Kaepernick an intriguing Vikings option

While the Vikings search for a quarterback of the future, there could be a second-round option to develop. Colin Kaepernick has been overcoming the odds since childhood and continues to improve his game. He talked about the challenges on and off the football field at the Senior Bowl.

The only quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft that seems to have a consensus of opinions is Missouri's Blaine Gabbert. But the talented, tall quarterback could be a top-10 pick, leaving the Vikings at No. 12 with a major decision that could impact the franchise for years to come: Do they pick a quarterback they aren't convinced can be the next "face of the franchise," select a player at a different position, or trade down?

If the Vikings aren't convinced on the quarterbacks available with the 12th pick, here is one very intriguing option: Trade down until first-round value meets a roster need, select a player that fits the value and consider a couple of second- or third-round draft picks since the three others first-round contenders after Gabbert – Ryan Mallett, Cam Newton and Jake Locker – all have question marks that should give teams in the top 15 pause for selecting them.

Two prospects to watch in the second day of the draft are Colin Kaepernick and Christian Ponder. Both were at the Senior Bowl and both raised their stock there.

Ponder had a solid week of practice and an even better game, being named the MVP of the Senior Bowl after completing 7 of 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Kaepernick completed 4 of 9 for 53 yards and an interception, but the interception and at least a couple of incompletions were off the hands of his receivers.

The Vikings will get to know all of the quarterbacks a little better at the NFL Scouting Combine, which starts today with drills running through next Tuesday. Kaepernick, Locker, Ponder and Newton are among the quarterbacks that are expected to throw at the Combine. Gabbert is not, electing to wait until his pro day.

For Kaepernick, it's just another chance to improve his stock, something he's done whenever he has had little interest. He received only one Division I scholarship offer coming out of high school, and that one from Nevada was late. Throughout his college career, he worked himself into a legitimate NFL prospect, but he knows there are still things scouts want to see from him, making every step along his path to the draft an important stride.

"I think the biggest thing is being able to drop back from under center and throw the ball downfield and show that I can run a pro-style offense," said Kaepernick, who ran the "pistol" offense at Nevada.

"One thing I always heard was being able to drop back under center and get the ball downfield, make my reads while I'm dropping back from under center, know what the coverage is, where to go with the ball, things like that."

Within the first day at the Senior Bowl, Kaepernick said he had talked to "quite a few" scouts and coaches already. He knows there are probably a handful of quarterbacks that started the run-up to the draft rated higher than he was, but he isn't afraid to stand next to them and compete, whether that was at the Senior Bowl in January or the Scouting Combine in February.

"I kind of have the mentality (that) I don't care who it is, if you put me toe to toe with them, I'm going to give them my best shot. If I lose, I'm going to go down swinging, but I plan on winning," he said at the Senior Bowl. "The people that have been touted as first-round picks, I see that as an opportunity to outperform them. I can move into that spot. It's definitely a competition every day and you're going nose to nose."

He has been beating the odds ever since he was born in Wisconsin to a single mother. The product of an interracial relationship, he was adopted by white parents, moved to California and started building a reputation for his baseball and football prowess.

A few years ago, his birth mother started contacting him and they have corresponded on occasion but haven't met in person since he was given up for adoption.

"We've had a little bit of contact over the last three years through e-mail, but other than that, right now my focus is just on football," he said. "She just wanted time. I have a letter from when I was younger that she gave me as I got older. My adopted parents gave me it. She kind of felt the time was right. It was before I really even started playing at Nevada. It was a good situation."

His future stands optimistically before him. He was a 43rd-round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2009, despite not having played competitive baseball since high school. Not surprisingly, his best pitch was a fastball, something he threw 95 percent of time and topped out at 94 miles per hour, he said.

It shows in the bullets he delivers on the football field. He displayed accuracy when he had a clean throwing lane at the Senior Bowl, and he is the most athletic of the bunch of 2011 quarterback prospects.

He was the only player in NCAA history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in three straight seasons. He finished his career with 59 rushing touchdowns, tying former Nebraska Husker Eric Crouch for most by a quarterback, and Kaepernick is the first player in college football history to pass for at least 9,000 yards and rush for 4,000.

But he is also considered a bit raw for the pro game because he spent the vast majority of his time in college in a shotgun-oriented offense that was quick to use his impressive running skills.

"It's definitely hard to look at NFL quarterbacks and compare yourself to them. I really wouldn't say I compare to anybody," he said. "I think I have a little bit of unique tools."

He does, and that's what makes him one of the most intriguing quarterback prospects this year. He might be a developmental, second-round pick, but he also has all of the physical skills to be a future star as long as he can adapt to the pro game and continue to improve with every opportunity.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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