A few quarterback battles will go down this summer. I’m not sure if there’s a more intriguing one than what could happen in San Francisco… Both Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert will by vying for the opportunity to be Chip Kelly’s new project, and a potential starter for your fantasy team. Let’s take a look at what each player has to offer.
The Running Man Challenge
Kaepernick had some issues last season, most notably being benched and subsequently placed on I.R. with a shoulder injury, but he has had an overall solid career so far. Take a look at his numbers in the RotoViz Career Graphs app.
As you can see, Kap has always been fairly strong at limiting turnovers, and started his career with outstanding efficiency. Though he bottomed out last year in that department, it should be noted that it was also, by far, the worst year for San Francisco during Kaepernick’s tenure, and he still wasn’t a complete disaster.
The real reason you should be #TeamKap in this battle though is the legs. Kaepernick has been a featured part of his team’s rushing attack throughout his career, and has the ability to post big touchdown numbers on the ground. This makes the pairing with Chip Kelly an ideal one, as he was famous for the dual-threat quarterbacks he had at Oregon before coming to the NFL. He also got Michael Vick to run for 307 yards and two touchdowns in the first five games of 2013 before an injury allowed Nick Foles to take over as the team’s starter. There is real rushing upside here if Kaepernick can win the job, and it would stand to reason Kelly wouldn’t take the job in San Fran if he didn’t have some kind of plan for the mercurial passer.
A Career Resurgence?
Gabbert has been a complete disaster after being selected tenth overall by the Jaguars in 2011, but he showed the ability to sustain some drives last season once he was permitted to start for the 49ers. He posted a 6.79 AYA in eight games, averaging over 35 pass attempts per contest. This is probably a good time to remind you Gabbert wasn’t a terrible athlete himself coming out of Missouri, courtesy of the RotoViz Box Score Scout app.
Kaepernick is generally considered one of the best athletes in the league at quarterback, but Gabbert isn’t too far behind him. It isn’t a stretch to say he has similar rushing upside to Kaepernick should he garner the starts. And considering Kelly’s system thrives on quick reads, something Gabbert actually did well as a prospect, he is very much in the mix here to be the starter.
The Young Sleeper
I don’t think he is the 1A or 1B in this arms race, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention Jeff Driskel. He came in sixth in my post-draft rookie quarterback rankings, and is another player with athletic talent and collegiate efficiency.
I don’t really expect Driskel to start games without an injury to at least one of the other quarterbacks, but we’ve seen Kelly do stranger things. He certainly has the requisite skills to make this offense work if he gets his shot.
Why You Care
I think there is a lot of evidence suggesting Kaepernick and Gabbert aren’t all too dissimilar as players (or Driskel for that matter), so the real question for fantasy owners is do we even want a piece of the starter? That question should absolutely be answered with a yes. There has been a lot of shuffling at the quarterback spot for the Eagles during Kelly’s tenure, but here is how they have performed in the aggregate.
Kelly’s QBs have averaged a QB1 performance during his tenure in Philly, though they were very poor last season. Still, I’m willing to take the body of work over one dumpster-fire season, and I think that the 49ers have some really strong weapons at wide receiver in Torrey Smith and DeAndre Smelter.
Furthermore, I have a hard time believing either signal-caller would ever be prohibitively expensive. In our recent 2QB mock drafts, Kaepernick has gone as QB32, Gabbert QB35, and Driskel undrafted. Once a starter is named, I could see that player creeping into the early 20’s, but that will still pale in comparison to the upside the starter will have. Remember, Foles wasn’t even drafted by Kelly, and was a disaster without him in St. Louis, but was a top-three fantasy passer in points per game in 2013.
There are three players in San Francisco with similar athletic traits and the ability to be efficient in a Chip Kelly offense. With legitimate top-five weekly upside, whoever is named the starter should be a clear bargain in your 2QB drafts. Just follow the news closely, and pounce on whoever wins the job. That player is undoubtedly going to win you some matchups in 2016, and perhaps even your league.