The Colin Kaepernick Era has officially begun in San Francisco, so, fellow fantasy geeks, start your engines. And get in line.
When the 49ers selected the Turlock native and Pitman High graduate out of the University of Nevada in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, the Raiders fan in me died a little more while the closet 49ers fan within did cartwheels.
Not only was there the excitement of having a local product hit the big time, but the added bonus of having Kaepernick land in his own back yard. Best of all, there was the very real possibility that Kap’s ascent to a starring role for the 49ers would be swift.
While my ears keep hearing things like “too small of sample size” and “the league will adjust” following Kaepernick’s first two NFL starts, my eyes keeping telling “next Aaron Rodgers” and “don’t pass.”
Which is why I won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on Kapernick early in next year’s fantasy draft. If I’m brave enough to use high-end picks on Darren McFadden and Tony Romo (I won’t be living so dangerously in the future, I can assure you), I’m certainly willing to take a shot on Kaepernick, especially in a league loaded with blood-thirsty 49ers fans.
Last summer, I predicted Kap would be San Francisco’s starter by as early as Week 4 of the 2012 regular season, and I wasn’t off by much. Whether it was going to be through injury or incompetence on the part of incumbent starter Alex Smith, my gut feeling was that Niners coach Jim Harbaugh wasn’t going to keep No. 7 tethered to the bench for long.
Why? Because while Smith is a competent game manager, Kaepernick is an explosive game-changer, an offensive weapon whose raw talent trumps his lack of experience and opens up a world of possibilities too irresistible for Harbaugh not to explore.
Harbaugh knows Kaepernick is his golden ticket, and the decision to name him the starter over a healthy Smith is based solely on winning and winning now.
Kaepernick is among the new breed of NFL quarterbacks. Like Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, he’s nimble, instinctive, creative, blessed with a bazooka for a right arm and has the ability to turn nothing into something spectacular.
With Kaepernick at the helm, games no longer need to be managed, they can be dominated and controlled throughout. He will make mistakes — and he’s certainly entitled as he finds his NFL footing — but Kaepernick’s potential for greatness far outweighs the inevitable hiccups young signal-callers experience.
Kaepernick’s first chance to see extended action came in Week 10 when a concussion knocked Smith out of commission for a Week 11 Monday night showdown against the Chicago Bears.
After Kaepernick carved up Chicago for 243 yards and 2 TDs, it was clear, even before Harbaugh’s gushing post-game evaluation, that the future was now and that Smith would be taking a seat next to Wally Pipp.
For the record, I like Smith, even though I protested his selection ahead of Rodgers in the 2005 draft (I don’t get ’em all wrong, folks). Smith, long an oft-injured, off-target pariah by the Bay, returned from the dead in 2011, leading the 49ers to 13 regular-season games, a divisional playoff victory and within a Pop Rock of the Super Bowl.
What many fail to see, or at least acknowledge, is that Smith didn’t lose his job — Kaepernick simply took it away from him.
Is it fair that a guy with a 100-plus QB rating and a 19-5 record over the past two years is now holding a clipboard? No. But is it possible to keep the future face of the franchise waiting in the wings when he’s passed every test with flying colors? Not if you ask Harbaugh, whose offense can be fully realized with Kaepernick as the helm.
Because I’ve had the Medusa fantasy touch in 2012 and feared for Kaepernick’s safety if added to my Bermuda Triangle of a team, I made a conscious decision to stay away this year (Colin, the 49ers and my brother can all thank me later).
But that won’t be the case next August, when l promise that I will make a serious play for Kaepernick, who could be the fantasy savior I’ve been looking for during this darkest of personal fantasy ages.
Bee fantasy sports columnist Stu Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.