Yes, Colin Kaepernick is Worth the Money

Stephen Dunn

I would say that the overwhelming majority of 49ers fans are happy with the Kap deal, especially with the contract flexibility it provides. Most pundits and sportswriters are of the opinion that this is the going rate for a quarterback, and he’s getting paid what the Cutler/Romo/Stafford class of quarterbacks are being paid, so it’s about right.

But is it?

Let’s look at the numbers. As many of you know, I’m a big believer in ESPN QBR and its supporting statistic, expected points added (ESPN’s EPA is a little more nuanced than the raw EPA you see elsewhere, but that’s a methodological debate for another day). As a refresher, ESPN QBR is

The Total Quarterback Rating is a statistical measure that incorporates the contexts and details of those throws and what they mean for wins.

QBR runs on expected points added, which is the amount of points a quarterback produced above what he was expected to produce based on down, distance, and field position. QBR throws in a ‘clutch index’ or ‘leverage index’ as well, but it’s been marginalized in their model and has very little weight. QBR/EPA, in my humble opinion, captures the entirety of a quarterback’s performance and factors out garbage time – and is the best way to rack-and-stack quarterbacks. So, how does Colin Kaepernick compare to the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFL?

First, let’s take a look at regular and post-season combined Total EPA per play in 2013 – ESPN separates them:

1 Peyton Manning, DEN 0.1362
2 Colin Kaepernick, SF 0.1129
3 Philip Rivers, SD 0.1121
4 Aaron Rodgers, GB 0.1018
5 Nick Foles, PHI 0.1017
6 Drew Brees, NO 0.097
7 Tom Brady, NE 0.0861
8 Andrew Luck, IND 0.0782
9 Russell Wilson, SEA 0.0741
10 Cam Newton, CAR 0.0716
11 Alex Smith, KC 0.0618
12 Andy Dalton, CIN 0.0587

What we see here is that Kaepernick is #2 among quarterbacks who played in the playoffs in 2013 on a per-play basis; Josh McCown is the only non-playoff quarterback above Kaepernick, so the playoff-only list is fine.

The above list is based on usage – per play (pass/sack/rush/penalty). But what about total EPA – putting usage aside? When we do this, Kap is still a top 5 quarterback on a per-game basis, despite being in a run-heavy offense:

1 Peyton Manning, DEN 6.49
2 Drew Brees, NO 4.68
3 Philip Rivers, SD 4.53
4 Colin Kaepernick, SF 4.23
5 Aaron Rodgers, GB 4.07
6 Tom Brady, NE 3.93
7 Andrew Luck, IND 3.56
8 Cam Newton, CAR 2.92
9 Alex Smith, KC 2.84
10 Russell Wilson, SEA 2.74
11 Andy Dalton, CIN 2.67
12 Nick Foles, PHI 0.43

Again, McCown is the only non-playoff quarterback above Kap, so our list is fine; Romo and Ryan are right around 4.0 Total EPA per game, as an FYI.

Critics may say "look, he produces. But he’s a great runner. What about passing?" Thankfully, ESPN breaks out EPA on passing, rushing, sacks, and penalties. Here is passing EPA per attempt.

1 Aaron Rodgers, GB 0.1801
2 Philip Rivers, SD 0.1687
3 Russell Wilson, SEA 0.1552
4 Nick Foles, PHI 0.1507
5 Colin Kaepernick, SF 0.1452
6 Peyton Manning, DEN 0.1404
7 Andy Dalton, CIN 0.1334
8 Cam Newton, CAR 0.1219
9 Tom Brady, NE 0.1095
10 Drew Brees, NO 0.0942
11 Andrew Luck, IND 0.0924
12 Alex Smith, KC 0.0795

Again, Kaepernick is 5th per pass attempt. Finally, let’s take a look at total EPA per total action play over a two year period, both regular and post-season

RK PLAYER Total EPA/Action Play
1 Josh McCown, CHI 0.1658
2 Peyton Manning, DEN 0.1347
3 Colin Kaepernick, SF 0.1177
4 Aaron Rodgers, GB 0.1124
5 Matt Ryan, ATL 0.1059
6 Tom Brady, NE 0.1024
7 Russell Wilson, SEA 0.0946
8 Drew Brees, NO 0.094
9 Tony Romo, DAL 0.0876
10 Andrew Luck, IND 0.0822
11 Ben Roethlisberger, PIT 0.0764
12 Nick Foles, PHI 0.0757
13 Philip Rivers, SD 0.0744
14 Ryan Fitzpatrick, TEN 0.073
15 Matthew Stafford, DET 0.0702
16 Robert Griffin III, WSH 0.0695
17 Jay Cutler, CHI 0.0693
18 Cam Newton, CAR 0.0683
19 Matt Schaub, HOU 0.0622
20 Alex Smith, KC 0.0618

On a per play basis – usage rate – Kaepernick is 3rd in the NFL, 2nd excluding McCown’s anomalous performance. It’s a little tricky to factor out usage because Kaepernick didn’t play all of 2012, but we can look at total EPA per start

1 Josh McCown, CHI 7.43
2 Peyton Manning, DEN 6.17
3 Matt Ryan, ATL 4.87
4 Aaron Rodgers, GB 4.86
5 Tom Brady, NE 4.71
6 Drew Brees, NO 4.51
7 Colin Kaepernick, SF 4.08
8 Tony Romo, DAL 4.02
9 Andrew Luck, IND 3.91
10 Nick Foles, PHI 3.55
11 Russell Wilson, SEA 3.53
12 Matthew Stafford, DET 3.47
13 Ben Roethlisberger, PIT 3.2
14 Philip Rivers, SD 3.13
15 Robert Griffin III, WSH 2.97
16 Cam Newton, CAR 2.88
17 Matt Schaub, HOU 2.76
18 Jay Cutler, CHI 2.59
19 Joe Flacco, BAL 2.59
20 Andy Dalton, CIN 2.33

Kaepernick drops to 7th, but keep in mind that the players ahead of him run 1/3rd more total plays per game than him over the past two complete seasons. Finally, there is a concern that he doesn’t have the resume – usage isn’t high enough to predict performance, and that performance might go down if we use him more.

Fortunately, the trend is the opposite. The chart below looks at Total EPA per action play (y) vs action plays over the past two complete seasons – McCown is excluded as a major outlier. What’s clear is that performance goes up with more total plays:



So to sum this all up, Kaepernick has performed like an all-pro caliber quarterback over the past two years, and he will be paid as such. The 49ers are an excellent team, so players on bad teams like Matt Stafford put up more garbage yards and get media recognition – don’t let it bother you…be excited! We got a team-friendly contract despite the large numbers, and in my humble opinion Kaepernick is not ‘there yet’ cerebrally…he’s doing it all with a mid-grade understanding of passing schemes and unbelievable physical abilities. Even with minimal improvement in that category – which all quarterbacks get with age – he will an MVP-caliber quarterback.


This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Niners Nation

You must be a member of Niners Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Niners Nation. You should read them.

Join Niners Nation

You must be a member of Niners Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Niners Nation. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.