When you have started only 10 games in your professional football career, yet have the all-time record for rushing yards in a game for a quarterback and have come one play away from winning a Super Bowl, you get treated a little bit differently. If he did not know it would be the case, Colin Kaepernick learned this past offseason that performing at such a high level in the NFL means you no longer get to live an ordinary life. Blessed with elite arm strength and blazing speed, Kaepernick has the potential to change the way quarterbacks are viewed in both fantasy football as well as the real action that takes place on the field.
“I want to try to break that perfect football mold. I don’t want to be someone who can be put into a category. I want to be my own person. I want my own style. I want to be someone who can’t really be compared to anybody.”, Kaepernick says in a recent interview with SI’s Peter King. Sorry Colin, when someone shows the promise you did after taking over for Alex Smith early in the 2012 season (when Smith led the league in quarterback rating nonetheless) writers like me try to make those connections. So who did I try to compare to Kaepernick?
Anyone who watched Colin Kaepernick rush for 181 yards against the Packers in last season’s divisional playoff round had to immediately think of a young Michael Vick. Unlike Kaepernick, Vick was already in his 3rd year as a full time starter by the time he was 24, and had already struck fear into opposing defenses with his ability to gain yards with his arm and legs. The stark contrast between Vick, who rushed for 902 yards during the 2004 season, and Kaepernick lies in their ability to accurately make throws. While the Falcons limited an inaccurate Vick to only 20 passing attempts per game of which he completed 56.4%, the 49ers showed enough confidence in Kaepernick’s accuracy, 62.4%, to let him throw nearly 30 passes per game. Despite the fact that both quarterbacks could beat you with their legs, the fact that Kaepernick continues to throw accurate darts around the field, leads me to look for another QB to compare the young Niner to.
Since he last served as a full time starting quarterback in 1998, most fantasy football players might not remember how electric Randall Cunningham was running an NFL offense. Like Colin Kaepernick, Cunningham stood tall in the pocket at 6’4″, and had the arm strength to throw as deep as any quarterback in the league. Opposing defenses feared Cunningham for his ability to break the pocket and scramble for yards- at the time very few planned runs were called for signal callers. Like Vick however, Cunningham struggled with his accuracy, only completing 54.9 of his throws at Kaepernick’s age. Does any quarterback in NFL history have the ability to beat a team with his legs while being incredibly precise with his throws?
Conveniently, Colin Kaepernick found himself on a team with a tremendous pedigree at the quarterback position. The last quarterback who I looked to compare to Kaepernick is another 49er, Steve Young. Young is a Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP who was renowned for his ability as a passer as well as a runner. Where Young differentiates himself from other dual threat QBs was in his tremendous accuracy. He led the league in pass completion percentage 5 times and was the single season record holder at 70.3% for accuracy up until a guy named Drew Brees beat his mark in 2011. But what about Young at the age of 25? He completed 53.3% of his passes and threw more interceptions than TDs- a far cry from what we saw from Kaepernick at the same age.
So what is Kaepernick’s ceiling? Without a player to compare him to from the past, it is tough to create a career path for the young QB. Assuming he is able to stay healthy, we might have to simply get used to seeing him go first overall in fantasy draft through the year 2020.