Prospect tracker: How Colin Kaepernick measures up

Andrew Luck was a 70% passer last year, how does it compare?

During the 2010 college football season I tallied statistics from all of the top quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and defenders and listed the results in the prospect tracker. You can find the numbers in the new menu bar under the title ‘prospects‘.

I chose the players I expected to get the most attention on draft day, so it’s quite telling that I decided against adding Andy Dalton. Whenever I watched TCU in 2009 or 2010 I never saw him as anything more than late round fodder and a career backup. Depending on who you believe, he might have a chance to go in round two on Friday and I understand he’s the third quarterback on Seattle’s draft board. Either I made a major error in grading Dalton, or he’s seriously over rated.

Using the prospect tracker I wanted to compare the performance of Colin Kaepernick, who I believe is receiving serious interest from the pacific north west. The stats are based on regular season performances only, so they don’t account for a 192-yard, one touchdown performance against Boston College in the Kraft ‘Fight Hunger’ Bowl.

Despite opting not to declare for the 2011 draft, I kept Andrew Luck’s name on the list if only for the basis of a comparison. After all, this is the poster boy for college football at the moment and the man everyone expects to be the #1 overall pick next year. His numbers at Stanford in 2011 were very impressive, yet distinctly similar to Colin Kaepernick’s.

Luck went 245/349 passing for the season with an excelent 70% completion rate. Kaepernick wasn’t far behind, going 213/326 for a 65% completion rate.

Very little separated each players yards-per-attempt (8.9 to 8.7 in favor of Luck). Kaepernick had 2830 passing yards compared to Luck’s 3051. Both players threw seven interceptions, but Luck recorded seven more passing touchdowns.  To compensate, Kaepernick’s running ability in Nevada’s pistol offense generated 1184 yards and an eye catching 20 touchdowns compared to Luck’s 438 yards and three scores. Of course, Luck ran a very different offense where his mobility and sneaky athleticism was merely a bonus and Kaepernick’s rushing qualities were a focal point for the Wolfpack.

Numbers only tell one side of the story of course, because using pure statistics you’d find it hard to seperate the pair. I’m not trying to say in this article that the two are on an equal footing, something I’m sure Colin Kaepernick – being a humble individual – would accept himself. Kaepernick will not be the first overall pick this year even if he does find a home in round one. Luck’s throwing mechanics are uniquely perfect for a college quarterback and he has some experience of pre-snap reads and adjustments, although a lot of those appeared to be scripted.

Level of competition also has to be taken into account. Kaepernick did beat Boise State, California, Fresno State and Boston College but Nevada’s schedule was also padded out with Eastern Washington, Idaho, Louisiana Tech and Utah State. Stanford negotiated the PAC-10 with some style, only losing to eventual BCS Championship runners-up Oregon on the road.

One thing the numbers do back up is Kaepernick’s elusiveness. He was sacked just ten times in 2010, which is a lot less than other mobile quarterbacks such as Jake Locker (19), Cam Newton (23), Blaine Gabbert (23) and Christian Ponder (23). Again though, you have to wonder about level of competition considering Andy Dalton’s eight sacks at TCU running a similarly weaker schedule. Andrew Luck was sacked an incredible six times, testament not only to his ability to get the ball out quickly but also to Stanford’s superb offensive line.

It is interesting to see that Kaepernick had a better completion percentage than both Locker and Gabbert, significantly so in Locker’s case. Again this perhaps doesn’t tell the whole story as Kaepernick was never faced with an almost impossible situation against Stanford and Nebraska, although performances such as Locker’s against UCLA proved he wasn’t entirely blameless. Another interesting note on Gabbert is that his 62% completion rate came despite throwing more passes (418) than anyone other than Nathan Enderle (478). Gabbert also had the lowest number of touchdowns (15).

Looking at Kaepernick’s previous years at Nevada also hints toward some level of development as a passer. He took less sacks, significantly improved his completion percentage (he averaged in the mid-50’s before 2010) and maintained a low turn over ratio, throwing just 24 interceptions in four years of starting football.

On the face of it the numbers are very impressive and you want to see that development, particularly as a senior. It’s one of the criticisms labelled at Jake Locker who would almost certainly, in my opinion, have been the fourth overall pick last year to Washington. His inability to pass in the 60% range – whatever the reason – gave ammunition to the critics. Statistics can be manipulated in both a positive and negative way and rest assured had Locker been a 60-65% passer, even if the performance wasn’t ultimately much better, people would’ve spoken about him in a more favorable manner. It’s really only a 3% improvement in terms of completions, which is nothing.

Kaepernick did make that jump and the team who ultimately drafts him this week will hope that it’s just the start of further development as a passer, because that is how he’ll be successful at the next level.


  1. Derek

    Looking at our roster for next year, we still don’t have a dangerous playmaker on offense. We don’t have that deep threat that a big armed QB could take advantage of. Do you agree with that? I see a speedster at WR to burn a defense is a big need floating a little beneath the radar. Do you think Tate plays in the 4.3 range like he ran at the combine, and can be that guy? OR do you think the Hawks might seriously consider someone like Titus Young or Jon Baldwin at #57?

    • Kip Earlywine

      I suspect that Seattle will go BPA in this draft even moreso than last year, with a bit of a bias towards QB with that first pick. After that first pick though, the player they select I think will have more to do with who’s on the board instead of positions of need. We’ll see though. Some of the needs are much more pressing than others.

      • Rob

        I think you’ve nailed it there Kip.

        • Rugby Lock

          We have sooooo many holes that BPA is realistically the only way we should look at it outside of finding Matt’s replacement.

    • Rob

      I think it has to be a consideration, Derek. As you say there’s not enough playmaking talent on offense. Young is pretty inconsistent and he’s not as explosive as a DeSean Jackson. Baldwin has big time potential but he’s falling. I would seriously consider him at #57. As for Tate, I don’t think he’s ever played at 4.3. The straight line speed is superior to his game speed. Personally I don’t think the Seahawks used him properly last year, because for me he’s never going to be an orthodox wide out. I think you have to use him more like Dexter McCluster at KC.

      • Nat

        I think/hope that Darell Bevell uses Golden Tate like Percy Harvin was used in 2009 in Minnesota’s offense. Last year when Sidney Rice went down Harvin turned into a “traditional” wide-out and wasn’t nearly as explosive or impactful. Tate = 2009 Harvin in a best case scenario for me.

  2. Hawk Blogger

    Love the CK info and thoughts. I ran a story on him a while back, and he remains my top target for the Seahawks at QB. Taking him at #25 is a stretch, but I’ve liked everything I’ve seen from the kid, and I can’t say that about almost any of the other QB prospects.

    • Rob

      Thanks for sharing that piece, great stuff.

    • Jeff M.

      I’m still pretty concerned about the windup with Kaepernick. He looks like a converted pitcher throwing the football (I think I’ve read somewhere that he was considered a top baseball prospect at one point, though I don’t know if he was on Locker’s level), and I’m afraid he’s going to have to completely re-work his delivery to avoid constant strip sacks and batted balls when facing NFL DEs.

      It’s an interesting contrast to Locker, who (to my eyes) has textbook arm action but struggles with a “shortstop stride.” Kaepernick looks to gave pretty good feet but I’ve never seen an NFL QB succeed with that kind of throwing motion. It seems optimal for either one to sit at least a year while getting the kinks worked out.

      • Rob

        I get the impression that you could start Locker quickly, if you can get the running game rolling. It’s how Atlanta worked in Matt Ryan and Baltimore with Flacco. I’m almost certain Locker will go to Washington at #10 and Mike Shanahan will crank up the ZBS run game to make year one more comfortable.

        Kaepernick’s biggest challenge is going to be working on the playbook, understanding a more complex defense. The wind up worries me less than Tebow for example because once he begins to bring his arm back up, he really zips the ball out. As a cumulative time from the decision to throw and the release it’s OK, probably about average. It’s just not one fluid, same paced movement

        • Blake

          While it is a decent release in terms of time, he is extremely vulnerable to strip-sacks. I also think he’s somewhat of a one year wonder, as his stats are drastically better this year than they ever were. Some would call that one year wonder some would say he’s improving. Depends if ya like the rest of his game or not.

          All in all, it looks like 25 will not have much value. Smith/Pouncey will be gone. Kaps is a reach. Liuget is gone. Phil Taylor will likely be gone. Guys available do not fit our scheme (Harris, Clayborn, Heyward), are not very talented (Reed, Williams, Paea), or do not have valuable positions for our roster (Sherrod, Ayers, Rudolph). Trading out of it (preferrably up, likely down) seems to be our only option.

  3. Kip Earlywine

    Idaho did have a decent year last season, making a bowl game for the first time in a long time. They actually outplayed the Washington Huskies in 2009 but the Huskies won thanks to home field and big plays.

  4. Derek

    Also, how would Jimmy Clausen rank in this years QB class?

    • FWBrodie

      Andy Dalton with pro-style experience?

    • Rob

      I would put Clausen below the top four guys (Newton, Gabbert, Locker, Mallett). I still need to get a grasp on Kaepernick. Clausen would be above Ponder and Dalton.

  5. TonyB

    Pick him in the 2nd round, yes. A 1st rounder, no!

  6. jdr

    I hear that Bowers has been falling down many teams boards, because of knee issues. If he is there at 25 it would be hard not to take him.

    • Rob

      It’s hard to make out how much truth there is to all the Bowers talk. For me, he’s a top five talent. Despite everything there are going to be teams desperate to get him, so the negative publicity may be in attempt to provoke a fall.

      As you say, it’d be difficult not to take that chance at #25. Even if it didn’t pan out, take the chance. It’s a calculated gamble.

  7. Scott

    These numbers can be useful, but are they really anything more than a hint of potential?

    The most use I get out of these numbers is this: I can tell which internet draft “experts” actually watch more than highlight reels or regurgitate some report they read by Rob Rang. (This does not include this site, you guys are outstanding). When they trot out completion percentage, touchdown totals, among other stats, as some sort of end all be all reason to like or dislike a guy, they are ignoring history, which suggests that these are only semi useful guidelines. Not all statistics are created equal. One guys yards and touchdowns could be attained in a much easier fashion than anothers. (See David Klingler) Or in the absence of useful stats, can a scout watch a workout and see potential? (See Matt Cassell)

  8. Jim Q.

    Defending the Pistol………interesting.

    Any chance JS/PC may want to incorporate some pistol offense with Kaepernick? How about some wildcat?

  9. nepacific

    Besides his success, his arm, and his escapability, what I like about Kaepernick is his Wunderlic score of 37. Compared to Greg McElroy 43, Blaine Gabbert 42, Christian Ponder 35, Ricky Stanzi 30, Andy Dalton 29, Ryan Mallett 26, Cam Newton 21, and Jake Locker 20. In interviews, CK seems very confident of his ability to pick up playbooks quickly. What I don’t like about CK is that amazing motion. Hopefully, his QB coach would help him clean that up.

    That Wunderlic score is one reason I’m not that high on Jake.

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