A year ago at this time, Colin Kaepernick was backing up Alex Smith, getting his reps in training camp and in exhibition games and biding his time as the 49ers’ quarterback-in-waiting.
Now the third-year pro is among the preseason favorites for the National Football League’s MVP award.
Mike Sando, who covers the NFC West for ESPN.com, noted that Kaepernick is tied with Drew Brees as the No. 3 favorite to be the league’s MVP in 2013 at odds of 10-1, behind only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers Bovada.lv.
Not bad, considering Kaepernick has started just seven regular-season games.
Yet though the sample size is small, his impact has been enormous. Kaepernick goes into this season as the unquestioned starter and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL based on his second-half performance last season that also included three postseason games, including the Super Bowl.
As Sando wrote, Kaepernick is a viable choice based on what everybody saw him do for the Niners offense last season, and his projected stats.
“His pace through 10 starts last season (three in the playoffs) would project to better than 3,800 yards passing and 800 yards rushing over a 16-game schedule,” wrote Sando. “Becoming the first player with 4,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing would certainly put Kaepernick in the discussion.”
Plus, Kaepernick has inherited the quarterback position on a team with a solid defense, terrific offensive line, strong corps of running backs and proven coaching staff. It’s a perfect situation for the young quarterback with a strong arm, quick legs and terrific football mind.
With his importance so key for the 49ers’ success in 2013, head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff have been very protective of Kaepernick in exhibition games this summer.
Going into this Sunday’s third exhibition, against the Vikings at Candlestick Park, Kaepernick has played fewer snaps than any projected starting QB in the NFL (other than Washington's Robert Griffin III, who has not yet played).
Kaepernick played just four snaps last week against the Chiefs after playing 12 vs. the Broncos in Week 1. And there’s no guarantee Kaepernick will get extended playing time against Minnesota. Not only do the 49ers want to protect Kaepernick, but they need to sort out their backup quarterback situation, where Colt McCoy, Scott Tolzien and rookie B.J. Daniels all are in the mix for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots on the roster at QB.
“I didn’t want anything freakish to happen,” Harbaugh told the media this past weekend, after Kaepernick’s very brief playing time in Kansas City. “Sometimes you’ve got to have a plan and you also need a feel, too. So, just felt like he has gotten tremendous amount of work in practice. Though you’d like to have him play more in the preseason games, it comes down to a feel there.”
And the big feeling is, Kaepernick could be on the verge of having a very special season in his first full year as a starter. Maybe even an MVP season.