49ers QB Colin Kaepernick: When Does He Make His Move?

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 1: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws the ball from the pocket against the San Diego Chargers during their preseason NFL Game on September 1, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

We'll have a grading post for Colin Kaepernick once we get into the Ks, but in the meantime, there has been enough discussion over the last six months that I wanted to come up with something sooner to ask a more specific question. It is going to be hard to really assign any sort of grade to Kaepernick given his lack of appearances, so more than likely it will simply have to be an incomplete.

Nonetheless, there has been enough discussion about Kaepernick in posts that I wanted to ask when people think he makes his first start, if ever for the 49ers. At this point I understand that this is a shot in the dark for the most part. Some people like Kaepernick's upside, some people are not fans, and others aren't quite sure what to make of the big QB.

I bring this up now in part because of a variety of comments in the media. In his season-ending press conference, Coach Harbaugh has often spoken about how everything is a competition. In his end of season press conference he repeated this when asked whether if he returned, Alex Smith would be the starting QB in 2012 or if Kaepernick might get a chance to show the staff what he can do.

While there might be a competition, Coach Harbaugh has also made it known in a more general sense that Alex Smith is his guy. Of course, if Alex struggles mightily in training camp, that opens the door for Kaepernick, but it would seem that this would be a rather weighted competition for Alex Smith if/when he returns. Kaepernick indicated he is prepared to battle for the starting job. It's a plus that he is fired up to show what he's got, but there's a bit of distance between showing what he's got and surpassing Alex Smith on the depth chart.

Even if his chances are slim, this remains an incredibly important offseason for the rising second year QB. This will be his first full offseason with the coaching staff following a rookie year slowed by the lockout. He will get all offseason to work with Coach Harbaugh, OC Greg Roman and QB coach Geep Chryst. If the 49ers bring back Alex Smith to a three or four year contract, Colin Kaepernick will be in a position to continue trying to improve his various mechanics, learn the playbook and work to impress the coaching staff one day at a time.

Given all that, when (if at all) does Colin Kaepernick work his way into the 49ers starting lineup, assuming it is not because of injury to Alex Smith? It is an educated guess at the very best, and more like a shot in the dark, but I'm curious how people see the 49ers QB situation developing in the coming years.

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