When Chip Kelly spoke to the media last week for the first time since being hired as the new head coach of the 49ers, he complimented both of the team’s incumbent quarterbacks.
Kelly called Colin Kaepernick “an extremely talented football player” and said Blaine Gabbert impressed him with his improvement in 2015. “I think both of those players make this an attractive situation,” Kelly said.
But it’s also possible the 49ers will draft a quarterback to throw into the mix in 2016. Some analysts have projected that San Francisco could select Cal’s Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch of Memphis in the first round, with their No. 7 overall choice, if the two junior quarterbacks make themselves available. Each is a tall, strong-armed passer projected to go in the first round, as is Carson Wentz from lower-division North Dakota State.
But the 49ers – who have many needs this offseason – also could reach for a QB in later rounds. According to several reports, one of those QBs could be Vernon Adams of Oregon.
Adams, originally projected as a low-round draft choice, had a strong performance in the East-West Shrine Game this past weekend, leading the West to a 29-9 victory. Adams threw for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported the 49ers met with Adams in the week leading up to the game. And, with his performance – and his connection to Oregon, where Kelly used to be head coach – Adams certainly seems like a possible candidate to be a future 49er.
Tweeted Mike Mayock of the NFL Network this past weekend: “If you’re Chip Kelly, you’re taking a look at Vernon Adams and seeing what he can do.”
As Barrows points, out, Adams doesn’t fit the prototype of what an NFL QB is supposed to look like. He’s about 5-10½, so some NFL GMs may be hesitant to invest in him. But by many accounts, Adams is much like Seattle’s Russell Wilson, with the same height, ability to move inside the pocket to keep plays alive and run the read-option. In fact, Adams would be familiar with Kelly’s fast-paced offense, which he took to the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons following his tenure at Oregon, and will install with the 49ers.
Former NFL quarterback June Jones, who coached the West in the Shrine Game, told the media that he believes Adams can play in the NFL.
“He has all those things that the great ones have,” Jones said, according to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com. “He gets better as the game goes on.”
Adams had a 93-yard TD pass in the game on a pass that traveled 40 yards. He showed good arm strength, decision-making and mobility.
“I just showed (NFL scouts) I can play the game,” Adams told reporters afterward. “Hopefully I can get a chance with some team. I’ve overcome (height concerns) my whole life. It’s not new to me and I know how to play the position.”
Despite missing several games with a broken finger this past season at Oregon, Adams had sensational stats for the Ducks. He threw for 2,643 yards and 26 TDs (with just six interceptions) and had a passer rating of 179.1.