It is hard to not be impressed by what Colin Kaepernick did in his first NFL start against the Chicago Bears on Monday. The second-year quarterback from Nevada literally picked apart a defense that had been as dominating as any this league has seen in a great while.
He did so on national television in a game that pitted two first-place teams against one another. He did so with a total of just 31 career pass attempts under his belt. He did so after only learning the night before that he would be starting for the concussed Alex Smith. Simply put, this was one of the most dynamic performance we have seen from a quarterback making his first start in some time.
When all was said and done, Kaepernick completed 16-of-23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He compiled a ridiculous 133.1 quarterback rating and averaged 12.3 yards per attempt. What makes this performance so damn impressive is who he did it against.
Chicago had intercepted 19 passes in its first nine games for an average of one pick per 18 pass attempts. Opposing quarterbacks had compiled a quarterback rating of 58.3 during that stretch...Kaepernick more than doubled that on Monday.
Statistics are fine and dandy, but his performance goes far beyond that. As indicated in my Bleacher Report article on Tuesday, he showed a calmness in the pocket that you rarely see from such a young quarterback. Equally as important, Kaepernick stepped up in the face of pressure and utilized that cannon to get the ball where it needed to go.
The most surprising aspect of his performance was the fact that Kaepernick was throwing accurate darts out there. He hit receivers in stride and allowed them to rack up yards after the catch (YAC), which is a trademark of the traditional west coast offense. These were some of the question marks that scouts had when he entered the 2011 NFL draft from Nevada. Those were more than answered.
Listen, we all knew the talent was there. Kaepernick became the only player in the history of college football to surpass both 10,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards. He has a cannon for an arm, and is athletic as they come. Also important to take into account is the fact that Kaepernick is a beast of a man at 6'5" and 233 pounds.
What Does it Mean for 2012?
Kaepernick ranks eighth among quarterbacks in fantasy points in the last two weeks, right ahead of Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning. He is also fourth among quarterbacks in rushing yards in 2012. This despite the fact that Kaepernick has played a total of 77 snaps. In total, the talented young quarterback is averaging 8.7 yards every time he touches the ball. That is unheard of for a quarterback in the NFL.
For comparisons sake, Robert Griffin III, who Kaepernick will most likely be compared to in the future because of his athleticism, is averaging 7.6 yards per touch in 2012. That is simply amazing if you ask me.
The 49ers are serious contenders for the Super Bowl this season. In fact, they could be considered the favorites to bring home the Lombardi in New Orleans in February. Heck, San Francisco has outscored its opponents by an average of 30-4 in its last five wins.
I have a hard time believing that Jim Harbaugh and company would go with an inexperienced signal caller down the stretch when they have Alex Smith as a solid alternative here. Smith is first in the NFL in completion percentage and third in the league in quarterback rating. He also possesses a .760 winning percentage and has won the second most games of any NFL quarterback since the start of the 2011 season.
In reality, San Francisco has an awesome problem here. It pretty much has a quarterback of the present (Smith) and a quarterback of the future (Kaepernick). This seems to be a mirror image of the Joe Montana/Steve Young days, though to a lesser extent.
Pure conjecture because Harbaugh has yet to name a starter for Week 12, but I believe that Smith will be under center against the New Orleans Saints. As long as the veteran remains healthy he will be the man for the remainder of the season. Of course this seems to limit the production we will get from Kaepernick in 2012.
That being said, there are other factors that come into play. Due to Kaepernick's stunning performance against Chicago on Monday we can pretty much come to the conclusion that Smith will have a short leash in upcoming games. After all, how in the heck do you sit a quarterback that did what Kaepernick did on Monday? Small sample size aside, that was just awe-inspiring.
2013 and Beyond: Fantasy Impact
Smith has two years remaining on his contract, but the 49ers could send him packing prior to April and save a whole heck of a lot of money. This season is "Super Bowl or bust" for Smith and San Francisco. Anything short of a trip to New Orleans in February would have to be considered a failure for one of the best teams in the NFL.
What if San Francisco fails in its goal to win a sixth Lombardi? Would this end the Smith era by the bay? Common sense seems to indicate it would. The 49ers are set to pay Smith over $7 million in 2013 with Kaepernick set to earn just $740 thousand. In this salary cap era, it doesn't make sense for San Francisco to keep a less talented quarterback making nearly 10 times more than his backup. Unless, of course, Smith leads the 49ers to a championship in 2012, which is a real possibility.
In short, Kaepernick is a low risk/higher reward proposition in dynasty leagues. You can pick him up somewhat on the cheap and even stash him until Smith plays out his contract, which is unlikely and the worst case scenario. Most likely, you will be looking at Kaepernick getting the 49ers' job in 2014. Best case scenario (for fantasy owners) is that Kaepernick takes the job over next season.
Now let's take a look at what we could expect should Kaepernick be San Francisco's starter in 2013. He has nearly the same skill sets and foundations as the aforementioned RGIII, but possesses a much better surrounding cast. The 49ers' offensive line is quickly becoming one of the best units in the entire NFL.
They have Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in the backfield. Their weapons are young and electric on the outside in the form of: Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams and A.J. Jenkins. This doesn't even take into account the fact that San Francisco still might have what has been an impressive veteran in the form of Randy Moss back for another season.
You also have to take into account his build. At nearly six and a half inches and growing (in terms of muscle) Kaepernick will not struggle staying healthy like we have seen with other athletic quarterbacks that like to run the ball. Instead, you can rely on him to play every week.
Now that we have seen a glimpse of what Kaepernick has to offer in the NFL after watching him destroy opponents in college, selecting him relatively high in a dynasty draft doesn't seem to that big of a risk at this point.
The following is where I would rank the second-year quarterback as it relates to top dynasty quarterbacks following the 2012 season.
Of course this isn't a ranking of standard league quarterbacks. Instead, it is based on what type of production we can expect next season with an eye on the future. As it relates to Kaepernick, all this is predicated on him actually winning the starting job in 2013 and improving on all the issues that we saw him excel at against Chicago on Monday.
If you are looking for a key under-the-radar dynasty league quarterback following the season, look no further. All things equal, Kaepernick could easily pull an RGIII in 2013 should he get the call in San Francisco.
Time will tell!