Once upon a time, the San Francisco 49ers had the luxury of having Colin Kaepernick as their backup quarterback. While no one could have predicted the fashion in which Kaepernick ascended to the starting role, it was no secret that he was a strong backup to Alex Smith. Fast forward to the present day where the 49ers’ backup quarterback situation is a big question mark heading into the 2014 season.
Current backup Colt McCoy is a free agent, and all signs point to the 49ers letting him walk this offseason. They reportedly tried to trade McCoy prior to the 2013 season but were unable to find a willing suitor. So with uncertainty at the backup quarterback spot and a starting quarterback who naturally puts himself at risk by running the football, who will the Niners turn to to fill the all-important position?
One option is to select three-time national champion AJ McCarron in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Aside from being a bona fide winner, McCarron has consistently displayed top-notch accuracy and has been lauded for his decision making skills. He also has a great physical build at 6-foot-4, 214-pounds and is known to be a great teammate with a high football IQ. The qualities that experts say hurt his NFL Draft stock are his poor pocket presence and awareness, a lack of mobility and less-than-stellar footwork under duress. Heading into the NFL Combine and Alabama‘s Pro Day, he’s ranked by CBS Sports as the sixth-best quarterback in the draft and is a projected third-round pick.
While all of these qualities will go into the decision to draft him or pass him up, the 49ers ultimately care about just one thing: If Kaepernick goes down with an injury, can he come in and play well enough to win?
If the answer to that is a resounding yes, then spending a third or fourth-round pick on McCarron seems like a great decision. The 49ers only have a few needs to address this offseason, and they can afford to go this direction if they’d like. The best front offices in football understand how to manage risk, and the looming threat of an injury to Kaepernick without having a serviceable backup is a big one.
Regardless of whether or not McCarron is deemed to be the answer, general manager Trent Baalke can’t afford to neglect the backup quarterback role in 2014.