In my article last night I listed Christian Ponder, Jake Locker and Colin Kaepernick as the three players that have taken a step ahead of the rest of the field as the leading candidates for the Jaguars' draft pick at quarterback. After the 2009 season, you would have been hard-pressed to find an analyst that would've predicted the Nevada quarterback to be in the first round conversation.
The 6'5, 233 pound quarterback has been able to accomplish exactly that. Although, he's probably on the outside of the first round looking in right now, he's still been able to launch his draft stock by doing absolutely everything right since the end of his senior year.
With 82 touchdowns passes and 69 rushing touchdowns, it's hard to imagine him doing any more successful at Nevada. He completed 64.9% of his passes in his senior year and threw just 24 interceptions in his four years. That's roughly two interceptions for every seven touchdowns. His over 10,000 yards passing and over 4,000 yards rushing have left him all over the Nevada record books in all different categories. Long story short, Kaepernick did about as much collegiately as possible to maximize his draft stock.
Unfortunately, his draft stock was damaged by two things. The first being Nevada's schedule. Outside of the annual game against Boise State, Nevada rarely saw a game against a team with more than one NFL-quality player on it. The second was the obscure offense that Nevada played in called the pistol.
The pistol was largely responsible for Kaepernick's rushing stats. The pistol is similar to the spread in that it requires an athletic quarterback who is a threat to run and also a threat to throw. However in the pistol, the quarterback has a running back behind him despite his shotgun drop and doesn't have a "spread" out offense, so to speak. There are still tight ends and rarely more than three receivers in the game.
The offense is largely dependent on the quarterback and running back reading the zone blocking in front of them and also using play action to take advantage of overpursuing defenses. Any time a quarterback comes out of an offense that isn't a pro-style offense it is concerning because their ability to absorb and learn an NFL playbook comes into question.
Kaepernick got the opportunity to prove that he could play in a pro-style offense when he accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl in late January. By most accounts, he passed with flying colors. Despite having little experience under center, Kaepernick did a great job with his drops and made strides through the week in diagnosing coverages and listening to coaches.
In Mobile, he also displayed the tremendous athleticism that allowed him to be so successful at Nevada. That athleticism was in full display at the Scouting Combine last week in Indianapolis. His 4.53 40 time was second best among quarterbacks and faster than all the first round candidate quarterbacks, including Jake Locker and Cam Newton. He also showed off his arm strength with a 59 mph throw that ranked as the fastest among quarterbacks at the combine, despite a quirky release.
Kaepernick will likely need a year to learn the NFL system, but the way he has handled himself in his four years at Nevada and the last few months of draft preparation, it's not a stretch to think he'll adjust quickly.