The San Francisco 49ers kick off their rookie minicamp on Thursday, and with OTAs getting started in two weeks, now seems like a good time to start assessing what the 2016 NFL Draft means to the roster. We're going to run through each position on the depth chart and take a preliminary look at how the draft picks might impact it, as well as an initial thought on the bubble watch. Today, we start with the quarterback position.
Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick, Thad Lewis, Dylan Thompson, Jeff Driskel
The 49ers spent a sixth round pick on Jeff Driskel this past weekend. That followed the signing of free agent Thad Lewis, a quarterback Chip Kelly brought in following a stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. Driskel will get a 4-year deal as a rookie. Lewis is signed to a one-year deal. Blaine Gabbert and Dylan Thompson are signed through this coming season. Colin Kaepernick is signed through 2020, but we know about how the guarantees do not become full until the start of each new league year.
Driskel is not going to compete for the starting quarterback job this year. And realistically, he won't be competing for the backup role as the depth chart currently stands. Kaepernick ended up not getting dealt to the Denver Broncos, and John Elway has said their pursuit is finished. The 49ers could always elect to release Kaepernick, but with a fully guaranteed $11.9 million salary, that seems unlikely. There is offset language, so signing elsewhere would negate part of what the 49ers owe, but if they are not willing to cover $5 million of his contract to trade him for a draft pick, why would they release him for nothing and still owe him a sizable chunk of money?
As it currently stands, Gabbert and Kaepernick will be competing for the starting QB job. After those two, will the 49ers keep a third quarterback? Lewis likely has some measure of support from Chip Kelly, but Jeff Driskel is likely a more malleable product at this point. Of course, as a sixth round pick, Driskel might just end up as a practice squad candidate. I included Driskel on my 53-man roster projection, but he's obviously quite the bubble candidate. I'd say his odds are better than Lewis and Thompson, but they are still not great odds.