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Can Colin Kaepernick play at an MVP level in 2014?
- Updated: July 11, 2014
Whether the NFL wants to admit it or not, betting on the league is a large part of the attraction to the game for a number of people. It’s always interesting to see how Las Vegas sets their odds and lines every year, and what team or players tend to be house favorites.
Recently the online sports betting site Bovata released its odds for 2014 NFL MVP. In what might be considered a bit of a surprise, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was tied for seventh-best odds to win the award at 25/1.
While the arrow is pointing up for Kaepernick, is it too soon to put him in the MVP discussion?
His head coach, Jim Harbaugh, doesn’t seem to think so. In fact, Harbaugh himself thinks Kaeperncik is primed for a breakout season.
“I really expect a real breakout year for Colin,” Harbaugh said. “Athletically, he looks bionic. If you all remember the ‘Six Million Dollar Man,’ that’s what he looks like to me.”
“He’s very gifted and he always has been. He has the look and feel of a guy who’s really going to break out — even more so than he already has. I’m really excited about everything about his game right now.”
If Kapernick is indeed ready to take that next step, the 49ers have to trust him to do more. San Francisco was ranked last in passing attempts in 2013 with 417.
The team has relied so much on the running game under Harbaugh, it’s hard to imagine that Kaepernick would get enough opportunities through the air to warrant consideration for MVP. However, there is evidence that the offensive approach could be about to change.
San Francisco seemed as if they wanted to throw the ball early last season, and Kaepernick responded with 412 yards passing in a Week 1 victory over the Green Bay Packers. However, that approach soon backfired, as the team only managed a total of 10 points and 277 passing yards in back-to-back losses in the games that followed. The team then returned to its power running scheme to carry the offense.
That won’t be a problem in 2014.
The 49ers now have one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL as Boldin, Davis, Stevie Johnson and a healthy Michael Crabtree will give Kaepernick plenty of opportunities to air it out. Should an injury occur, the team has insurance in Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton and rookie Bruce Ellington.
While it’s unrealistic to think the 49ers would abandon the run all together, it’s also hard to believe the team would have stockpiled such talent if they didn’t have intentions to open up the offense.
That bodes well for Kaepernick, who’s thrived with a full compliment of weapons. When the 49ers were healthy at the end of the 2013 regular season, Kaepernick averaged 232 yards passing and completed nearly 62% of his throws over the final five games. He connected on seven touchdown passes and was only intercepted once, while compiling a rating of over 108.0 in four of the five contests.
If you take those totals over a full season, Kaepernick would throw for 3,700 yards, 22 touchdowns and only three interceptions. When you combine that with over 500 yards on the ground (he averages 33 a game as a starter) , Kaepernick suddenly appears to be a legit MVP candidate.
Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images