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.
Kaepernick played his entire college career out of the pistol, which will hinder his ability to immediately play quarterback in an NFL offense. Too often, he relied on his feet to make plays even before the pocket broke down and doesn’t give his receivers time to make something happen. He usually isn’t willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit in order to make a good throw. He doesn’t force too many unnecessary throws and will hold the ball before forcing a pass, evidenced by his low interception total (never threw more than 8 in a full season). When his first and second options can’t get open, he does a good job of checking down to third and fourth receiving options. When on the run, he uses his elusiveness and athleticism to avoid big hits and doesn’t put his body at risk if it’s not necessary.
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.
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.
He has sort of a weird, wind-up delivery which appears to stem from his baseball background. When standing in the pocket he holds the ball low and away from his body, which isn’t helped by his long arms. The ball doesn’t come out of his hand from as high of a point as it should, which gets more of his passes batted down than you would expect for a quarterback of his height. His mechanics will need some work at the next level. He typically does a good job of setting his feet and stepping into throws when he’s in the pocket. There are good mechanics in his pass drops and can move in the pocket well to avoid pressure and keep the play alive. However, he too often gets happy feet and tries to scramble instead of waiting for his receivers to get open. His play fakes are solid, but that came with the read option offense that he ran.
Kaepernick has outstanding mobility from the quarterback position. When running, he displays outstanding elusiveness and speed, allowing him to pick up big yards and plenty of first downs on a consistent basis. He does a sensational job of getting to the boundary when the pocket breaks down and throws with exceptional accuracy when on the run by properly squaring his shoulders. His eyes stay downfield when he rolls out and does a good job of using both his strong arm and his touch when on the run. He possesses sneaky speed that allows him to outrun defenders, due in large part to his huge stride. Ball security needs some big improvement, as he has a tendency to run with the ball away from his body and doesn’t tuck the ball securely when anticipating contact.
His release is a little slower than most NFL scouts would like to see. The fact that he holds the ball low instead of up high only lengthens the process of getting the ball out of his hands. He does a good job of reading the defense and finding a receiver, but will be better off in the NFL if he can have the ball at the ready instead of down by his midsection.
Size, Speed, Strength & Agility
His strength isn’t anything to rave about, but he definitely isn’t weak for a quarterback. He displays good strength by shrugging off arm tackles and consistently picks up extra yardage by taking on smaller defenders in the open field. Like many scrambling quarterbacks, his elite athleticism helps make him an explosive player without being a workout warrior. Possesses ideal height and weight for the position and his speed is well above average for quarterbacks.
Considering he didn’t miss a single game after becoming the starter at Nevada, his durability doesn’t appear to be a concern. When on the run, he does a good job of not taking unnecessary hits and knows when to slide or duck out of bounds. He uses his feet to avoid big hits in the pocket and always pops up quickly after going down.
Kaepernick is a natural leader who does a good job of being a role model for his teammates both on and off of the field. Whenever the game was on the line or the Wolfpack were down late in the game, he kept his head up and continued to rally his team. He is a humble player who isn’t the type of person who brags about being a NFL quarterback prospect. Between football and school, he does copious amounts of volunteering in his community.
He did a good job of shrugging off mistakes and having a very short-term memory. When running the ball, he never shied away from a hit when he needed to pick the tough yards and was always willing to take on whoever stood in his way. Whenever he took hard hits while standing in the pocket, he bounced back up and didn’t let it keep him out of the game. He started every game after taking over the starting quarterback spot in 2007, showing that he was relentless in leading his team to victory.
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.
2010: Started 14 of 14 games; 233 of 359 (64.9%) for 3,022 yards, 21 TD, 8 INT, 150.46 passer rating; 175 rush attempts for 1,203 yards, 20 TD
2009: Started 13 of 13 games; 166 of 282 (58.9%) for 2,052 yards, 20 TD, 6 INT, 139.14 passer rating; 161 rush attempts for 1,183 yards, 16 TD
2008: Started 13 of 13 games; 209 of 384 (54.4%) for 2,849 yards, 22 TD, 7 INT, 132.01 passer rating; 161 rush attempts for 1,130 yards, 17 TD
2007: Played in 2 of first 4 games, then started last 9 games; 133 of 247 (53.8%) for 2,175 yards, 19 TD, 3 INT, 150.77 passer rating; 105 rush attempts for 593 yards, 6 TD
Majored in Business Management at Nevada.
Awards & Honors
2010: All-WAC First Team; WAC Offensive Player of the Year; Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Finalist; Davey O’Brien Award Finalist; Only player in NCAA history to throw for 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000 yards in a career.
2009: All-WAC Second Team; Nevada’s Golden Helmet Award for team MVP; Honorable Mention All-American by The Sporting News
2008: All-WAC First Team; WAC Offensive Player of the Year; Nevada’s Golden Helmet Award; Humanitarian Bowl MVP
2007: WAC Freshman of the Year; Nevada’s Fireman’s Award Winner; Honorable Mention Freshman All-American honors from The Sporting News and College Football News
Played pitcher in high school and had numerous Division 1 scholarship offers, but turned them all down in favor of his one football scholarship offer from Nevada. Once clocked a pitch of 94 mph during his senior year of high school. Was selected by the Chicago Cubs as a pitcher in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Also lettered in basketball as a forward during high school.
Nothing of note.
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