Colin Kaepernick started the 2013 season with 412 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers, but he didn’t throw for more than 252 yards in any of his next eight games and threw multiple touchdowns just twice in that span. He was able to turn things around after that though, with multiple passing touchdowns four times from Week 11-Week 17 and 20 or more fantasy points (ESPN scoring) four times through a critical stretch for fantasy football owners.
Kaepernick’s late-season surge was driven by throwing the ball a bit more over the final seven games of the season, as he averaged 28 pass attempts per game during that time (60.7 completion percentage), compared to 24 attempts per game prior to that. With running back Frank Gore in decline, the 49ers may be best-served taking the reigns off Kaepernick as a passer this year.
Kaepernick’s mobility obviously bolsters his fantasy value, with 937 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground over his first two seasons. He had the third-most carries among quarterbacks in 2013, behind Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, and those opportunities won’t go away this year.
Kaepernick has clear rapport with wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and it’s not a coincidence that Crabtree’s return for the final five games last year helped drive improved production late in the season. The 49ers added a capable veteran wide receiver this offseason, acquiring Steve Johnson in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, and a fully healthy season from Crabtree increases Kaepernick’s upside as a passer.
The 49ers threw the ball a league-low 417 times in 2013 (26.1 per game), and with a deep stable of running backs they are unlikely to become “Air Coryell” this year. Kaepernick’s completion percentage fell to 58.4 percent in his first full season as a starter last year, compared to 62.4 percent in 2012 (62.5 percent in his seven starts).
Advanced statistics put Kaepernick among the worst quarterbacks in the league when under pressure, with an accuracy rating of 54.6 percent under pressure and being sacked on over 20 percent of his snaps when under duress (per ESPN.com). That means he has some development to do as a pocket passer.
I thought Kaepernick was highly overrated heading into fantasy drafts last year, but things are turning the other direction this year. Even though he’s clearly a notch below the elite players at the position, Kaepernick will quickly become the best available option for owners that chose to wait on a quarterback in drafts and auctions.
Bye Week: Week 8
Projected Round: Eighth or Ninth Round (12-Team Leagues)
Auction Value: $2 (ESPN.com)
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.