After the San Francisco 49ers selected Colin Kaepernick 36th overall in the 2011 draft, most Niner fans like me were scrambling to find out who the heck he was and how to say/spell his last name. Kaepernick was the first quarterback taken in the second round after the 49ers traded up nine spots to ensure Jim Harbaugh got the quarterback he wanted. Even though he was only started eight games in his career, all this season, is he the best quarterback selected from the 2011 draft class?
Heading into the draft there was plenty of speculation about who the 49ers should draft with their seventh overall pick. With their quarterback situation in question, many thought San Francisco would pick a quarterback. Instead they selected a relatively unknown outside linebacker, Aldon Smith. Thinking back to the draft pick, many of the so-called draft “experts” said the Niners drafted Smith too high and they could have picked him up later in the draft. I guess they were right because all Smith has done since then, is record 33.5 sacks in two seasons.
There were five quarterbacks drafted in front of Kaepernick (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton) and all have had some success in two seasons in the NFL. All but Gabbert are locks to be the starting QB for their respective teams in 2013, however, only Dalton has made it to the playoffs, losing both games in 2011 and 2012. More success from the 2011 draft class was Newton winning the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But only Kaepernick has won a playoff game and is one win away from the Super Bowl.
Of course Kaepernick was drafted to a team with a great running game and a stout defense, unlike the five quarterbacks drafted before him. Also, none of those five players had QB guru Jim Harbaugh as their head coach. Kaep has been very impressive, almost more than Newton and Dalton who have had similar success in the NFL. In the past five seasons, no other QB has had a higher passing rating (98.7) or Total QBR score (82.8) than Kaepernick in their first eight starts. This season in his first career start against the Chicago Bears he beat one of the top defenses in the NFL, defeated Drew Brees on his home turf, threw four touchdowns against the New England Patriots on the road and set an NFL record against the Green Bay Packers with 181 rushing yards.
Consider this, Kaepernick has three 50-plus-yard rushes on just 79 carries this season. Those astonishing numbers rank him tied for second with running backs Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles this season. But Johnson and Charles had a full season unlike Kaepernick, with Johnson having 276 rushing attempts and Charles 285. What Kaepernick has done is not only rare for a QB, but also for a running back. Only Adrian Peterson had more 50-plus-yard rushes this season with seven.
It might be too early to say that Kaepernick is the best QB selected from the 2011 draft. But should he lead the 49ers to victory on Sunday and advance San Francisco to their sixth Super Bowl appearance, we will be able to crown him that title.