When news broke that the San Francisco 49ers had agreed to trade Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, Colin Kaepernick was left standing alone atop the quarterback depth chart. The only problem now is figuring out what happens at the No. 2 spot.
As of right now, that role goes to Scott Tolzien, an undrafted quarterback out of Wisconsin who has yet to throw a pass in a regular-season NFL game. Considering his inexperience and poor fit for the read-option attack that worked so well for the 49ers last season, Tolzien might not be the best bet as Kaepernick’s backup.
From what I saw of Tolzien during his bit of preseason action in 2012, there’s no denying that he has potential as an NFL passer. He did a great job of standing in the pocket and delivering passes with confidence. He showed solid accuracy and enough arm strength to get the ball where it needed to be despite an awkward throwing motion. His height was a concern coming out of college, but I think Russell Wilson has already shelved that stigma.
What Tolzien doesn’t offer, though, is experience or an ability to run. Tolzien is a pure pocket passer who has never been nor ever will be a threat to pick up yards on the ground. If Kaepernick were to go down, the 49ers would have to drastically change their offensive approach because Tolzien doesn’t have the physical tools to run the read-option effectively.
I’m not saying that 49ers should move on from Tolzien; he’s got potential. What I am saying is that, going into the 2013 campaign, they need to find a capable backup who won’t be much of a drop-off from Kaepernick in terms of athleticism. Whether it’s via the 2013 NFL Draft or free agency, the 49ers need to add another dual-threat quarterback to the mix.
Tolzien is a project and he needs to stay that way for the time being. The No. 2 slot with the 49ers simply isn’t a place for him at this point.