In the 2010 NFL Draft, the 49ers maneuvered to trade up in the second round to the 36th pick overall and promptly selected Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick. During the lockout-marred offseason, the 49ers then re-signed Alex Smith and made him their starting quarterback in what has turned out to be an astounding 13-3 season for the 49ers.
Most 49ers fans—happy with San Francisco's NFC West title-clinching season and the first playoff appearance for the franchise since 2002—have all but forgotten about this draft-day move. And as a result, Colin Kaepernick has slipped quietly into the background on the 49ers depth chart—ball cap on, clipboard in hand on the sidelines.
Despite the 49ers' and Alex Smith's success this season, we should not forget that the 49ers brass wanted Kaepernick badly. Enough that they were willing to give the Denver Broncos their second-round pick (No. 45), fourth-round pick (No. 108) and fifth-round pick (No. 141) in the 2010 draft to get him.
One could argue that the 49ers were hedging their bets in the event they could not re-sign Smith, but I think the 49ers' brass had their sights clearly set on the future in Kaepernick. This is not to take anything away from Smith, who may start for the 49ers for several seasons to come, but clearly, the 49ers think that Kaepernick can be something special down the road.
Ironically, the 2011 NFL regular season and playoffs have provided a showcase to astute fans as to the exact reasons why the 49ers' management and coaching staff were so high on Kaepernick. That showcase is none other than Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
Speaking of Kaepernick, while covering the 2011 Senior Bowl, NFL analyst Mike Maycock saw the similarities.
What will the 49ers do with Colin Kaepernick?
You could make a case that he's this year's Tim Tebow. He's a big, powerful kid who doesn't know what he's doing yet. He’s got a big arm, but he has mechanical issues.
Kaepernick is the only quarterback in Division I history to pass for over 10,000 career yards and rush for 4,000 yards. He's also the only quarterback to pass for over 2,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season three times.
Jim Harbaugh is revolutionary in his thinking when it comes to the game of football. He knows what a quarterback like Tebow or Kaepernick can do to NFL defenses.
In the book Blind Side, we learned how one player—Lawrence Taylor—could be so good, so effective and so revolutionary that he could forever change the game of football. In this particular case, Taylor forced opponents to reconsider how valuable an offensive lineman really was if he could block a blind-side pass-rusher with the athletic prowess of the Giants' linebacker.
Tim Tebow—love him or hate him—is a revolutionary player at the position of quarterback. Strong-armed, strong-willed and capable of running—not just scrambling, but running forward with the ball—or lofting the ball on the run to an open receiver, Tebow is defying defensive coordinators to deal with this new challenge.
I believe the 49ers will re-sign Smith to their squad next season, and I look for Kaepernick to remain on the bench to learn the game of NFL football. However, I am excited about the prospect of Harbaugh unleashing the likes of Kaepernick on the NFL in another season or two.
If Tim Tebow can do what he has done on his own, imagine what a physical specimen like Colin Kaepernick can do under the passionate tutelage of Jim Harbaugh.