I’m betting big on San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick this season. That might sound crazy since he’s still in Jim Harbaugh’s run-heavy offense, but allow me 600 or so words to persuade you:
1. He has the best receiving corp he’s ever had. With Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, new addition Stevie Johnson, and most importantly, a healthy Michael Crabtree, the 49ers have never had a receiving corp around Kaepernick like this. Not only will this provide Kaep with more receiving targets, but it will open the field for him to run more.
2. Frank Gore will finally start to slow down which will compel Harbaugh to throw more. Look, I know Harbaugh ain’t changing his stripes, and he’ll go to the grave (or Cleveland) with his ground and pound offense, but he’s also no dummy. If he sees something isn’t working or isn’t as productive as he’d like, he’ll make the adjustment. Gore has been a rock for a long time, but I expect this to be the year where his age finally starts to show. The 9ers have good backups behind him in Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore, but I expect Harbaugh to open up the passing game more this year. He trusts Kaepernick to make smart choices and 31 year old, workhorse running backs usually don’t fare too well in the NFL.
3. The stats show he’s a top-five QB. Kaepernick didn’t get off to a great start in 2013 (aside from a crazy week one). He put up pretty pedestrian numbers through his first five starts until he finally found his groove and became a stud the rest of the season. If you were to take out those first five weeks and extrapolate his production from weeks six through 17 over a whole season, Kaepernick would have finished the year as a top-five QB. I expect that to be the case this year.
4. He’ll make big strides in this third year as a starter. No stats to back this one up, but it’s just a gut feeling. Kaepernick has been a playoff monster the past two seasons, so he’s clearly shown his penchant for big games and progressing as time goes on. If not for injuries to his receiving corp, Regular Season Kaepernick would have become Playoff Kaepernick by now. 2014 is the year that happens.
5. The 49ers’ defense isn’t as stout in 2014. With the devastating knee injury to All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith’s increasing age, the potential suspension of Aldon Smith, and the still shaky defensive backs, the 49ers defense, while still one of the league’s best, simply isn’t as good as it has been the past few years. That stingy defense has allowed them to hold leads and pound the ball on the ground with Gore, eating up the clock. I anticipate them not having that luxury as often this year and needing big plays in the passing game more often.
6. I’m a homer. Yes, I firmly believe everything I just said, but I’d also bet big on Kaepernick and the 49ers every year. I may or may not have a kick-ass Kaepernicking t-shirt and I may or may not have named my fantasy team last year Kaepernicking FTW.
But I most certainly do, and I absolutely did. Needless to say, we did not win (thanks for nothing Ray Rice). Let’s all take a moment to boo Ray Rice, for more reason than one. BOOOOO.
*Photo Credit – Au Kirk via wiki commons.