When the San Francisco 49ers drafted quarterback Colin Kaepernick with the 36th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, they knew what they were getting: an athletic and freakishly talented prospect with a lot of upside who is still raw at the position.
Now that the preaseason is over, it's a little easier to get a small glimpse of what Kaepernick has provided as far as game tape goes.
That's not to say anything negative about him. Although his struggles during the preseason are highly documented, he also flashed glimpses of promise when he wasn't under constant pressure.
NFL defenses are like a computer chess game, played on the hardest difficulty, when compared to the defenses quarterbacks face in college. At the college level, the most athletic players tend to dominate. It's one of the main reasons why draft steals like Tom Brady and Marques Colston don't strum up the headlines of the NCAA. They're not the most athletic guys.
However, athleticism is not the most fundamental tool to NFL success. It's for that reason over-hyped players like Reggie Bush and DeAngelo Hall get drafted high in the first round. They blow scouts away at the combine.
So what does this mean for Colin Kaepernick? Simply, Kaepernick is somewhere in the middle. He possesses great athleticism, but more importantly, he has the the intangible tools needed to succeed in the NFL. That's why Jim Harbaugh drafted him.
Yes, he played in a gimmick college offense.
Yes, he has an awkward throwing motion.
No, he didn't face the stiffest of competition at the collegiate level.
None of that really matters. Kaepernick has a coach that can handle him better than his predecessor, Alex Smith, was handled. Kaepernick doesn't need to start right away. It's proven that quarterbacks who sit a year or two play markedly better when they finally play.
Aaron Rogers sat on the bench as a first round pick for THREE agonizing years behind the ageless Brett Favre, and now, he's the best quarterback in the league. Phillip Rivers sat for the better part of two years and he's amongst the NFL elite. Even Matt Cassel has had success sitting behind Tom Brady. When Brady went down in 2008, he proved that even late round picks like him could excel when given time to develop.
So now, when some pundits are already writing Kaepernick off, it should have been no surprise that he would struggle. Not having OTAs and mini camp this offseason certainly didn't help, but he would have struggled regardless. Once he's digested the nuances that go with playing quarterback in the NFL, then he will show the playmaking ability he displayed at Nevada.
Quarterbacks make the big bucks for a reason, especially in today's NFL. The fortunes of a franchise rise and fall on the shoulders of its quarterback. Even if Alex Smith has a good season, the reins to the 49ers foreseeable future are all his.
Just give it some time.
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