When fans think about Kaepernick, there's likely a large segment that think he's a runner who just so happens to play quarterback, akin to Vince Young or Michael Vick. They think sooner or later, defenses will figure him out, and the San Francisco 49ers will need to look for a new signal-caller.
Part of that is true.
Defenses have always been able to adapt to a new offensive wrinkle, and it's only a matter of time before the read-option goes the way of the Wildcat formation.
Both he and Jim Harbaugh know that the run-option has a limited shelf-life. He'll have to evolve as a quarterback in order to survive in the NFL.
By the time that opposing teams have figured out how to handle Kaepernick and San Francisco's read-option, he'll be more than prepared to torch them through the air.
The 49ers star is a very underrated passer. Despite 2012 essentially being his rookie season, he threw only three interceptions to 10 touchdowns.
He wasn't successful last year by just looking for short options and not taking any chances, either. If Kaepernick would have qualified, his 8.6 yards per attempt would have been first in the league in 2012, 0.5 yards ahead of Robert Griffin III.
Although hitting 62.4 percent of his passes wasn't enough to get Kaepernick among the leaders, it would have been 12th in the league, 2.5 percentage points ahead of Eli Manning and 2.7 ahead of Superbowl MVP Joe Flacco.
Kaepernick won't have any trouble relying more and more on his arm as the season goes on. You saw part of this necessary evolution during the playoffs. Against the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round, Kaepernick ran for 181 yards on 16 carries. In the NFC Championship, he only ran twice, but also completed 16-of-21 passes against the Atlanta Falcons, compared to 17-of-31 against the Packers.
The third-year star isn't the kind of player who relies on his feet first and will run at the first sign of panic, and he's nowhere near the runner that Vick was when he was with Atlanta. Throughout his career, the 10-year veteran has averaged 7.0 rush attempts per game. Kaepernick only ran the ball 4.8 times a game in 2012.
The 25-year-old is the kind of quarterback where if there's green grass in front of him, he'll take it. Otherwise, he's going to sit in the pocket and look downfield. To say he's anything close to a run-first quarterback would be foolish.
Kaepernick will never be the kind of passer that Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are. However, they don't have his athleticism. The key for Kaepernick will be finding that happy medium between running and passing.
When he does, he'll be one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Don't be surprised if you see that happen in 2013.
*Note: All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.
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