Colin Kaepernick was the sixth quarterback taken in the 2011 draft, one spot behind Andy Dalton at the 36th overall pick. Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Christian Ponder were also taken in the same draft by pick #12, after Cam Newton went first overall. Kaepernick was one of the wildcards entering the draft. Clear athleticism, strong arm, but concerns by some over his mechanics and readiness for the NFL. Remember, two years ago, the pistol was a college gimmick offense in the minds of many.
Mel Kiper–who had Kaepernick as his seventh quarterback behind Newton, Gabbert, Locker, Dalton, Mallett and Ponder–had him going to the San Francisco 49ers, but in the third round (78th overall). McShay projected Kaepernick to Washington with the 41st overall pick–and how different would things have been if he had gone to the Redskins in the draft?
Here was Kiper on Kaepernick quoted from an article in the Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent on April 28, 2011: “Kaepernick has the size, speed and the strong arm, but not the sound fundamental mechanics you want coming into the league,” said Kiper in a pre-draft conference call. “I think he’s a prospect, but long term. You’ve got to be patient with him. I think in year two or year three, he’ll be better off. I think he’s solidly in the second- or third-round mix.”
“It’s the same with (Tim) Tebow,” Kiper said, referring to the Broncos’ 2010 first-round pick who started the last three games last season and completed 50 percent of his passes. “With the pads on, they go back to the same old ways. That’s fine (that Kaepernick has improved his mechanics). It’s an optimistic viewpoint. But until you get into an NFL scenario, that’s when you’ll see if he can maintain those changes. Does muscle memory take over?” ["NFL Draft: With Kaepernick, it's an issue of mechanics -- or is it?" Reno Gazette-Journal (Nevada), April 7, 2011].
More from “Miami Dolphins could face quarterback quandary in draft; In My Opinion” appearing in the Miami Herald on April 20, 2011:
Who is best in that tier after Newton/Gabbert/Mallett/Locker? Mel Kiper Jr. says Dalton; Mike Mayock says Dalton and Ponder are even. But ESPN’s Todd McShay and analysts Russ Lande (Sporting News) and Tony Pauline (Sports Illustrated) say Kaepernick has the most upside.
“Even though Ponder is too fragile, he’s more NFL ready than Kaepernick, and maybe the Dolphins feel they would get earlier returns from him,” Pauline said. “But Kaepernick might be a better player in two or three years.”
Vikings Now also published a poll of ten draft pundits, including Kiper, of whom the Vikings should take if the top two quarterbacks were gone. (Christian Ponder was the favorite, being selected by half of the respondents. Former Texans GM Charlie Casserly and drafter of David Carr notably selected no one, “because of what he considered a weak QB class.”
Evan Silva of Rotoworld (from April 25th article entitled NFL draft analysts: After top two, Christian Ponder might be next-best QB option for Vikings) was the only one that said the Vikings should take Kaepernick. “As much as Leslie Frazier would love a Matt Ryan-type of plug-and-play rookie, those don’t exist in this year’s draft,” Silva said. “Colin Kaepernick probably needs a season on the bench after four years in Chris Ault’s non-pro-style pistol spread, but his combination of arm strength and athleticism is second only to Cam Newton’s in the 2011 class.”
Omar Kelly, beat writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, also was a fan of Colin Kaepernick, saying he won him over at the Senior Bowl just like another strong-armed quarterback named Joe Flacco, by whizzing passes by him. Kelly had Kaepernick to the Dolphins in the first round.
Here’s video of draft day coverage when Kaepernick was selected. You will be excited to know that Chris Berman uttered, “[t]hat’s my guy, Mel, that’s my guy” when the pick came in.
How about the comment by Jon Gruden: “[t]he more you watch Nevada-Reno, the more you want to put their offense in, I mean, they shred people. That’s a heck of an offense.” He wasn’t the only one thinking it, and someone actually did it.
Finally, here were Trent Dilfer’s comments:
“This individual, Colin Kaepernick, can throw the ball moving to his left as good as any human being I’ve ever watched, and that’s not an understatement . . . I think the San Francisco 49ers found a diamond in the rough. I know Jim Harbaugh wanted him bad, he sees the ceiling.”
Colin Kaepernick has taken the league by storm this year, supplanting Alex Smith with his dynamic play. When Harbaugh made his comments that they tended to go with the hot hand, I thought he was going to start Kaepernick–not based just on that, but how much differently they were able to game plan with Kaepernick at quarterback. Would he have had as much success elsewhere? We don’t know, though I think those who were banking on his athletic ability and upside, and not the system he plays in, got this one right. Harbaugh also got it right when he went to Kaepernick, regardless of what happens in the Super Bowl.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]