other reports, which leads to a never ending cycle of the same information.

However, if you delve further into it and find the best sites it is possible to decipher what is tangible and what isn't. That is what I decided to do today. I will be looking at various scouting reports on Colin Kaepernick heading into the draft and attempt to put them all together in order to project what path his career may be heading on.

Many of us, including myself, are extremely excited about the possibility of Kaepernick taking over the starting job in the near future. But, is that unrealistic? Should we be patient? Is he a project? These are all questions I will attempt to answer. 

Sometimes scouting reports get it right as indicated in this 2005 report on California Golden Bear QB, Aaron Rodgers

In our opinion, Rodgers is the most complete quarterback in the 2005 draft class and he should be the first overall quarterback taken likely somewhere in the top-five. -Scouts Grade 99/100. -Scouts Inc

Other times scouts are completely off the mark and make even the most novice football fan look like Bill Walsh, as indicated in the following report on Jamarcus Russell by FF Jungle.

Russell is probably the most talented quarterback I've ever seen. The body of Daunte Culpepper, the arm strength of John Elway and the precision of Peyton Manning. If he's got the will and some decent coaching Russell will be a sure Hall of Famer.

See, sometimes you have to take scouting reports with a grain of salt, but other times these "experts" clearly know what they are talking about. Below, I am going to take a look at various scouting reports of Colin Kaepernick heading into the 2011 draft, and where scouts say he stood in comparison to other QBs in the draft and the NFL as a whole.

Sideline Scouting is one website that I take serious, they have been extremely solid with projections over the course of the last couple of seasons, and seem to really delve deep into the positive and weak attributes of each player. The following is there report on Colin Kaepernick.

Positives: Good arm strength... Extremely productive, ended his career as the only active college football player to accumulate 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards... Constantly improving as a passer, completion percentage has increased each season he has played at Nevada... Over the top release... Makes good decisions, doesn't turn the ball over very often... Uses his athleticism to his advantage by taking off to run rather than force a bad throw... By all accounts a great person, a leader on the field, and a good teammate off of it... Extremely mobile, very good top-end speed, can outrun defenders... Elusive in the open field for his size, can make people miss... Great height... A long strider, is much faster than he looks... One of the off-season's fastest risers, had a huge Senior Bowl week... Coachable, a likeable person who reacts well to coaching... Measured in much better than expected at the Senior Bowl, appears to have a nice strong build, continued to add weight (eight pounds) between the Senior Bowl and combine.

Negatives: Puts a little too much loft under his deep outs... Misses too many easy throws... Receivers have to adjust to too many of his passes... Deep throws are all over the place... Tries to do too much with his feet, runs with the ball far too often when he should keep his eyes downfield to throw... Very awkward throwing motion, has an elongated release where he pauses at the top of his motion before flicking the football forward... Will take a ton of big hits in the NFL if he doesn't change his playing style... Plays in Nevada's Pistol offense... Will need to learn to take snaps from under center... A project player, athletic, but needs a lot of coaching... Looks to take off with the football under pressure rather than stepping up into pressure to make a throw. (Sideline Scouting, 3/17/11)

If one of Kaepernicks' major weaknesses is "putting too much loft on his deep routes", I would have to conclude that really isn't a horrible thing, especially in the WCO. What worries me is the fact that they said he "misses too many easy throws". Short passes such as slants and screens are an important aspect of the WCO, you need to have an accurate QB to make those passes; something that Alex Smith has struggled with over the years.

10,000 passing and 4,000 rushing yards is an amazing feat for any collegiate QB, no matter the level of football he was playing at. Some people say that Kaepernick was playing in a "weak conference", but that could not be further from the truth. Three teams: Nevada, Boise State and Hawaii wont 10 games. In addition, those teams combined for wins against Virginia Tech, Oregon State, Utah, California, Boston College and Illinois. In fact, an argument could be made that the Western Athletic Conference was better than the ACC and Big East. 

One of the many things that endured me to Colin Kaepernick as the off-season unfolded was his premiere athleticism. He has the ability to out run defenders, and makes great decisions. Too many times over the last ten years 49er QBs have forced bad passes or thrown the ball away when they could have turned the play into something positive. This is not going to be the case with Kaepernick. 

 

NFL Draft Breakdown

Summary
Kaepernick could easily be one of the most unheralded, NFL-caliber quarterbacks to come out of college football in a long time. He was one of the most statistically successful quarterbacks in NCAA history and helped bring the Nevada football program to prominence. With an outstanding mixture of athleticism and passing abilities, he has proven himself to be a rare, dynamic specimen whose stock has sky-rocketed after his impressive performance at the Senior Bowl.

He has plenty to offer to NFL teams and is extremely coachable, so turning him into a pro-style quarterback shouldn't be too tedious of a task. If he can stay healthy and build on all of the tools that he developed at Nevada, he could become a great starting NFL quarterback in the near future. I project that he will be a second-to-third round pick.

Arm Strength
As evidenced by the fact that he was drafted by the MLB as a pitcher, he has more than enough arm strength to be an NFL quarterback. His arm is a cannon that allows him to make all of the throws necessary to make it in the NFL. Despite his strong arm, he does a good job of knowing when to use finesse with his passes to drop them in between the linebackers and the safeties. When he's on the run, he uses his arm strength to squeeze the ball into tight spaces in the defense. His passes to the sideline are always on a rope and right on target.

Accuracy
Although accuracy is a bit of a question mark for Kaepernick, it's better than he gets credit for. His completion percentage went up every year during his four years as the starter the Nevada, so it's clear that he is capable of improvement, especially with a good NFL coach guiding him along. He has a tendency to throw high on targets that are wide open, even when he has time to throw. The most accurate of his passes come when he is outside of the pocket. Although lots of his passes across the middle and deep are sometimes off the mark, he is a lot more accurate when he throws bullets, especially to the sideline.

Potential
There is plenty of potential still waiting to be unlocked in Kaepernick. He has been electrifying throughout his college career and has done a great job of improving every year. If he can stay on track and continue to improve, he could easily be one of the better quarterbacks to come out of this 2011 class in the long-run.

Now this is one of the most in-depth scouting reports that I have seen of Colin Kaepernick to date. If you click on the link above you will be able to see the entire report, I suggest that you do. They focus a little on the accuracy concern, and give him a little more credit. Kaepernick's completion percentage went up every year that he was with Nevada, which is a huge plus. They state that "good NFL coaching" will help him. Well, I am pretty sure we have that in Jim Harbaugh. 

"Unheralded" is a great word to describe "CK-7". Sometimes, players float under the radar because they are not playing at a traditional college powerhouse such as Ohio State, Tennessee, Florida State etc... There is no doubt in my mind that if Kaepernick was playing at Auburn and Cam Newton at Nevada their draft positions would have been switched. It would be completely foolhardy to believe that Kapernick wouldn't have been successful in a BCS conference, he would have been.  Just look at how big he came up in important games for Nevada and you would understand this better.

 

My Take 

Now those are just two of a myriad of different scouting reports in regards to Colin Kaepernick heading into the 2011 NFL Draft. I decided to use these two as examples because they delved further into their critique of Kaepernick than any other sites that I have come across

I understand that accuracy and throwing motion will be an issue for Kapernick, and he must improve on those two things. Some point to Vince Young as a comparison in terms of this, others point to Phillip Rivers. Could it be somewhere in between? I don't think that Harbaugh and Co. have to completely re-work CK-7 and his motion. Instead, I believe they can find a happy medium between the two.

If you are looking at upside, CK7 has it; he can turn out to be one of the best QBs in the NFL if you look long term. That said, his transition to the NFL is going to be pretty steep coming from Nevada's pistol offense. CK7 has the most upside of any QB prospect from the 2011 draft. Additionally, not just is his ceiling incredibly high, CK7 really doesn't have the bust factor we are seeing with Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert. At the very least, he is going to be a solid NFL QB. In my opinion, he is probably the surest thing at that position in the 2011 draft.

Comparisons are often made to NFL players, and I am as guilty of this as anyone. However, it is extremely hard to find a QB in the NFL that has the skill set of CK7. This doesn't mean that he is a prodigy by any means, it just means that his game is so distinct from others. The best comparison at the highest ceiling would probably be Aaron Rodgers, at the lowest common denominator it would probably be Vince Young. Not too bad right? Off the field and character issues aside, Young is a pretty dynamic player. That comparison isn't too bad for me if it is at the lower end of the spectrum. 

It is going to take time for CK7 to make the jump to the NFL; he isn't going to start from day one, and nor should he. We all saw firsthand how that worked out in regards to Alex Smith. I do believe that CK7 will have an impact sooner rather than later. A few different factors allow me to make this conclusion.

First, he has a much better supporting staff around him than Alex Smith did in 2005. You were looking at Kevon Barlow as the 49ers starting RB, an immature Brandon Lloyd as the leading receiver and Eric Johnson at TE. Not to mention the fact that Dennis Erickson was at the helm.

CK7 is going to have Jim Harbaugh showing him the ropes, Frank Gore in the backfield and a talent level in terms of skill positions so much better than what Alex Smith had in 2005. I would love to see CK7 sit for most of his rookie season, but be put in situations to succeed. There is no reason to believe that the 49ers cannot go with the wildcat or pistol a few plays a game. This would enable CK7 to get his feet wet, and be put in non stressful positions. Three or four times a game would be beneficial not only to his improvement as a QB, but to the dynamic of the 49er offense. 

In the long run I expect CK7 to be the best QB out of this draft class with Blaine Gabbert a distant second. You are going to find mechanical issues with every QB out of college, that really cannot be avoided. Heck, even Peyton Manning has issues coming out of Tennessee. Some people said his release was too slow and he was a sitting target when dropping back.

What makes CK7 so special is the fact that he can improve on the weaknesses indicated above while refining what he does great.

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