How Colin Kaepernick Fits In Today’s NFL: Where QB Could Thrive, Areas He Could Fight In And Team Matches

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It’s been three full seasons since Colin Kaepernick last played in an NFL game. Much has changed during that time, including and perhaps especially attitudes toward Kaepernick’s peaceful protests of police brutality and systemic racism. That’s largely true not only on the national level, but also in and around the NFL. We’ve seen in recent weeks that players, coaches, executives and even Commissioner Roger Goodell have voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the protests that erupted across the country (and are sure to take place during the upcoming NFL Season ) following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police (and Breanna Taylor at the hands of the Louisville police), and in several cases, Kaepernick himself.

But it’s not just the outside world that has changed since the last time Kaepernick took the field. The game has also changed. In some ways, Kaepernick would fit better in the NFL 2020 than in the league version he played in from 2012 to 2016. In other ways, not so much. Now that it seems more likely that in recent years Kaepernick may end up on an NFL team again, this seems like a good time to examine some of the countless ways the league has moved toward Kaepernick, as well as the ways in which that has strayed from him.

How the NFL has moved in the Kaepernick direction

The most notable way the league has moved in the Kaepernick direction is the increased prevalence of offensive coordinators and head coaches who are willing to tailor their offensive scheme to fit the talent on the roster, rather than making them Talent conforms to your narrow outline definition. Specifically, more and more coaches are willing and even eager to take advantage of their quarterback’s mobility, either through designed runs, career pass option plays or encouraging them to get away from the pressure with the intention of taking off in the field instead of just buying More time to throw away.

According to Pro Football Focus data, designed quarterback runs accounted for 6.9 percent of all running plays from 2012 to 2016; But that turnout increased to 7.8 percent of career plays from 2017 to 2019, and 8.1 percent in 2019 alone. Kaepernick was probably the best designed quarterback in the NFL from 2012 to 2016, averaging 12.0 yards per carry in 191. careers designed during that time.

There is currently no public data on RPO games prior to 2018, but if you’ve been watching NFL games recently, just think about how often they’ve been mentioned on broadcasts in recent seasons. Kaepernick’s threat as a running back can be further exploited in RPO plays than in read-option style runs that were used the last time he was in the league, simply because he would also have the option to throw the ball in addition to delivering or taking off to run alone. The more options the defense has to think about, the more space Kaepernick will have to take advantage of and the less time the defenders will have to approach him.

Meanwhile, being able to buy time under pressure has become more important than ever. It’s no coincidence that the league’s best quarterbacks in the 2020 season count this among their best abilities. The league’s average pressure rate increased from 27.6 percent during Kaepernick’s time in the league to 34.8 percent during the three years he was out of the league.

And instead of buying time just to pitch, quarterbacks rush to run more often than when Kaepernick was last in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks were quick to run just 6.8 percent of the time they were under pressure from 2012 to 2016. In the three years since Kaepernick has been in the league, that rate increased to 9.8 percent. , and in 2019, it was 10.5 percent.

Fighting to run was one of Kaepernick’s best skills: Among the 52 quarterbacks with at least 500 dropbacks between 2012 and 2016, only Christian Ponder stirred more often (19.7 percent), as a percentage of pressed dropbacks, than Kaepernick ( 19.5 percent). Among that same group of players, no one averaged more than Kaepernick’s 9.5 yards per fight, for Pro Football Focus.

Areas where Kaepernick could have difficulties

Where Kaepernick tended to (relatively) fight despite his mobility was when he was quick to launch. Leaguewide, quarterbacks completed 68.8 percent of their passes within 2.5 seconds of the snap during their time in the NFL, while they converted 4.7 percent of their throws to touchdowns and 1.9 percent to interceptions. That gave them a passer rating of 94.2 on those pitches, which accounted for 52.2 percent of all NFL setbacks. By taking more than 2.5 seconds to throw the ball, the QBs themselves completed only 55.5 percent of pitches, saw their touchdown rate drop to 4.2 percent and the peak of the interception rate to 3.2 percent, and recorded only a passer rating of 78.6.

Kaepernick, meanwhile, kept his passing efficiency to a slightly greater degree than other quarterbacks (his passer rating dropped from 93.7 to just 83.1 when it took him more than 2.5 seconds to pitch), thanks largely to an increase in big plays. (His touchdown rate actually increased from 4.0 percent to 5.0 percent.) But it saw a steeper-than-average drop in completion percentage (68.0 percent to 51.5 percent) and a doubling of its interception rate (1.2 percent to 2.6 percent), the latter being a particularly troublesome trend because a One of Kaepernick’s calling cards was his ability to avoid turnovers. He also took catches considerably more often (13.5 percent from casualties) than the rest of the league (9.8 percent) in casualties that lasted 2.5 seconds or more.

Furthermore, Kaepernick took more than 2.5 seconds on his kicks considerably more often than the rest of the NFL, which could be a problem in a league that has only increased its emphasis on fast passing. From 2017 to 2019, 53.4 percent of retracements came to an end within 2.5 seconds of closing, a rate much higher than that of Kaepernick, who saw that only 42.3 percent of his retracements did the same. That rapid growth of the game plays against Kaepernick, because although he performed well when casting within 2.5 seconds of the snap, he was not a particularly fast processor or decision maker, which is part of why he often clung on the ball longer than other QBs.

On the other hand, wherever he lands, Kaepernick is likely less riddled with drops than during his career. Overall, the 49ers’ pass receivers dropped 6.6 percent of Kaepernick’s pitches, according to Pro Football Focus. The league-wide knockdown rate on quarterback pass attempts in the past three seasons is just 4.7 percent, so assuming your catchable passes are caught at a league average rate, you should see a slight increase. In his performance due to a regression of the poor, luck falls.

The best team fits

If Kaepernick gets another shot at the league, it will likely be as a backup quarterback. Regardless of whether you think he has starter quality, it is extremely unlikely that any team will hand him his initial job after three years out of football, even if the reason he was away was not his fault, per se.

For that reason, it would be best if you signed with a team that has a progressive thinking offensive staff that has demonstrated an ability and / or willingness to work with mobile quarterbacks and harness their skill set through designed careers and RPO works of theater. The Ravens (Greg Roman, Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley), Seahawks (Russell Wilson), Chargers (Tyrod Taylor planning to start), Bills (first Taylor and now Josh Allen), Bears (Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky), Cowboys (Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott) and Cardinals (Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray) could fit that description in one way or another. Meanwhile, teams like the Saints (Sean Payton and Taysom Hill) and now the Eagles (Doug Pederson and Jalen Hurts) have shown their willingness to explore the use of mobile quarterbacks as pace change options, a role that could be adapted to Kaepernick if you want to be more than a standard backup.