He was the driving force behind Nevada’s offense as a passer and a rusher. Being the only player in college football history to pass for more than 10,000 yards and rush for over 4,000 is a testament to that. Just three quarterbacks have ever posted 20 rushing and 20 passing touchdowns in a single season. Kaepernick is one of them having done so in 2010. The other two are named Tebow and Newton.
Tebow was a late first-round pick last spring. Newton is expected to be one this April. Kaepernick however, is not seen as a player with first round stock. With his pro day set to take place in Reno today, Kaepernick is once again out to prove to doubters that he’s every bit as capable as those signal callers ranked higher than him.
“I think I bring a lot of things,” Kaepernick said. “I bring leadership, confidence, intelligence as well as my physical abilities as my arm strength and mobility. I think there are a lot of things that I can do to help an NFL team out.”
The NFL draft analysts are not convinced.
“There are four quarterbacks with first round talent, then another group of four where any of them could be a good starting quarterback,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “The question is which one will become that guy? It’s basically Andy Dalton, (Christian) Ponder, (Ricky) Stanzi and (Colin) Kaepernick. Three with one project, which is Kaepernick who is a bit of a project.”
Mayock and others believe that Kaepernick’s propensity to run, playing in a wide open offense and long wind-up type delivery all factors into what many observers see as a lengthy adjustment to the pro game. Kaepernick doesn’t see it that way.
Nevada ran a ‘Pistol offense’ where as in most spread attacks the quarterback is lined up in the shotgun, and he has a running back directly behind him. He realizes the bread and butter plays of his college scheme won’t be the same to what is run in the pros, but Kaepernick believes he used the same quarterback skills required of a pro signal caller.
“I don’t think our offense will directly translate, but we do a bunch of things in terms of progressions, protections that are similar to NFL teams do and we just call them something different,” he said. “I think picking up on terminology will be a big thing for me, learning what those mean as opposed to what we call things.”
Kaepernick also maintains that his passing skills took noticeable steps forward his last two collegiate seasons, with his touch on throws being one of the bigger improvements.
“Going into my junior and senior year I really started to develop the idea of throwing the ball so our receivers can make plays after they catch it,” he said. “If I give them a easier ball to catch they can catch it, get down field and make some plays. Opposed to in the past, throw it as hard as I could and try to put it on the spot where they might have to fight the ball a little bit to catch it and not be able to pick up as many yards after the catch.”
He also felt being exposed to a pro environment at the Senior Bowl working with the North team and the Cincinnati coaching staff already helped him get a feel for the adjustments he’ll need to make when he gets into a pro camp prior to his first NFL season.
After posting an impressive 37 on the Wonderlic at the combine, it’s also clear he has the mental retention and processing skills to handle a new scheme and all the responsibilities that go with it. And though he has physical skills to match, he knows taking advantage of his 4.53 speed will be something he relies on significantly less at the NFL level.
“I don’t think I’ll run as much in the NFL as I did in college,” he said. “Obviously there are great athletes in the NFL and all of them run 4.4s-4.5s. I think I am going to have the freedom to run, but at the same time my mobility will give the ability to extend plays and convert on some third downs.”
What no one can argue with is Kaepernick’s production. He led Nevada to a 12-1 season including a win over then undefeated conference rival Boise State and a bowl victory over Boston College. During the regular season, Nevada scored a school record 75 school touchdowns for 554 total points, another record.
Kaepernick’s consistency was also impressive. He’s the only collegian to throw for at least 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. His touchdown to interception ratio was also extremely consistent, with 19 TDs against three interceptions as a redshirt freshman, followed by 22 TDs and seven picks as a sophomore, 20 touchdowns and seven INTs as a junior and 20 TDs and six interceptions in 2010.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Kaepernick has also worked on speeding up his delivery knowing pass rushers arrive a bit quicker in the NFL. With almost an 80-inch wingspan however, there’s only so much that can be done to make it a more compact throwing motion.
Most project Kaepernick as a third or fourth-pick come late April, and that’s where project quarterbacks usually come off the board. That’s why the WAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year will fight his ‘project’ label right up until draft day.
“I don’t agree with that,” he said of being described as a project. “I think the Senior Bowl week I showed how quickly I can pick up on an NFL offense, drop-back, read coverage.”