Written by Sal Conti Follow on Twitter @SC2_DFW
I have heard ENOUGH.
It’s one thing to once be the underdog and then make a meteoric rise to the top. But it’s ANOTHER when the hype machine runs a little too quickly than it should, and major analysts like Ron Jaworski take a hop onto the bandwagon.
Colin Kaepernick is a very, very, VERY gifted NFL player. He’s got the arm strength of a Jay Cutler, the height of Cam Newton and the straight line speed of an RG3 (well, a tad slower).
From a fantasy perspective, he looks like a monster. But I need to see more. A lot more.
The fantasy world, myself included, dove headfirst into the Tom Brady this offseason: does #12 have enough offensive firepower? Can he work with rookies and undrafted free agents as opposed to big names like Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez?
Silly fans. Of course HE can; he’s Tom Brady, possibly the greatest quarterback of all time.
I haven’t heard as many people talk about Kaepernick’s WR depletion problem. Colin will be without 4 of his top 5 receivers come Week 1 (Mario Manningham will come back eventually during the season; he was recently placed on the PUP list). Can the young 3rd year starter play through the loss of his favorite target, Michael Crabtree? It certainly won’t be an easy fix.
BUT WAIT, ANQUAN BOLDIN’S THERE NOW. He should fill the void that Crabtree left to the gills, right?
I’ll get into that as we go on, too.
Kaepernick’s main appeal to fantasy footballers is his speed and the constant threat he poses to make a big play in general, whether on foot or through the air. More than 20 of his 117 completions traveled 20 yards or more in the air. As for his rushing, Kaep had 15 attempts that went for 10 yards or more, and finished the season with a 6.6 YPC average. Not bad, Colin.
Unfortunately for Mr. Kaepernick, defenses have been studying him all offseason, I’m sure. ESPECIALLY those in the NFC West; I bet the Rams, Cards and Seahawks can’t wait to get a crack on #7 this season. The Rams went as far as to draft former Miami safety Ray Ray Armstrong, and are playing him at….linebacker? It’s simple: teams are playing smart, speedy players at outside linebacker to keep contain on running QBs like Kaepernick.
One pattern I saw in Kaepernick’s passing stats was eye-opening. 145 of his 218 pass attempts were thrown to the left or right sideline. He also had NINE of his ten touchdowns come from sideline receptions. He loved chucking the ball up to Crabtree down the sideline.
More times than not, the pass would only be in the air for about 15-20 yards, but Crabtree’s agility and foot work brought him plenty of yards after the catch. I hate to harp on the loss of Crabtree, but it’s a HUGE loss; from Colin’s first start against Chicago throughout the rest of the season, including playoffs, Crabtree had five games with double-digit targets.
Now, let’s get to Mr. Boldin’s role in Kaepernick’s first full season as the starting QB.
Anquan was traded over from the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens to San Fran for the football-trade equivalent of a roll of quarters. I thought the Niners robbed the Ravens in that deal, but that’s another story.
Even though Anquan is 32 and going into his 11th year in the league, I don’t see any reason why he can’t contribute to the Niners offense.
While most believe that Boldin can replace Michael Crabtree’s production in San Fran, Anquan and Crabtree are two VERY different players. Anquan had 267 less yards after the catch than Crabtree, and, although he scored 4 touchdowns this past playoffs, hasn’t scored more than 7 TDs in a season since 2008.
Whereas Crab is a playmaker and a deep threat, Boldin is more of a security blanket, possession receiver. 70% of his 65 catches last season went for first downs.
Assuming Boldin stays healthy, I can easily see an 85 catch, 1,000 yard season with about 5-6 touchdowns. My TD projection for Boldin may even be a tad high, considering his recent history of failing to reach the end zone. But the catches will come. While he’s no Crabtree, he’s a proven vet in this league.
Another problem Colin Kaepernick has to fix for next season is his decision making. Simply put, he stared down his receivers many, many times last season, and was lucky to have only thrown 3 interceptions.
Contrary to his success of throwing to the sidelines, Kaepernick becomes a very pedestrian quarterback when asked (or forced) to throw down the middle of the field; he threw 2 of his 3 picks in that region.
I’ll also add, on a scouting note, that Kaepernick tends to overthrow his targets from 10-15 yards, regardless of where on the field the ball is thrown. Overthrows are passes meant to be picked off. Unless Kaepernick’s decision making improves, I see his TD: INT ratio plummeting compared to how it was last season.
Well, what about Colin’s fantasy potential on the ground? There sure is a lot of it; although I’ve brought Kaepernick down a ton in this piece, I’m not blind: this is a fast, fast man I’m talking about. To hear that Colin worked with Olympic sprinters in the offseason scares me, because that means he’s likely even MORE dangerous in the open field.
On top of his raw athleticism as a factor into his rushing stats, Colin is the epicenter of a run-first offense. While Frank Gore will handle the dirty work at RB between the tackles, San Fran coach Jim Harbaugh will exploit Kaepernick’s big play ability on the ground, numerous times. To a point, Kaepernick is used like another starting RB for the Niners.
But while Kaepernick is ALWAYS a threat to bust out a 60 yard touchdowns run, I wouldn’t bank on happening all the time.
Colin’s carving up of Green Bay’s Swiss cheese defense in the playoffs doesn’t make him an unstoppable force with the rock in his hands (for starters, Green Bay had NOBODY near Colin on that infamous 56 yard touchdown scamper).
If all of this talk about defensive coordinators smartening up against dual threat QBs is true, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kaepernick didn’t come close to surpassing 100 rushing yards in a single game next season. That’s not too ballsy of a prediction, as Colin only reached that benchmark once in his career. Against? Yeah, it was Green Bay.
I have Colin Kaepernick projected to run for 750 yards and 7 touchdowns. 117 fantasy points on the ground alone is pretty impressive, I’d say. It’s also attainable if Colin can maintain a rushing average of 50 yards per game like he did last year. I also see Kaepernick scoring more, considering the usage he’ll have throughout the season.
As for his passing projection from me? It’s not as stellar, certainly not as exorbitant as the hype that has been catapulting him up fantasy draft boards everywhere.
I have Kaepernick throwing 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with 3,330 yards added on top. 171 points only.
Although he’ll be hyped like he’s the second coming of Joe Montana mixed with Usain Bolt, my projection for Colin Kaepernick is for him to play like a high-end QB2 with hints of a QB1. In keeper leagues, I like Colin more because I’d be able to wait through the storm of not seeing Michael Crabtree suit up on Sundays this year, and start him in the 2014 NFL season.
However, Colin faces a bigger issue than losing Crabtree this season that could tarnish his value in all types of leagues, and that issue is his maturity as a passer. Can he go through reads smoothly? Can he go through reads at all? How many times will his risky decision making result in an interception? For me, that answer is 11 times and there are instants where I think that number is too low.
Can NFL defenses keep up? I sure think they have. Can Kaepernick make plays for himself in the run game, or is he only at his best in the open field with no defenders within 10 yards of him?
I really, really want to warm up to Kaepernick in fantasy football. He’s extremely gifted, is in a very good situation in San Francisco and, on top of that, has become a beloved figure around the whole NFL.
But before I hop onto the crowded Kaepernick bandwagon, I need to see more. A lot more