QB Colin Kaepernick, Free agent
HT: 6-4, WT: 233, Born: 10-3-1987, College: Nevada, Drafted: Round 2
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Average draft position
Current as of August 25th. [Full ADP list]Overall: M Colston (72), M Wallace (73), Colin Kaepernick (74), S Ridley (75),
Position: C Newton (67-QB9), R Griffin III (70-QB10), Colin Kaepernick (74 - QB11), T Romo (85-QB12), J Cutler (92-QB13)
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Colin Kaepernick was the 49ers' second-round pick in 2011. He didn't play much as a rookie, but he filled in when Alex Smith was injured midway through the 2012 season, and he played himself into the permanent starting role. Over the past two seasons, Kaepernick has led the 49ers to two NFC Championship appearances and one Super Bowl appearance. Kaepernick is an accurate passer with a good arm, but his fantasy production has been limited by the 49ers' run-heavy style of offense. Kaepernick himself is an excellent runner (941 rushing yards over the past two seasons), but he won't be a top-tier fantasy QB until the 49ers attempt closer to 500 passes (rather than the meager 417 they attempted last season). Expect him to be a worthwhile fantasy starter, but near the bottom of that range.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - Riding the wave of a highly successful first season, there were questions about whether Colin Kaepernick was a complete quarterback. The prevalence, yet relative newness, of the read-option offense begged the question of whether NFL defenses would be able to catch up with one full offseason and a library of game-tape to study, thus exposing Kaepernick as more of a successful system quarterback than a top-level, dominant passer. Green Bay came to San Francisco after focusing squarely on stopping the read-option offense, selling out to stop the run and making sure Kaepernick would not be able to beat them with his legs. Instead, Colin Kaepernick unleashed a dazzling display of passing prowess, attacking a strong Green Bay secondary with hard, accurate throws. In the first quarter, Kaepernick led a 13-play scoring drive where he made quick decisions behind good pass protection, throwing fast and accurate when his receivers or check-down targets were able to find space. When the protection broke down, Kaepernick scrambled out of the pocket but kept his eyes downfield, as the 49er receivers were most successful gaining separation when given time to run away from coverage or find the soft part of the zone. From the Green Bay 22-yard line, Kaepernick scrambled right and threw to Anquan Boldin in the end zone, but the pass was a bit too high, forcing the wide receiver to make an impressive adjustment to complete the catch but ultimately land out of bounds. But a few plays later, Kaepernick ran play-action and the Green Bay defense bit. This allowed Vernon Davis one-on-one coverage on a route to the corner of the end zone and Kaepernick threw a perfect pass over the tight end’s shoulder, landing squarely in Davis’ hands for the touchdown. With Green Bay’s insistence on stopping the run at any cost, Kaepernick was largely unsuccessful on the limited amount of read-option plays he ran, and he even misread the defense on one that resulted in Kaepernick being leveled by Clay Matthews on a keeper. When Kaepernick decided to tuck the ball and run for a first, he was hampered by Green Bay’s use of a defensive spy. With his long-term health in mind, Kaepernick slid when the spy or safety bore down, often short of the first down. On one play in the red zone, Kaepernick scrambled left, tried to turn the corner but there was no space and he ran out of bounds, only to be pulled down far out of play by a launched Clay Matthews. A melee ensued, and on the next play Kaepernick threw an accurate dart to Boldin on a slant and the wide receiver shrugged off a tackler for the second passing touchdown of the day. The Kaepernick-to-Boldin connection was wildly successful, as the new arrival caught almost every ball thrown in his direction. Kaepernick still had a tendency to only throw to open receivers, as opposed to throwing receivers open, but Boldin had the ability to consistently find the space in a zone defense or make perfect adjustments when Kaepernick scrambled. Because of Boldin’s innate ability to get open no matter the coverage, Kaepernick was able to parlay great pass protection (and some stunning pass blocking by Frank Gore) in to consistent completions. That’s not to say every ball Kaepernick threw was perfect, as on one deep throw Kyle Williams had beaten his man and streamed down the sideline, only for Kaepernick to underthrow his open receiver, allowing the corner to catch up and break up the pass. On a similar play, Boldin flew by the zone coverage and was open down the sideline. Had Kaepernick lead Boldin, a touchdown was very probable. Instead the ball was underthrown, forcing Boldin to stop and adjust. But for most of the game, Colin Kaepernick was a stunning force at quarterback. Green Bay was so traumatized by the rushing onslaught of last year’s playoff loss they spent an offseason drawing up a fantastic defense of the read-option that was executed flawlessly. But Kaepernick’s ability to throw the ball left Green Bay in a no-win position. With the 49ers on the goal line, Green Bay sold out to stop what they thought would be a power-run or scramble by Kaepernick. Instead, Vernon Davis slipped behind the defense and Kaepernick floated the ball right in to his hands for the third and final passing touchdown of the day.
Week 2 - Beyond the issue of calling audibles and enacting movement before the snap in the nation’s loudest arena, Colin Kaepernick’s biggest weakness was on the forefront of his team’s crushing loss. Though the quarterback had shown the ability to make hard, accurate throws, those throws were most successful when thrown to an open man. When the Seattle secondary closed in, tightened passing windows and allowed only perfectly located balls to result in completions, Kaepernick was unable to string together completions and drives. In previous games, Kaepernick often relied on a stout running game to widen passing windows and alleviate pressure. But with Seattle playing the run so well, Kaepernick was forced to throw into Seattle’s heavy coverage. Seattle also played very tight man-to-man coverage on the outside and none of the receivers, not even the powerful Anquan Boldin, were able to escape. Often Kaepernick had to scramble about, waiting for someone to get open before throwing the ball away or running for yardage. When Kaepernick did attempt to force the ball in to tight windows, he was often unable to beat the exemplary coverage. A perfect example was Kaepernick’s first interception, occurring on a route from Davis across the face of the end zone on 3rd and goal. Davis was caught between two defenders, one in front of his route and one behind. The only way for the pass to result in a touchdown was if Kaepernick not only threw the ball in the perfect position, but if he threw early and hard enough so the secondary wouldn’t be able to make a play. Instead, Kaepernick took a beat, then threw the ball just far enough ahead of Vernon Davis for the corner to tip the ball up. A tipped ball interception followed. During the Green Bay game, those windows were much larger and Kaepernick could get away with throws a little ahead or a little behind. But Seattle’s secondary was simply too good to make imperfect plays. On a route down the sideline, Vernon Davis was tightly covered by the outstanding Richard Sherman. Kaepernick had time and should have tried to put the ball just ahead of Davis, where Sherman’s inside position and ball-hawking abilities would have been less threatening. Instead, Kaepernick threw the ball slightly behind Davis, where the tight end would have to turn and catch, and Sherman leapt in to the air, catching the pass at its highest point for an impressive interception. Constantly behind in downs and yardage thanks to an ineffective run game and a heavily penalized offense, Kaepernick’s completions came on underneath routes when the defense played soft, and Kaepernick’s rushing yardage came on broken plays where Seattle had covered his receivers so well all Kaepernick could do was run. Though Kaepernick showed he still had the speed and vision to weave between downfield blockers and turn the corner on pursuing linebackers, Kaepernick’s good runs were often followed by more futile passing plays. And when Kaepernick attempted to force the ball in to double coverage, like he did in the 4th quarter during an attempted comeback, he overthrew the receiver and the ball landed right in to the safety’s hands. Kaepernick also fumbled while scrambling, waiting too long for the receivers to break away from coverage and not feeling the pass rusher in pursuit. A strip sack soon followed, the ball held out too far, too loosely. With Seattle’s defense outplaying San Francisco’s offense in all facets, there was little Kaepernick could do, and when forced to rely solely on the passing game to catch up, mistakes followed.
Week 3 - Following a dismal performance against Seattle, there was hope the 49ers would have more offensive success against a less imposing Indianapolis defense. Instead, Kaepernick struggled mightily against a solid defensive game plan. Because of the 49ers’ losses at wide receiver, Indianapolis was able to play man-to-man coverage on the outside while keeping a spy on Kaepernick. When Kaepernick looked to run the defense was disciplined, holding their lanes and containing the quarterback. And though the running game through Frank Gore was effective, the 49ers found themselves falling further behind as the game wore on and Kaepernick was forced to throw. Unfortunately for Kaepernick, his receivers were unable to beat the man-to-man coverage and the quarterback often found himself throwing in to tight coverage. Though there were plays to be made with exact ball placement, Kaepernick again showed that he can not throw accurate passes to tight coverage. Passes were often too low or behind the receiver, and with such little separation inaccurate passes lead to incompletions. A positive can be gleaned from the fact that Kaepernick did not make poor decisions, his lone interception the result of a pass tipped at the line, but that would ignore how tentatively Kaepernick played. There was a lack of bravery in his throws reminiscent of the Alex Smith era, and when Kaepernick left the pocket he found himself facing down a defensive spy that beat the quarterback to space. His receivers did him no favors and the decision to move away from an effective running game even further tightened the coverage, but the biggest flaw in Kaepernick’s game again reared its head: the young quarterback can not throw accurate passes to tightly covered receivers.
Week 4 - The 49ers implemented a simple, safe game plan to help Kaepernick rebound from back-to-back dismal performances. They began the game with a play-action rollout with Bruce Miller open in the flat (a Kaepernick favorite). Similar simple plays and high-low reads continued to be called as the 49ers preferred to rely on their effective run game. That’s not to say that Kaepernick had a great game, as a number of mistakes fell harmlessly to the ground as opposed to the defenders’ hands (not counting the fumbled hand-off to Hunter, which the Rams recovered). Two plays in a row at the end of the second half demonstrated this problem perfectly. With Boldin open on the right sideline, Kaepernick held on to the ball too long, throwing late and allowing Janoris Jenkins time to react and break up the play. Soon after, Vernon Davis ran down the seam and was open for a small window of time. Instead, Kaepernick threw the ball late, allowing the linebacker to undercut the pass. Kaepernick’s hesitancy when throwing the ball could have led to disaster, if not for the fact that Kaepernick throws the ball hard enough for passes to be reacted to and deflected, as opposed to intercepted. Many of the plays in the passing game were short throws, allowing the receivers and tight ends to make plays after the catch. The lone exception were throws to Anquan Boldin, who engaged in numerous acts of offensive vs. defensive pass interference. When Boldin won the push-off game, he was able to gain enough separation for Kaepernick to lock on and throw him the ball. On the 49ers’ first touchdown drive, Kaepernick stared down Boldin on the left sideline and unloaded the ball as Boldin broke upfield, a great display of Kaepernick knowing when Boldin would pull off his double move while throwing the ball exactly where it needed to go. Boldin’s catch for the touchdown was even more impressive, as Kaepernick threw the out route as Boldin escaped from coverage. The ball arrived where it needed to be at the perfect time and Boldin was able to scurry down the sideline and dive for a 20 yard touchdown. A more impressive play on Kaepernick’s end came on his second touchdown throw. Kaepernick locked on to Boldin running in the flat on the left, but the receiver was well covered. Kaepernick moved on and threw a ball with perfect touch to the corner of the end zone as Vernon Davis pulled away from his coverage. The ball landed right on Davis’ hands. Kaepernick showed the ability to make every throw, but the question of how effective can he be with only Boldin and Davis as threats in the passing game is a very real one. Quinton Patton fractured his foot and Kyle Williams continued to prove to be mostly useless as a second receiver. And though Kaepernick was able to execute a simple, safe game plan, he still displayed errors that will hopefully be ironed out as his pro career advances.
Week 5 - Colin Kaepernick didn't play well. It may seem crazy, but he did very little to help his team to a big lead. He missed many throws and wasn't asked to carry the offense. Late in the game he found Vernon Davis when he was wide open for a 64 yard touchdown, but Davis was wide open and did most of the work with his speed down the sideline. Kaepernick didn't have to play well or even get out of first gear because of Schaub's terrible play on the other side.
Week 6 - After a stretch of disappointing games, bewildering performances and questions about whether Colin Kaepernick was truly healthy, the quarterback did not inspire a great deal of confidence to start the game. Two separate Arizona turnovers allowed San Francisco to start 1st quarter drives within 11 yards of the Arizona end zone. San Francisco was unable to gain more than 6 points as Kaepernick began 2/7 for 9 yards and the constant specter of a San Francisco team unable to score touchdowns in the red zone loomed. On the last drive of the 1st, Kaepernick looked to execute a play-action pass only for Frank Gore to ignore him completely, instead committing to a cracking block of the free blitzer. Kaepernick ran up in the pocket, saw Vernon Davis across the field far from the coverage and threw a great ball while on the run for a 26 yard gain. The 49ers marched down the field, only to see their red zone hopes squashed once again as Kaepernick scrambled right, and facing an outstretched Karlos Dansby, threw a ball that was easily tipped. Without Dansby serving as a wall, the ball very well may have arrived to Bruce Miller for a touchdown, but instead a defender made an adjustment to intercept the tip. But following that drive, the passing game began to click for Kaepernick. Balls were delivered with more zip, more confidence. The ball placement became outstanding. Even when Arizona played tight, Kaepernick was able to throw to where only the receiver was able to make a play. But more importantly, Vernon Davis was at the peak of his physical abilities and Kaepernick took complete advantage, throwing to the tight end a team-high 11 times. On Kaepernick’s next drive of the 2nd quarter, Kaepernick stepped up in the pocket, away from the oncoming pass rushers. At the same time, Vernon Davis beat the safeties over the top and Kaepernick could not have delivered a better ball, with the perfect amount of touch and power. Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis right in the hands, right over the shoulder as the tight end didn’t even have to break stride on his way to a 61 yard touchdown. On the next drive, Kaepernick threw another fantastic ball over Davis’ shoulder, and Davis’ ability to reel it in at full speed while staying in bounds demonstrated both the confidence and pinpoint precision the two have when the passing game is going well. Barely any time passed before Kaepernick made another stunning pass. Davis blew by his one-on-one man coverage and Kaepernick locked on, knowing the whole way that Davis would gain a step. Just before the goal line, the defender stretched out to deflect that inevitable touchdown, but the ball landed just outside his reach, right in to Vernon Davis’ hands as yet another touch pass arrived at the perfect time, in the perfect location. And though Kaepernick found himself fumbling when twisted around by pass rushers, and though the game began with multiple red zone disappointments, the performance was one that harkened back to the Green Bay game. Because the effectiveness of Kaepernick’s arm, his ability to regulate touch vs. power while making accurate throws, that was but a part of the optimism of Kaepernick’s game. Because for the first time all year, Kaepernick began to run effectively, identifying the right moments to scramble, keeping the option and utilizing his speed for necessary gains. If Kaepernick is again able to establish himself as a threat in the run game, the pass defense of his opposition should loosen. And if the pass defense loosens, confidence and rhythm will soon beget a consistently effective passing game.
Week 7 - Though Colin Kaepernick has many physical and mental tools that allow him to dominate a game, they haven’t truly come together in a consistent manner. Instead, there will be games where one aspect of Kaepernick’s abilities excels while another lags; up and down as the game flow changes. One important facet of Kaepernick’s game that had been missing most of the year was his ability to run. With rumors circulating about mysterious, unnamed foot injuries, the question of why wasn’t Kaepernick running only grew louder. As Vernon Davis recovered from a foot injury, Boldin the only reliable target out of a band of motley, semi-professional wide receivers, the passing game grew anemic. And yet, Kaepernick would not run, the read-option declared vanquished. Against Tennessee, Kaepernick played a complete and balanced game, his running ability confounding a defense that struggled to contain Frank Gore. Kaepernick’s touchdown run was an impressive feat, as the quarterback weaved through 20 yards of blocked defenders to score untouched. Kaepernick’s speed was expected, but the rate with which Kaepernick accelerated, stuttering to pick a crease before hitting top speed immediately, left Tennessee wrong-footed most of the game. And by leaning heavily on Frank Gore, Kaepernick was able to execute play-action passes that released pressure off of his receiving targets. Given time to stand in the pocket Kaepernick threw some perfect balls, the throw ahead of a tightly covered Anquan Boldin being perhaps the most impressive. Throughout Kaepernick showed great timing and placement when allowed to identify where the ball needed to be. When rushed, Kaepernick scrambled and threw across his body, attempts that hoped for the best. When rushed from behind, Kaepernick badly overthrew Vernon Davis down the left sideline, the ball landing right in the safeties’ arms, the interception negated because the defensive end dove in to Kaepernick’s knees after the quarterback released. Add in a duck that arrived late enough for two safeties to crunch Vernon Davis, and Kaepernick’s game can’t be called superb. But throws over shoulders, jump balls that were well timed and anticipated, moving quickly through progressions on short throws: those were all varied facets of a quarterback’s game that Kaepernick executed well. The growth in a diverse range of throws only spelled optimism for the young quarterback.
Week 8 - Kaepernick had a great performance as the quarterback’s season continues to improve. Riding a four-game winning streak, San Francisco looked to be an unfair matchup against the winless Jaguars. Unfortunately, that unfair matchup quickly became unwatchable as San Francisco rarely began a drive that didn’t end in points. What allowed Kaepernick to be so successful were two very major components: how effectively San Francisco was able to run the ball and how poorly the Jacksonville defense played. With Frank Gore running wild through large holes, Jacksonville began to sell out in an effort to stop the run. This allowed Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin to gain easy separation from their one-on-one man coverage. It also allowed Kaepernick to keep the ball on read-option runs and sprint through wide open space. Kaepernick’s rushing touchdown in the 2nd quarter came when Jacksonville bit hard on the fake, opening space to the side. With downfield blockers sealing any kind of pursuit, Kaepernick had only a contested goal line to dive over for his 9-yard touchdown. On Kaepernick’s touchdown run in the 1st quarter, the quarterback took the snap and ran a speed keeper to the left behind Frank Gore and Joe Staley. The two were so effective in sealing a tunnel that Kaepernick was able to fly through traffic and down the sideline, diving for the pylon and a touchdown. But it wasn’t only Kaepernick and San Francisco’s execution that was devastating. Jacksonville seemed like a woeful imitation of a defense. Kaepernick’s large rushing numbers had to do with Jacksonville deciding to only use a QB-spy once in a while. During man coverage, Jacksonville had a habit of dropping everyone and Kaepernick seemed almost surprised by the amount of space open before him. When Bruce Miller lined up as a wide receiver, Jacksonville didn’t even bother covering him. A simple throw and catch later, San Francisco was 43-yards downfield. On Kaepernick’s only passing touchdown, Jacksonville bit so hard on the play-fake that Vernon Davis was by himself in the corner of the end zone. All Kaepernick needed to do was float the ball there. The blown coverage, the basic inability of Jacksonville to stop either the run or the pass served Kaepernick more as an opportunity to pad statistics, for San Francisco to impose their dominating will on another set of people, than a true benchmark for where the young quarterback is in his development.
Week 10 - One of the most dismal games of his career, Colin Kaepernick spent the day staring down the barrel of a dominant pass rush, getting hammered for six sacks and thoroughly unable to produce any type of offense. The only passes Kaepernick had success on came when Carolina played soft defense in the secondary on long downs, allowing Kaepernick to check down. This hardly led to success, as Carolina was solid when forced to commit open-field tackles, and the 49ers’ propensity for third and long check downs contributed to their paltry 2-13 third down conversion rate. With Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy so fast, Kaepernick was unable to even escape the pocket as the quarterback was able to take only a few steps in either direction before being torn down. Not only did the act of escaping the pocket become a harrowing task, Kaepernick’s few attempts at keeping the ball on the read-option left him slammed in the backfield before the quarterback could take a step. Except for a few scrambles at the end of the game with Carolina’s spy getting sloppy, Kaepernick was unable to escape the oncoming defenders, never mind use his speed and athleticism for positive gains. The only way Kaepernick could have beaten such a pass rush would have been with quick decisions on quick throws. Though some blame goes to his receivers for a habitual inability to separate, Kaepernick’s wariness about throwing to tight windows/throwing receivers open has been a long standing problem. Even with one-on-one coverage to Boldin, Kaepernick received the snap, looked, hesitated and then was forced to scramble by the pass rush. When receivers did find themselves with a little space, Kaepernick looked rattled by all the pressure he had previously faced and became erratic with his accuracy. Only on three occasions did Kaepernick have the gumption to throw deep. Two of the throws were badly underthrown, and while the first bounced off the corner’s hands, the second was thrown in to such heavy traffic the interception was inevitable. But when Vance McDonald ran a seam route and found himself behind the secondary in the 4th quarter, Colin Kaepernick threw a perfect pass, arching behind the pursuing coverage and landing right in Vance McDonald’s hands. The tight end had the catch and then didn’t, as the linebacker was able to get a hand on McDonald’s arm. Kaepernick’s best pass of the game, his one bold throw in the face of pressure landed incomplete.
Week 11 - With the passing offense of the San Francisco 49ers in such a dismal tailspin, the question of blame looms. For much of the season, the wide receivers have gained the focus of the criticism. Their inability to separate from man coverage has forced Colin Kaepernick to throw balls in to windows that are too tight for the young quarterback. But poor performance after poor performance has shown that many of the problems lie with Kaepernick, that even though his receivers are aren’t fantastic, they are no worse than what many NFL teams are forced to work with on a weekly basis. Instead, Kaepernick’s lack of anticipation, his lack of confidence to rely on a strong and mostly accurate arm has led to a passing offense that can not function beyond 5-yard throws. On numerous occasions throughout the game, Kaepernick had receivers separate and create windows that were small, but large enough for a quality NFL quarterback to throw in to. On one specific play, Kaepernick rolled to his left and Boldin was able to separate from his man, open on the sideline, but Kaepernick hesitated, ran for 3 yards and another failed drive instead of braving the throw. New Orleans was able to incapacitate the 49er offense by simply loading up to stop Frank Gore, thereby rendering play-action ineffective, and forcing the San Francisco wide receivers to beat man coverage. This defensive game plan could have been best exploited with down field throws, but Kaepernick was so hesitant and rattled that he bailed on plays before they could develop. His inability to feel pressure also sunk valuable drives, as Kaepernick repeatedly took sacks at the worst possible time. Kaepernick’s interception was the result of a telegraphed offensive play call. Lined up in the jumbo package with only one receiver split out wide, San Francisco ran a play-action pass that was designed for Kaepernick to throw a quick slant to the lone receiver. With New Orleans playing the run so well, the corner had only to continue playing tight man coverage. When the play-action was executed and the slant move made, the corner undercut the route and came up with an easy interception that would have been a pick-six had the corner not fumbled the ball in to the end zone. The play-call was what put Kaepernick in such an awful position, forced to throw to a well covered route. When the San Francisco offense was able to execute play-action successfully, Vernon Davis found himself behind the entire defense alone in the end zone and Kaepernick threw a perfect ball in to the receivers hands. When Boldin was matched up one-on-one with a corner on the outside, Kaepernick threw a perfect back shoulder fade to the leaping receiver for another touchdown. In fact, the majority of throws Kaepernick was able to complete were back shoulder fades to Boldin, out routes to Boldin, and throws in the flat. The New Orleans defense was able to play this woefully limited offense perfectly by keeping everything in front of them, taking advantage of San Francisco mistakes when they arose and constantly forcing Kaepernick to throw the ball. Without any confidence in both his abilities and receivers, Kaepernick was paralyzed, forced in to low-risk but low-reward throws. Kaepernick was also unlucky on a number of plays which may have even further shaken his confidence. On a throw in to the end zone, Davis had a step on his man and Kaepernick put the ball just in front of his tight end, but the defender grabbed Davis’ shoulder pad, disrupted the route and the ball landed incomplete while no flag was thrown. On a deep throw to Baldwin down the sideline, Kaepernick put a great amount of touch and accuracy on the throw, only for Baldwin to be pulled to the ground by the beaten corner. As Manningham continues to work in to the offense and Baldwin develops more chemistry with Kaepernick, the quarterback has to be willing to risk the tight window throws that separate great quarterbacks from the rest or else the defensive game plan that New Orleans utilized will become a simple blueprint for stopping San Francisco. As an aside, Kaepernick’s management of timeouts is baffling. San Francisco often wastes their timeouts early in the game, which lead Kaepernick to attempt to call timeout without any timeouts and a 5-yard delay of game penalty.
Week 12 - Following two straight ugly performances, Kaepernick had one of the best games of his season against a tattered Washington defense. Following a blueprint that proved successful for both New Orleans and Carolina, Washington stacked the box and played man-to-man coverage on the outside. Unfortunately for Washington, their corners were unable to play the tight coverage necessary for such a game plan to work. Often Kaepernick was able to make a quick drop back and release to an open receiver. Most notably, Washington continued to play soft defense on slants, allowing Kaepernick to make a quick decision and throw to wide open receivers. Manningham specifically was able to make quick cuts to create separation, and these slant passes allowed Kaepernick to push the offense downfield on relatively easy throws, giving Kaepernick more of a cushion on long throws. In previous weeks, Kaepernick was wary of throwing to Boldin when the coverage was tight downfield, even though Boldin is a player that can succeed when single coverage is tight because of his strength and body control. Against Washington, Kaepernick repeatedly threw to a tightly covered Boldin, making confident and accurate throws that had been missing for weeks. On one play, Kaepernick threw high to Boldin’s back shoulder and the receiver made a great play to leap in to the air and tear it down over the corner for a 24-yard gain. The very next play, Boldin ran a corner post and Kaepernick threw an accurate ball to Boldin’s outside shoulder and the receiver snatched the ball, turned in to the end zone for a touchdown. On both plays the timing and location of Kaepernick’s throws were excellent, making relatively difficult plays look simple. On the 49ers’ next touchdown drive, Kaepernick threw a perfect ball over Boldin’s shoulder as the receiver ran down the seam, and Boldin showed great power to absorb the safety’s blow and continue for a 32-yard gain. A few plays later, Kaepernick scrambled through the backfield looking for an open receiver in the end zone. Boldin broke left as the defense followed Kaepernick right, and the quarterback did a fantastic job of keeping his eyes downfield and throwing a hard, accurate pass to the adjusting Boldin. Kaepernick’s third touchdown throw was much simpler than the rest, as the 49ers found themselves on the 1-yard line showing run. Washington fully committed to stopping this jumbo package, allowing Vernon Davis to show block, then release to the corner of the end zone. Running play-action, all Kaepernick had to do was throw the ball to a wide open Davis for the game sealing touchdown. Though there were a lot of high points for Kaepernick, including his much improved timing with his receivers and confidence to throw accurate balls even when a receiver isn’t wide open, there were some negatives for him as well. Kaepernick fumbled a snap from under center, though he quickly recovered the ball. The offensive line was still struggling in pass protection, and a number of times Kaepernick was collapsed upon, forcing him to run to daylight through outstretched arms. Some of Kaepernick’s runs were quite ugly as well, with one scramble down the sideline particularly painful to watch when Kaepernick pulled back and the safety made an ugly hit to Kaepernick’s torso. There was also a pass over the middle that Kaepernick hesitated on, then threw late. This allowed the safety to undercut the pass, and Kaepernick was fortunate not to have thrown an interception. All in all, the game was a step forward for Kaepernick and
Week 13 - Coming off one of the best passing performances of his career, Kaepernick again threw the ball with confidence and precision. St. Louis played much better defense than Washington and their pass rush was much more ferocious, sacking Kaepernick on four different occasions while collapsing the pocket frequently. To combat this, Kaepernick made quick decisions and quick throws, often to Boldin, which proved to be a constant headache for the St. Louis secondary. When Boldin was tightly covered, Kaepernick was able to deliver accurate balls to a location where only Boldin could catch them. When St. Louis played tight coverage, Kaepernick threw quick and hard to his receiver, allowing Boldin the time and space to run after the catch. For a quarterback who spent games this year hesitating to throw to tight coverage, Kaepernick’s increased success making accurate throws to tight windows was a revelation for the 49ers. Combined with his increasing ability to work through progressions and make quick decisions, the St. Louis game proved to be a very optimistic set of tea leaves in regards to the young quarterback’s growth. That’s not to say the game was flawless for Kaepernick, as the quarterback sometimes locked on to his first receiver and tucked the ball to run when the first option wasn’t free, missing other, more efficient options. San Francisco was also helped immensely by a St. Louis defense that seemed unable to participate in a drive with a crippling penalty, such as a late hit to Kaepernick’s head as the quarterback finished his slide. But against a much better defense than Washington, Kaepernick repeatedly made great, bold throws that had been missing from his repertoire for much of the season as well as avoiding bad throws and bad decisions. His accurate touch passes down the sideline enabled Crabtree to go on a 60-yard tear and forced St. Louis to repeatedly interfere with Boldin. When in the red zone, Kaepernick rolled to his right and kept his eyes downfield, patient, and when Davis broke left Kaepernick hit the tight end in stride. With the defense over pursuing one way, Davis was able to break the other and run through the open space, hurdling past the corner for a touchdown.
Week 14 - Taking in to account the quality of Seattle’s defense, which may be the best in the league against the pass, Kaepernick continued his run of great performances. Though the numbers may be a bit depressed, Kaepernick repeatedly displayed not only his powerful arm and great accuracy, but a confidence to attack the secondary and allow his receivers to make plays on the ball. For a stretch of the season, Kaepernick was much too hesitant, much too afraid to throw the ball in to contested space. Against Seattle, his receivers engaged in physical one-on-one battles and Kaepernick had the trust, the confidence to throw passes to tight windows and give his receivers the chance to fight for the ball. On numerous occasions, this resulted in Seattle having to pull down the San Francisco receiver, resulting in a defensive holding or pass interference penalty. Watching Boldin and Crabtree high point the pass, leap in to the air and snatch it away from coverage only further proved the confidence to be warranted. Not to say it was a perfect game, as one throw approaching the red zone showed. Crabtree broke down the sideline and Kaepernick underthrew the pass, allowing the corner to stop and leap for the interception, more a problem with the throw than the decision. Kaepernick’s success in the running game was hit or miss as well, as for every well executed run to the outside behind great blocking there was a keeper that was doomed by Seattle’s penetration. But Kaepernick’s willingness to throw hard passes to covered players, passes that were accurate enough to allow the receiver the best shot in the ensuing fight for the pass, was what kept Seattle’s pass defense on the back foot. The pass to Vernon Davis in the red zone was gorgeous in itself, as the tight end ran a quick slant across the middle. Pursued by tight coverage, there was only one location the ball could arrive successfully, and Kaepernick made a quick decision and a hard throw low and outside. Davis snatched the pass and tumbled in to the end zone for a touchdown. Kaepernick was afforded quite a bit of time in the pocket during the game, and his ability to scramble while keeping his eyes downfield, allowing his receivers to break from the coverage and improvise space continued to improve. One knock on Kaepernick was that when within the pocket, he seemed to lose awareness of the pass rush and on one particular occasion took a nasty sack from the weak side. But again, the aggressive, confident performance from Kaepernick was what compelled San Francisco to a victory.
Week 15 - Another very good performance by Colin Kaepernick as the quarterback has been able to string together four great performances in a row against defenses of varying difficulty. The 49ers were able to march down the field and score a touchdown on their first drive because of Kaepernick’s willingness to make runs at the right time, creating a nightmare of decisions for the Tampa Bay defense. With defenders committed to man coverage, space was often evacuated for Kaepernick to run free. When Kaepernick broke right on a scramble, the defender left behind to spy the quarterback came up empty as Kaepernick flew by defenders, easily evading the flying tacklers with a smooth speed that Tampa Bay looked thoroughly unprepared for. After being burned on a number of Kaeprrnick’s runs, Tampa Bay began to adjust to keep Kaepernick in the backfield, only for Kaepernick to display his fantastic ability to throw accurately on the run. On one play in particular, Kaepernick was under heavy pressure, chased to the border of the field when he slung the ball down the sideline right in to Crabtree’s hands as the receiver kept his feet in bounds. At the end of the first drive, Kaepernick faked the pitch in the red zone and scrambled right, directing his receivers to get open. Originally running to the corner, Crabtree cut back inside and the defender followed, only for Crabtree to cut back to the sideline. Kaepernick had enough time to wait for the separation to come and throw an accurate pass when Crabtree broke free for a touchdown. Kaepernick’s ability to run as well as throw on the run compromised Tampa Bay, as the defense was continuously caught having to sacrifice one containment for another. When Tampa Bay was able to keep Kaepernick in front of them and lock down all of the underneath routes the 49ers often reiled on, Kaepernick stood back in the pocket with ample time and heaved the ball deep to Vernon Davis, who had beaten his man in a dead sprint. The ball landed right in Davis’ hands for a 52-yard touchdown. On another deep route by Vernon Davis in the second quarter, Kaepernick had all the time in the world and missed the tight end deep, the ball falling just a bit too far ahead. Overthrows were a small problem for Kaepernick, as the quarterback missed high on a few of his throws, but more often than not Kaepernick made quick decisions and accurate passes, keeping the San Francisco offense fluid. The return and integration of Crabtree seems to be pushing this offense further every week as the dimensions of the passing game continues to expand. Kaepernick did throw an interception on a free play (due to offsides). The pass hit Boldin in the chest, only for the receiver to bobble the pass and drop it in to the defender’s hands.
Week 16 - An up and down game for Kaepernick as the quarterback made some great throws and some bad throws, great decisions and poor decisions. When given time and an open man, Kaepernick was able to successfully step up in the pocket and deliver extremely accurate throws to his receivers. On plays where Kaepernick faced heavy pressure, the results were much more varied. Facing a heavy blitz in the first quarter on third and long, Kaepernick stepped back and delivered a quick throw to Boldin on the outside. The ball arrived in the perfect position as Boldin leaped in to the air and snatched the pass for a 22-yard gain. However, there were numerous plays where Kaepernick locked on to his first option, waited too many beats for said option to be open, and then began to scramble about. With Atlanta sending a number of pass rushers, Kaepernick’s lock-on-then-scramble-about method left him open to take some very heavy shots. On one play in particular, the quarterback tried to change direction in the backfield, scramble back to the left only to be slammed to the ground by a pursuing pass rusher. Not to say that Kaepernick’s scrambling was thoroughly unsuccessful, as there were occasions when Kaepernick was able to run the ball for first downs after breaking the pocket. Nearing the end of the third quarter and facing a 2nd and 7, Kaepernick stepped back and as soon as the space cleared before him, he took off. Sometimes there would be a certain amount of hesitation on Kaepernick’s runs as the quarterback attempted to see the best angle to attack, but on his 2nd and 7 scramble the pure speed and length of Kaepernick became all too obvious. He simply glided past Atlanta tacklers, all of them seemingly unable to process the correct angle to take, the space only widening as Kaepernick sprinted through and past for a 22-yard gain. To end the drive, Gore lay down a heavy lead block near the goal line and Kaepernick sprinted forward, the blockers opening up a big enough hole for Kaepernick to dive through and in to the end zone. Kaepernick also threw a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin at the beginning of the third quarter, a quick wide receiver screen where Boldin and the blockers did most of the work. And though Kaepernick had some nice throws on short and intermediate routes, the Atlanta defense played well enough to leave Kaepernick mostly frustrated when throwing.
Week 17 - San Francisco is at its most successful when the passing game is set up by the running game, when Frank Gore can consistently move the offense ahead on down and distance, when the play-action is an effective tool and Colin Kaepernick’s scrambles are simply one more headache to defend. The multiple dimensions of the San Francisco offense create mismatches as the defense scrambles to fill the ever-evolving spaces, the angles San Francisco can attack widening. When an element as crucial as Frank Gore is taken away, as the excellent Arizona was able to do, San Francisco is forced to rely on Kaepernick throwing the ball at a much higher rate than he can properly execute. When play-action is rendered meaningless, Kaepernick is forced to step back and go through his progressions, something that he continues to struggle with. Though Kaepernick’s numbers are rather good, they hide a troubling performance. Kaepernick often locked on to his primary receiver, only to scramble around and improvise when the first option wasn’t open. Arizona’s defense was excellent, keeping Kaepernick largely contained when the scramble commenced. However, there were downfield options open that Kaepernick simply did not identify while scrambling. On one particularly grievous play, Boldin was double covered as Kaepernick scrambled. Nevertheless, Kaepernick did not take his eyes off Boldin, forcing the ball to the receiver even as Crabtree and Davis were wide open. Kaepernick’s accuracy was also more erratic than usual, as the quarterback overthrew open receivers on numerous occasions, and on one play bounced the pass to an open Davis. Arizona’s pass rush was formidable, but not so harsh as to cause the degree to which Kaepernick struggled. The performance was not all negative, however. Kaepernick showed great chemistry and confidence with his receivers, trusting that if he gave his receivers the opportunity to make a play on the ball, they would. His touchdown pass to Boldin was an excellent example of a play the two have executed time and time again, as Boldin confronted one-on-one coverage in the end zone and Kaepernick lofted the ball to the highest point. Locating the accurate touch pass, Boldin was able to fight off the corner and snatch the ball for the first touchdown. On the next drive, Kaepernick again executed an old favorite. With the ball near the goal line, Kaepernick ran a play-action and Vernon Davis got a free release off the line of scrimmage. With no Arizona player bothering to cover the tight end, Kaepernick was able to make a simple throw for the touchdown. Kaepernick’s game winning drive was also rather impressive, as his confidence in Patton to throw the ball up for the rookie, allowing Patton to make a play showed great chemistry and accuracy. There were many weeks when Kaepernick’s hesitancy caused San Francisco to look anemic, but Kaepernick’s performance against Arizona, throwing balls to contested areas where he knew his receiver would be able to meet the ball at the highest point, fight for the catch, proved that the quarterback’s confidence is high. The game winning drive consisted of a perfect pass to Boldin and an excellent throw to Patton, showing that through all of the struggles of the 2nd and 3rd quarter, every bad throw and slow progression, Kaepernick was finally able to regain control and display the best qualities of his sizable talents when San Francisco needed a win.
Week 18 - While Colin Kaepernick’s overall game continues to show an overall rawness, the sound of his footsteps again spelled doom for the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick had an OK day throwing the ball. He had more than a few balls which sailed high or wide. He was picked off once by cornerback Tramon Williams on a pass to tight end Vernon Davis. On the play, Davis ran his route in the space between Willams and linebacker Nick Perry. There wasn’t much room for a pass, but the space was there—it just required a hard and sharp throw. Instead, Kaepernick put too much air under the ball and there was plenty of time for Williams to jump in front of Davis and intercept it. That actually should have been the second interception on the day. The other play took place earlier in the first quarter, during a goal line stand. The target was again Davis, with Williams in coverage. Kaepernick rolled out to his right and Davis was open just short of the end zone. However, Kaepernick held onto the ball until Davis broke into the end zone and towards the back of it. The quarterback tried to loft the ball up where only Davis could get it, but threw it a little too short to beat a long player like Williams. Luckily, Williams couldn’t come down with the ball and Davis nearly caught it anyway. Still, it was not a well thrown ball—something we saw multiple times during the game. Again, though, it was Kaepernick’s legs which repeatedly hurt the Packers. When Kaepernick breaks free of the pocket—whether during a read-option look or on a busted play—he makes defenders look slow, especially a group like the Packers. On one play, a 42-yard keeper in the second quarter, Kaepernick stood in the pocket for a moment, then pulled the ball down and ran. The Packers were too slow to react and couldn’t keep up with Kaepernick anyway. He out-ran several defenders at the line, made another defender miss at the second level , then cut outside and nearly outran the defense for a score. The quarterback did that multiple times, including a dagger of an 11-yard run with less than two minutes to go in the fourth. The Niners were stuck on a 3rd and 8 at the Packers 38 yard line. The defense blitzed, so Kaepernick faked a pass, pulled the ball down and fled the pocket, running to his left. The Packers looked like snails trying to catch up to him—especially linebacker Andy Mulumba—and Kaerpernick easily got a first down, extending the drive, giving the team more time to sap the clock and setting San Francisco up for a game winning field goal attempt. While Kaepernick still has some growing to do when passing the ball, he mobility is a huge plus and has more than once been what took down the Green Bay defense.
Week 19 - Though Kaepernick’s passing numbers were right in line with last week’s performance against Green Bay, what Kaepernick was able to do against Carolina was arguably more impressive. Carolina’s defense was vastly stronger than Green Bay’s, with a pass rush that dropped Kaepernick for six sacks and holding the 49ers to less than 100 passing yards during the regular season. To counter the dangerous pass rush, Kaepernick made quick decisions and quick throws to his receivers. Often, Kaepernick was able to put the ball in a great location to allow his receivers to make a play or force a penalty. With the 49ers driving at the end of the first half, Kaepernick lofted the ball to Boldin as the receiver broke down the sideline in to the end zone. The corner was beat, playing Boldin’s body without turning to play the ball, drawing a pass interference penalty that set San Francisco up at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Davis was covered by Luke Kuechly in the end zone. As Davis cut across the back, Kuechly fell down, opening up a wide enough window for Kaepernick to deliver the ball outside, and for Davis to snatch the pass while dragging both feet in bounds for the 49ers’ lone passing touchdown. For most of the game, the secondary played a very physical, chippy game with the San Francisco receivers. Crabtree was unable to break free and Davis often found himself double-covered, leaving Kaepernick to rely heavily on Boldin. Almost relishing the opportunity to battle press coverage, Boldin knocked around his corner, creating enough space for Kaepernick to rifle the ball to his bruising receiver. There were times this season when such fighting inspired hesitancy in Kaepernick. Not wanting to make a mistake, the quarterback tucked the ball, attempting to scramble instead of giving his receivers the chance to fight for the ball. Against a Carolina team that kept a spy on Kaepernick for most of the game, Kaepernick’s willingness to stand in the pocket and throw countered Carolina’s aggressiveness. On the first drive of the third quarter, Kaepernick pump-faked to the right to freeze the defender, who stared in to the backfield as Boldin blew by. Now with a receiver open on the sideline, Kaepernick lofted the ball right in to Boldin’s hands for a 45-yard gain as Boldin dragged the corner just short of the end zone. A few plays later, Kaepernick took a designed quarterback run to the left, following great blocking to seal the line and cut past the safety for a rushing touchdown. The speed with which Kaepernick ran, the fluidity, all resulted in a touchdown because of the great blocking. Though Kaepernick’s rushing numbers were much lower than against Green Bay, Carolina’s defense was too good, too stout to simply allow Kaepernick to run free in the secondary as Green Bay did. There were some moments of near disaster for Kaepernick as well. Near his own goal line, Kaepernick threw to a quick slant, only for the safety to undercut the pass and drop a sure pick-six. Kaepernick also continued his habit of locking on to a receiver for much too long, not moving through progressions swiftly, as well as consistently squandering great field position by settling for field goals when the field gets tight. Otherwise, Kaepernick had a very good game against one of the best defenses in the league.
Week 20 - Some may say Kaepernick lost the game for the 49ers or wilted under pressure, but the reality is that he played an outstanding, athletic game and was the main reason the 49ers had a chance to win in the first place. In the first half, Kaepernick was looking to run first and foremost, whether on designed runs or passing downs. He was able to break a long run to set up the team's first touchdown, and Kaepernick made a ridiculous throw on the move to Anquan Boldin to re-take the lead in the third quarter after Marshawn Lynch revived the Seahawks. Kaepernick had a run of three turnovers in the fourth quarter that will overshadow his performance. The first interception was a poor read that Kam Chancellor picked, although Kaepernick made the same read and throw over Earl Thomas for a key completion later in the quarter. The sack/fumble could happen to any quarterback, and the last interception was an exceptional play by Richard Sherman, not a mistake by Kaepernick. Kaepernick was dialed in as a runner, and he also made multiple excellent throws outside of the pocket to frustrate the outstanding Seahawks pass defense. Without terrific performances by the Seattle star players, we'd be saluting Kaepernick's game-winning performance today.