San Francisco 49ers: Grading Colin Kaepernick's First Full Season

Colin Kaepernick lead the San Francisco 49ers to a 12-4 record this season. It was a difficult year for the young quarterback. He fought through some injuries to key players that he would otherwise have relied upon this year. Defensive coordinators also had their first full off season to specifically prepare for ways to stop him. All of those things being considered, I will use this article to place a letter grade on the young quarterback.

Defensive coordinators took the off season to examine what it is that Kaepernick likes to do and how to stop it. One thing that they saw is his fondness for throwing the ball down field. They wanted to force Kaepernick to go to his underneath routes. They also disrupted the timing by getting a solid jam on the receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Kaepernick needed to more consistently take what the defense gave him. If the deep ball wasn’t there, he needed to throw the ball to his check downs. There were also many times where he forced the ball downfield despite having receivers open on routes underneath.

Colin+Kaepernick+St+Louis+Rams+v+San+Francisco+bKk6oVR4f1_xAnother thing that Kaepernick needs to improve is seeing the field better. There where a few times that guys where wide open but he either tucked the ball and ran of forced it to Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree. The second game against the Carolina Panthers was a great example. He had very wide open on a seam route but he forced it to Crabtree. Ironically, this is the exact opposite of what I suggested earlier. I wonder if it was an issue of his pressing to do something that the coaches told him to do. What I mean by that is, I am sure that the coaches told him to be aware of the short range routes that come open due to teams focused on stopping big plays to Vernon Davis. He may have forced the throw underneath because of the emphasis being placed on it.

I would like to see Kaepernick anticipate a bit better as well. The great quarterbacks see things develop before they happen. They throw to spots and help the receivers get open. Kaepernick does this on occasion but he needs to consitently throw to an area instead of relying on his arm strength to make up for his being late to see his target get open.

That being said, Kaepernick is still a very dangerous quarterback. He can make all of the throws. He can even make throws with accuracy on the move. That’s because of the elite arm strength that he has. He has learned how to attack the line of scrimmage put defenders in the tough predicament of choosing between staying in coverage of going after him. This has helped his receivers break open at times when they work the scramble drill.

The other thing to consider while grading Kaepernick are the injuries to his weapons. Anquan Boldin was brought in to help take the pressure off of Crabtree, not to replace him. That trade ended up being one of the best over the off season. Crabtree as we know went down and was out for most of the year. This took away his top target. That is not a good thing for a quarterback still in his developmental stages. We tend to forget that he still is very early in his time as a starter. Vernon Davis was also out for a few games which hurt Kaepernick as well. The two were able to combine or a number of big plays. Davis is one receiver that Kaepernick was able to link up with and hit in stride, allowing him to get more yards after the catch.

Colin+Kaepernick+San+Francisco+49ers+v+Tennessee+wWqZ4Za6jt3lIt is not possible to have a conversation about Colin Kaepernick and not mention his ability to make plays with his legs. He is one of the most explosive runners when he takes off. His ability to hit top speed in a few strides is uncommon. The way that he explodes through running lanes and hits the outside makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field. His playoff games against the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks showed how he can impact a game. He is the only quarterback to have over 100 yards rushing in two separate playoff games. His big play ability dictates how defenses scheme against them. This is an impact that is not reflected in the boxscore.

I give Kaepernick a passing grade on his 2013 season. I think he had an above average year. Here’s some statistics for all of you that focus on them:

243 completions
416 attempts
58.4 completion percentage
3,197 yards
7.7 yards per attempt
199.8 yards per game
21 touchdowns 8 interceptions
524 yards rushing
4 rushing touchdowns

The 49ers came extremely close to returning to the Super Bowl but fell short in the Red Zone once again. Kaepernick unfairly placed the blame on himself. That’s what you want from your leader though. He is a hard worker and is already back at it, getting ready for next season. This year Kaepernick will be working with Quinton Patton in Miami during the off season. This year I give Kaepernick a B grade but if the 49ers get him a legit Red Zone threat, his grade will likely increase to an A.

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Tags: Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers

  • Travis Crouch

    What you mean red zone threat they have Vernon Davis craptree Bolden and gore what more threat does he need Alex was able to do it with just Vernon and craptree and Bolden won the superbowl for the ravens last year with his redzone catches he needs to be able to go threw is progressions. Looking at all the era not just one


      Red zone is clearly an area of need for this team. Not sure how you could not see that. You mention Vernon David as a red zone threat buy where was he on last play of the last two seasons? It’s clear they need a big WR that they can throw jump ball to and either get the TD or draw pass interference.

  • loverpoint

    Since 2010 the year before the Baalke / Harbaugh era, the 49ers have progressively thrown fewer and fewer passes. You thought Jimmy Raye didn’t throw enough. Greg Roman is giving the 49er QB’s fewer and fewer opportunities to throw the ball. The 49ers for the last 4 years averaged about 20 passing TD’s per season.

    For the last 2 seasons the defense was on the field for more plays than the offense. The offense for the last 3 years has ranked #11 and the defense has for the last 3 years has been in the Top 3. The # 1 offense ( Denver ) scored more than 200+ more points than the 49ers, they scored 34 more TOUCHDOWNS than the 49ers.

    One thing Kaepernick needs if you expect him to throw short dink and dunk passes are WR’s that are good after the run. I was surprised that the 49ers did not utilize LaMichael James as a flanker or throw to him out of the backfield. James is one of the most dangerous open field runners in the NFL. I am not sure he will ever become a great RB, but like I said, if you set him up as a flanker and then hand the ball to him on an end around he then becomes a threat to score on every play.

    The problem with the 49er is not that they do not have offensive talent, the problem is they don’t know how to utilize it. Alex Smith and A. J. Jenkins both grew as players in K.C.. You would think by now both Harbaugh and Baalke would have realized by now that Roman is not the answer.


      You mention the need for YAC WRs, Crabtree and Boldin are two of the best at that. They break tackles and get a lot of extra yards. It’s also surely not as simple as lining up LMJ at the Z and running reverses. It’s a severe exaggeration to say that he’s one of the most dangerous one field runners in the NFL. I’m yet to see him have play of over 30 yds.

      Let’s not forget that Alex Smith experienced most of his growth under Jim Harbaugh.

      FYI the Broncos offense was record breaking. It’s a bad comparison. Granted the 49ers offense could have scored more points and had a very low ranking passing offense.

  • Monzell Lamar Lewis

    I give him a C he did most by running QB are for throwing this is NFL not college . If he don’t learn and study he will be a has been in few years


      Brilliant analysis, well not really but thanks for participating.

  • Harry C

    I agree. Roman is not the answer. Won’t repeat all of the fore mentioned criticisms of him. I will just continue to harp on the pathetic red zone offense, our failures in 2 NFC Title Games to generate offense, and the red zone failures the last two years to pull out games. Time for a change

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