The complete breakdown of Colin Kaepernick by Dave-Te' Thomas of NFL Scouting, looking at all areas of the QB's makeup including athletic ability, football sense, character, competitiveness, work habits, reading defenses, release, passing accuracy and touch, leadership, poise, scrambling ability and a final summation that says Kaepernick is "the best athlete in the 2011 draft at his position."
Kaepernick has a tall frame, adding 10 pounds of bulk as a senior without the additional weight impacting his above average quickness. He has good bone structure, tight waist and abdomen, with long limbs, good upper body muscle development, with good thigh and calf muscle definition. He has a well-proportioned build, not really "jacked up," where he is overly muscular, as his athletic frame perfectly suits his impressive agility and mobility.
Kaepernick has the best athleticism of any 2011 draft eligible quarterback, as he has outstanding foot quickness and agility, making him a dangerous threat to run and turn up field when the pocket is compromised. He displays excellent body control on the move, possessing the agility and balance to step into his throws. As a ball carrier, he has above average speed and acceleration for his position. Because of his outstanding athletic ability, some scouts are also rating him as a potential prospect at wide receiver/H-Back. He has shown marked improvement throwing on the move and is a dangerous open field runner and scrambler (see 2010 Eastern Washington, Idaho and New Mexico State and 2009 Nevada-Las Vegas, Idaho and Hawaii games). He shows good flexibility and quickness slipping under tackles and has more than enough functional speed to gain big yardage when racing into the second level with the ball in his hands. He has the balance and feet to slide away from pass rushers and good range of motion on the move. He is a savvy decision maker rolling out of the pocket and displays above average kinesthetic awareness. Simply put, no quarterback in this draft has his overall quickness, balance, change of direction skills and agility. He is also a highly regarded pitcher. Despite not stepping on the baseball diamond since his banner high school days, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 2009 MLB Draft.
Kaepernick has complete command of the huddle and total control on the field. He has shown much better improvising skills as a senior (see 2010 California, San Jose State, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech games), as he appears to have confidence in his ability to create in an instant. He has solid field awareness and outstanding pocket presence, but must do a better job of protecting the ball, especially from backside pursuers, as he did have seven fumbles in 2010 (see BYU and Hawaii games) that proved costly. He has shown very good play retention ability and is a master at improvising on the run. With his natural football instincts and accuracy throwing on the move, he looks like a larger version of Drew Brees
for the way he handles check-downs and gets the ball out to his receivers without having them adjust too much for the ball. He is just a good decision maker who rarely will force the issue to make the spectacular play, evident by his low interception rate during his career at Nevada. He plays with the swagger you look for in a quarterback, combining that with above average athleticism and quick feet to be a dangerous threat on the move or standing in the pocket. He sees coverages developing very quickly and makes good adjustments changing up the plays in game situations. He is good at making checks and makes a conscious effort to scan the field and use all the tools given him (very alert to secondary targets), especially when forced to improvise. He is a "student of the game" who puts in the extra hours after practice and in the film room, where he studies tapes religiously (has that bit of Peyton Manning
perfectionist to him, as he takes advantage of any avenue to improve his overall game).
Kaepernick is well-liked and respected by the staff and teammates. He comes from a very supportive family, is close to his older brother and has always had that "inner fire" to succeed in whatever he does. He has no known off-field issues and with the way he responds to the coaches and works with his teammates, he would make a nice coaching candidate when he hangs up his football helmet.
Kaepernick is a classic warrior. The only thing missing in the trenches is "war paint." He plays with bumps and bruises that would sideline most quarterbacks and he instantly brings confidence to his teammates with the swagger he displays on the field. The thing you see on film is his extreme confidence in his athletic ability, as it allows him to be an aggressive playmaker with the confidence he displays to take chances and create something out of nothing. The thing that impresses talent evaluators is that he will seek out and play with reckless abandon (has that Brett Favre
/Aaron Rodgers moxie to his play). He is patient working with younger teammates, but will also take them to task for mistakes. He does all the "little extras" that a pro quarterback needs to do in the training and film rooms. He is sometimes his harshest critic, a bit of a perfectionist, but who wouldn't want a field general with his desire to win, at any cost? He has excellent huddle command and is both mentally and physically tough. He's sort of like a coach on the field, doing very good executing the plays called in, but you would hope that his coaches would "unleash" that cannon for an arm much more in 2010 than they did at the end of 2009. In the crunch, he is the type of player you want calling signals for you. He is quick getting his players set before the pre-snap and is a physical runner who will not hesitate to tuck the ball and run with it to move the chains (see 2009 Nevada-Las Vegas, Idaho, Hawaii, San Jose State and Fresno State games).
Kaepernick has that businessman's approach to his craft and puts forth the extra hours needed to hone his skills. He plays with tremendous pride and is known to "get hard on himself" after games for what he deems is a less than perfect performance, yet, he never lets bad plays affect the rest of his game, quickly shunning them to get back to the game plan at hand. Sometimes, it seems like Kaepernick lives in the football office. More often than not, his spare time will be spent in the film room or on the practice field. He is an example for the younger players to emulate. Anyone "talking bad" about his is probably an opposing defensive coordinator, as that coach knows he is in for a long afternoon facing a well-prepared Kaepernick coming out of the huddle. He commands respect in the locker room and huddle, yet prides himself on being "one of the guys." Put this player with the coach the likes of Mike Martz (Bears) or Hue Jackson (Raiders) and watch the way he will rapidly grasp a complicated pro playbook.
Kaepernick is NFL-ready, as his set-up displays cat-like quickness. He has a nice array of fakes and moves to freeze a defense and shows above average body mechanics getting to his pass set point. He is uses mostly in the shotgun, but has the balance, foot speed and body control to drive back from center quickly. He is highly effective throwing on the move. The thing that gives Kaepernick an advantage vs. the blitz is his quick feet in his set-up. He has very good balance and body control getting to his drop point and is usually in position to make all his throws. He shows good pad level and feet to separate from under center, consistently delivering the back-foot press and pop-up. He has the ability to step up in the pocket and keeps defenses honest with his ability to tuck the ball and run with it, if he finds that space needed to get into the second level. For a player his size, he is very nimble and also shows good vision down field, evident by his low interception figures (no opponent has deflected more than four passes vs. him in any of his last 26 contests).
Kaepernick is a classic touch passer who has very good vision and instincts, evident by the way he can instantly read and understand the defensive coverage (see 2010 Colorado State, California, Utah State, Idaho and Boise State games). He is an instinctive player and good decision maker. He is not the type that needs to force the issue in order to make the pass play, as he will simply throw the ball away rather than try to create something out of nothing. He has had just 1.86% of his passes intercepted during his career (best among active QBs with 400 pass attempts). While he is a quick decision maker, he is also the type that plays within the offense's framework. It is rare to see him force the ball into coverage. He has that instinctive nature you look for in a successful quarterback – he knows when to throw and when to run. With just 22 sacks in his last seasons, it shows that he is not the type to hold on to the ball too long.
Kaepernick has worked hard to erase a bit of a wind-up that he sometimes had in the past when trying to fire the ball from a low angle. Summer camps (Manning) has seen him develop a highly effective and quick release (high), along with an ability to improvise on the run. He throws across the body effectively and even on the occasions where he will sidearm the ball, he puts good zip behind his tosses. When he throws from overhead and not shoot from the hip, he is very capable of getting the ball out with outstanding velocity and touch. He has shown marked improvement in making his delivery more compact and when that ball comes off his fingers, you can actually hear the "buzz" behind his throws before it explodes into his target's chest. Even when he fires with a "big circle," he gets the ball out quickly, thanks to his ability to anticipate his receivers on the route's progression. More patient coaching will help him to prevent dropping the ball in his motion, but you can see he has the mechanics for a smooth and compact delivery.
Kaepernick has an NFL-caliber arm that is as strong as that of Joe Flacco
(Ravens) and Jay Cutler
(Bears). He generates exceptional velocity and zip on the ball (see 2010 Eastern Washington, California, Idaho, New Mexico State and Boise State games). The team system is geared more for the intermediate passing game, but he has more than enough arm strength to fire long (see 2010 Eastern Washington, Utah State, Idaho and New Mexico State games). His ball comes off his fingers with excellent velocity. He is still learning how to take "something off" his throws in order not to break his receivers' fingers, especially when throwing into tight areas. He puts very good zip on his passes to get it to his targets from the opposite hash. While his coaches misuse his arm strength by relying more on the running game, he has shown flashes of brilliance getting the ball up the seam, especially noted on deep comebacks, streaks and when roping the posts. He has a lively arm for the short passing game, also (see 2009 Missouri, UNLV and SMU games) and good accuracy when airing it out. In off-season training camps (consensus said he had the best arm at the recent Manning camp) you can see that he has that outstanding arm strength to put zip behind his throws.
Prior to 2010, this was sort of an enigmatic category for Kaepernick. Being utilized in the team's "pistol-type" offense is not suited for a player of his arm strength or athletic caliber, resulting in his average pass completion percentage, until his senior year. Allowed more say in the play-calling, he showed the ability to change up speed on his short tosses to make the completion, thanks to solid consistency and timing (see 2010 Colorado State, California, UNLV and Louisiana Tech games). On the long throws, he flashes touch and accuracy, even though he was "stuck" in an offense that was more designed for the short-to-intermediate passing game. He is a highly effective short-to-medium range passer when given protection, as he can generate the touch and velocity, when needed. The coaches don't let him uncork the long ball as much as a QB with his arm strength needs to do, but on those occasions, you can see that he can throw the deep ball with optimum air, velocity and timing. The thing you saw in his 2010 games was his ability to "smoke it" into the cornerback/safety voids. With his improved touch, he is perfectly capable of giving his receivers space and time to adjust.
Kaepernick has that great field vision a pro quarterback needs when reading defenses and making adjustments. He uses all of his receivers with effectiveness and will locate and hit his targets with consistency. He has very good anticipation of the receiver's route progression and shows good timing to get the ball to his targets as they become open. He has the timing to connect with the long ball and while he has to eliminate his big circle (just does that on occasion now), he has a good feel for timing routes. He shows that he can lay it over the top when going deep and down the seam and also along the boundaries. Even though he does not get a lot of "shots" downfield as his strong arm deserves, he has good deep ball placement when he does fire into this area. The thing you notice on the 2010 Colorado State, California and Idaho, and 2009 UNLV, Utah State, Idaho, Hawaii, San Jose State and New Mexico State game tapes is his success in leading his receivers to the ball. He throws that deep ball with ease, even though it whistles and buzzes with tremendous velocity. Another thing noticed on tapes is that he throws the long ball with nice trajectory.
Kaepernick has the swagger of "Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean." He is the total take-charge type on the field and the consummate playmaker and team leader, as the Wolf Pack players seem to rally around their field general. He has that moxie to hold the ball and not get rattled in the face of a fierce pass rush, but if the defense gets too aggressive, he has that speed and running ability to tuck the ball and get very good yardage on the ground (see 2010 Boise State, California and Louisiana Tech, and 2009 UNLV, Idaho, Hawaii and San Jose State games). He shows very good focus on the scramble and knows he has the ability to make things happen with his arm or feet. He stays composed and feels pressure well, knowing when to step up in the pocket or slide laterally to avoid the rush.
Kaepernick has great presence in the huddle and everyone knows he is in charge. He is a good leader by example, but will not hesitate to get vocal if he feels a teammate is not playing up to his abilities. He is highly respected by the staff and a good presence in the locker room. Players look up to him and he has the maturity, tactfulness, competitiveness and confidence to be the type that will be a respected leader at a young age, once he enters the NFL.
This is where Kaepernick is like a WMD (weapon of mass destruction), having escaped what should be a QB sack, only to tuck the ball and pick up that first down with his foot speed. He shows very good pocket awareness and when he sees an open rush lane, will not hesitate to hit the hole with quickness and power. He is a long strider that gobbles up real estate in a hurry and is perfectly capable of rolling out and throwing the ball deep from the opposite hash. He shows good balance and timing on his three-step drop and even on longer drops, he has the change of direction skills to stop on the dime, redirect and leave a would-be tackler grabbing at air (see 2010 California, Fresno State and Louisiana Tech, and 2009 Louisiana Tech, UNLV, Idaho, Hawaii, San Jose State, Fresno State and New Mexico State games). The thing you see consistently on those game films is his ability to step up or get out of the pocket to borrow time before completing the pass. He does a nice job of maintaining focus down field and the vision to locate his secondary targets (see 2010 Idaho and Boise State, and 2009 UNLV, Idaho, San Jose State, Fresno State and New Mexico State games). When given time to read coverages, he is very efficient at distributing the ball to lots of targets. I like the way that he goes through his progressions to locate those second and third options, rather than getting "tunnel vision" by locking on to his primary target for too long.
Kaepernick is the best running quarterback in the nation. He is the only player in NCAA history to run for over 1,000 yards and throw for over 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, but what was even more impressive were these numbers – he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage just 22 times on 325 carries the last two years, most due to protection breakdowns. On 78 of his 289 non-touchdown runs, it took more than one defender to bring him down, which attests to his underrated running strength. 131 of his runs since 2009 produced first downs (40.31% of his attempts) and he converted 40 of his third-down rushes. Evident of his big-play ability was that 84 of his attempts were good for at least 10 yards (25.85% of his runs), with 30 of those runs good for 20 yards or more. He simply has that rare speed (timed 4.43 electronically and 4.51 hand-held in the 40-yard dash) to move fast away from pressure while also showing the ability to throw on the run. Opposing defenses know that he is a dangerous runner and this forces them to "man up" on him rather than double-teaming another Nevada player. You can see that he can pull up and hit a big play, thanks to his cannon for an arm. You see on film that while he can avoid contact, he also has that underrated strength to square his shoulders and power through to fight for additional yardage.
This four-year starter is the best athlete in the 2011 draft at his position. He has also become a premier decision maker and elite passer, all through lots of extra hours in the film room and on the practice field. He plays in the "pistol" offense, which is not utilized in the NFL and will have to show in post-season all star games that he will be comfortable operating under center and getting to his pass set point with no issues. He has all the intangibles you look for in a pro quarterback – size, strength and incredible speed. He is a take-charge type who is a confident leader. He is also a tough runner whose mobility in the pocket and running with the ball forces the defense to remain honest. He is very effective throwing on the move, but is also quick with his feet setting up to throw from the pocket. He will throw across the body with a high completion rate and has exceptional arm strength, demonstrated with the zip he places in the short-to-intermediate passing areas. He can also plant his foot and step into his throws to fire off the deep outs. With his outstanding judgment and vision, he can take apart a defense with either his arm or feet. Kaepernick will improvise throws to make the completion and shows the solid mechanics to hit his targets in stride. He is a solid touch passer who will never panic under duress (see 2010 Boise State game). He hits moving targets with very good velocity and has good communication and vision which lets his receivers get under his long throws with minimal adjustments.
With that presence in the pocket, he has the ability to look off the defender, using all of his receivers. His best asset might be his accuracy on the move, making him an inviting target for a West Coast scheme looking for athleticism from their quarterback.