Quarterback Colin Kaepernick faces his first full season as an NFL starter for the 49ers. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick played like Superman in 2012 as he took the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
So, going into the 2013 season, the young 49ers phenom would have to rank among the top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL, right?
Not so fast.
Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski, now an analyst for ESPN, recently made Kaepernick No. 11 in his rankings of the 32 starting QBs in the league. And in doing so, he was dead solid perfect for two reasons.
First, the sample size is small. Kaepernick, in just his second season as a pro, started just 10 games last season. He was – for the most part – brilliant. But there have been other QBs who came out of the gate hot and then fluttered downhill once defenses had time to study them, pick out their weak spots and throw a little adversity in their faces.
But second, Jaworski is a fan. A big, big fan of what Kaepernick can do, so his No. 11 rating comes with a bullet. The sample size is small, but the talent is big, and Jaworski believes Kaepernick is a rising star who will be among the elite of the elite in no time. Already he ranks the 49ers’ standout above Robert Griffin III, Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford and Philip Rivers.
“Normally 10 NFL starts is not enough for me to evaluate a player so highly, but this kid has special talent, is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback with a power arm and outstanding athleticism,” wrote Jaworksi.
As ESPN.com NFC West blogger Mike Sando noted after reviewing Jaworski’s ratings, Kaepernick’s effectiveness on third down actually improved during the playoffs, against tougher defenses. Kaepernick showed remarkable improvement over his 10 starts (that included the postseason and Super Bowl.
Jaworski says Kaepernick “has a chance to be very special.”
“He has a complete throwing skillset with a powerful arm that I absolutely put at gun level,” wrote Jaworski. “His ball comes out with a lot of energy and velocity. And Kaepernick can drive the ball down the field, on the move, with accuracy. …
“Kaepernick is one of the four or five most physically talented quarterbacks in the entire NFL.”
But, he writes, it will be interesting to see how the injury to wide receiver Michael Crabtree will impact his performance in 2013. Last season, Crabtree became his security blanket. Whenever the quarterback needed a big play, he went to Crabtree.
Now, he’ll have to develop a whole new rapport with a wide receiver corps that will lack both Crabtree and Mario Manningham (for at least a while).
One thing that many on the 49ers believe is that Kaepernick will get much better.
Forget Capgate and the whole posing-naked-in-the-magazine thing. No one will remember those two “issues” in a couple of weeks. His teammates say that the 10-game sample from last season has provided just a glimpse into what he’s capable of doing.
Veteran running back Frank Gore recently said Kaepernick in 2013 will be much improved over 2012.
“One thing I love about that young guy, he works,” Gore told ESPN. “He works very hard. Even before he got the starting job, he used to be the first one there and one of the last guys out. As long as he keeps learning, working from the coaches and just being him, he’ll be fine.”