Revisiting Colin Kaepernick's draft class: How many players had a more eventful career than the former 49ers QB?
Colin Kaepernick attempted another NFL return by writing a letter to New York Jets General Manager Joe Douglas. He wrote to state his case for inclusion to the Jets’ practice squad after Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending Achilles injury.
Hip-hop artist J. Cole shared Kaepernick’s letter, stating the benefits of having him on the squad. Basically, Kaepernick wants to give the Jets another option at quarterback behind Zach Wilson. But if he’s banking on his previous volume of work to get a job, those credentials offer mixed results.
Colin Kaepernick was a part of a stacked draft class
The San Francisco 49ers selected Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He was the sixth quarterback taken, and some of those drafted before him had better careers. First overall selection Cam Newton became an NFL Most Valuable Player and led the Carolina Panthers to a stint in Super Bowl 50.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton was taken one spot before Colin Kaepernick. He plays for the Panthers in 2023, his fifth squad in 13 seasons. Newton, Dalton, and 2011 sixth-rounder Tyrod Taylor are all Pro Bowlers.
The list of Pro Bowlers from the 2011 draft class doesn’t stop with the quarterbacks. Wide receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Green made it to multiple Pro Bowls. Running backs Mark Ingram and DeMarco Murray also earned that individual achievement.
Mike Pouncey and Jason Kelce hold the offensive lineman’s banner high for the 2011 draft class. Pouncey is a four-time Pro Bowler, while Kelce is a five-time All-Pro who won Super Bowl LII with the Philadelphia Eagles.
But Colin Kaepernick’s draft year will be widely remembered for the defensive players who came into the league. Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller was taken after Newton, and he won another Super Bowl title with the Los Angeles Rams.
The 2011 class also includes defensive end Robert Quinn and All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson. The 49ers had Aldon Smith as their first-round selection (seventh overall). Four picks later, the Houston Texans took J.J. Watt, who eventually won three Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks selected cornerback Richard Sherman in the fifth round. He became the vocal leader of the Legion of Boom defense that gave the franchise its first Super Bowl title. Other Pro Bowl defensive players drafted in 2011 were Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Jordan, Cameron Heyward, and Justin Houston.
In summary, 31 players in the 2011 draft eventually became Pro Bowlers. That distinction alone gives them better NFL careers than Kaepernick. Even quarterback Blaine Gabbert had a more fulfilling career because he won Super Bowl LV with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
How Colin Kaepernick fared as an NFL quarterback
His stats as 49ers quarterback show a brief peak and a sudden decline. Yes, it’s hard to ignore that Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to a stint in Super Bowl XLVII and nearly won a championship. But opposing defenses and injuries caught up with him, leading to his decline.
Kaepernick took over from Alex Smith, who missed two games during the 2012 season due to a concussion. While Smith was a solid option at quarterback with a 19-5-1 record under head coach Jim Harbaugh, he stuck with Kaepernick even after Smith had recovered.
A year later, he led the 49ers to a 12-4 record and a return trip to the NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, they lost to eventual Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks.
The 2013 NFL season was Kaepernick’s last good year. Eventually, the league caught on to his mobility, daring him to become a pocket passer. He struggled in that role, leading to an 8-8 record in 2014.
Injuries also derailed his career. A shoulder injury that required surgery limited him to eight starts in 2015, finishing with a 2-6 record. By 2016, Colin Kaepernick wasn’t the same explosive quarterback anymore after undergoing three surgeries. He concluded that season with a 1-10 record.
Kyle Shanahan took over from Chip Kelly during the 2017 season. However, he decided not to offer Kaepernick a contract because his skill set didn’t fit the offense he wanted to run. As it turned out, the former Nevada standout has played his last NFL game.