The modern NFL is a quarterback’s league.
Never has the passing game been more prolific than in today’s era of waining press coverage, bigger,more physical wide receivers and rules changes that allow quarterbacks to utilize the middle of the field like never before.Player safety has been placed at the forefront of the NFL’s task list, and signal callers are their teams’ most prized possessions.
So how did five NFL teams pass up on a guy that could do this?:
It was an incredible performance to say the least, and record-setting.
San Francisco 49ers second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick set the mark for most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history with 181 vs. the Green Bay Packers. It wasn’t just running that set him apart. His rocket arm was on display throughout the contest as he carved up the Green Bay for 263 yards through the air and helped catapult Michael Crabtree to his best game as a professional.
With that, it’s worth noting that five teams passed up on “Kap”, as he is affectionately known, and went another direction at quarterback in the 2011 NFL Draft. The 49ers picked him up with the 36th overall pick in the second round.
Make no mistake about it, the 2011 quarterback class was stacked with talent, but how many teams sitting at home this week are thinking about what their offenses would look like with the Northern California product at the helm?
Let’s break it down:
No. 1 (No. 1 overall) — Cam Newton (CAR)
The 2011 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year did not disappoint in his first season of action, setting records and showing a dynamic set of skills that changed the way NFL scouts are evaluating quarterbacks coming out of college to this day. It was well-documented that Cam Newton could tote the rock as a ball-carrier, but his abilities as a passer made him a lock as the league’s top rookie.
The sample size is small, but Kaepernick has shown the ability to do everything Newton does, and possibly better than the former Heisman Trophy winner. Time will tell where these two end up when their careers are finished, but for now, it looks to be two-horse race for the top of this class.
No. 2 (8th overall) — Jake Locker (TEN)
Locker looked like a solid pick at the No 8 spot for a team that was looking for its next franchise quarterback. He went the traditional route and went nearly a full season without seeing game action in 2011 while sitting and learning behind Matt Hasselbeck. In his first full year as a starter, he was 4-7 in 11 games before injuries forced Hasselbeck back into the fray.
Like Kaepernick, the sample size is still low with locker, but it’s clear that Locker doesn’t have the athleticism. He’s not a poor athlete by any stretch, but he can’t match up with the 49ers signal-caller.
Jake Locker was without question
No. 3 (No. 10 overall) — Blaine Gabbert (JAX)
Bad teams stay bad by making picks like this one. Blaine Gabbert is so bad, that Tim Tebow was once tabbed as a potential savior for this franchise. His road hasn’t been easy without sufficient talent around him, but he’s shown poor decision-making and a propensity to hang on to the ball far too long. He’s also injury prone.
It’s not even worth mentioning that Kaepernick is already by far the better quarterback, but we’ll say it anyway.
No. 4 (12th overall) — Christian Ponder (MIN)
The Minnesota Vikings had some moderate success in 2012 after a dismal season in 2011. Ponder was 2-8 as a starter during his rookie season but improved to 10-6 in his sophomore campaign. That was no thanks to the former Florida State Seminoles man under center, as the legs of Adrian Peterson did all of the dirty work and earned the tough yards when the rest of the offense was anemic at best.
Think Kaepernick would have been a nice pairing with AP? So did we.
No. 5 (35th overall) — Andy Dalton (CIN)
Of all the quarterbacks taken before him, Andy Dalton is clearly the most consistent. First, he’s started 32 out of 32 games since he’s been on an
NFL roster. Secondly, his completion percentage is at 60.2 percent for that career and he’s thrown 47 touchdowns against just 29 interceptions over that stretch. He’s made a terrific pairing with A.J. Green and the duo looks to be a formidable combo for opposing defenses for years to come.
But can anyone unequivocally say that Kaepernick wouldn’t have done better? Of course not, but it’s fun to speculate. Because of the dual threat, it’s possible that Kaepernick’s physical gifts could have translated into some more victories, but the 18-13 record of Dalton is hard to call anything but excellent for a quarterback in his first two seasons.
And with the fourth pick in the second round…
So where does Kaepernick fall among these four who were taken above him? Without even thinking about it, he’s in the top three, but then there’s a debate. We won’t know the answer until his career begins to take shape after several years under center.
The same factors that earned him the 49ers’ starting job in the Bay Area over Alex Smith are what make his place in this class difficult to determine. The sky really is the limit for the man with the golden arm and Randy Moss-like stride.
Follow Michael C. Jones on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets