Colin Kaepernick has had more than his share of detractors questioning his talent throughout his career. The President of the United States recently said he would welcome the return of Kaepernick “if he has the playing ability.”
Most NFL fans who have followed Kaepernick’s career realize he’s been an above-average quarterback. The numbers don’t lie. Not to mention the fact he guided the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship two seasons and the Super Bowl in 2013. But what happened to the five other quarterbacks taken before Kaepernick in the 2011 NFL draft?
The quarterback taken one pick before Colin Kaepernick
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Colin Kaepernick was taken by the San Francisco 49ers as the No. 36 overall pick, or the fourth pick of the second round in the 2011 NFL draft. One selection before him, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Andy Dalton.
Of all the quarterbacks selected before Kaepernick, Dalton has been one of the most successful. Before he signed with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, Dalton had spent his entire career with the Bengals where he put up solid numbers and made three Pro Bowls.
During his nine seasons in Cincinnati, Dalton proved to be quite durable missing just 11 starts en route to guiding the Bengals to the playoffs five times. His personal best season came in 2013 when the Bengals finished with an 11-5 record and Dalton threw for 4,293 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions.
Colin Kaepernick was drafted after these quarterbacks?
Christian Ponder was taken as the No. 12 overall pick by the Minnesota Vikings. Ponder, whose wife Samantha has been considerably more successful with the NFL as an ESPN anchor, played four seasons in Minneapolis. He started all 16 games just one season and guided the Vikings to the playoffs that year. He finished that season throwing for 2,935 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
Blaine Gabbert was taken two selections before Ponder at No. 10 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gabbert was a journeyman in his eight-year NFL career and played for four different teams, which included a stop in San Francisco, where he beat out Kaepernick for the starting position. He started five games for the 49ers, lost four of them, and then Kaepernick replaced him. Gabbert’s most successful season was his rookie year with the Jaguars when he threw for 2,214 yards, including 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Two picks ahead of Gabbert, the Tennessee Titans selected Jake Locker with the No. 8 pick. Like Ponder, Locker played four seasons with the team that drafted him and was less than impressive. Locker’s second season in 2012 was his best, where he finished with a 4-7 record and threw for 2,176 yards, which included 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Cam Newton was the no. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft
The Carolina Panthers selected Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, and he’s easily been the most successful of the quarterbacks taken that year.
Like Kaepernick, Newton led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2015 when they lost to the Denver Broncos. Like Dalton, Newton played his first nine seasons with the same team and has made the Pro Bowl roster three different times, including 2015, when he was also named an All-Pro.
Newton’s best season was the Super Bowl run in 2015 when he threw for 3,837 yards including 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and the team finished the regular season with a 15-1 record.
With hindsight 20/20, the Titans, Vikings, and Jaguars all would have likely taken a different approach with their 2011 first-round selections. Whether or not any of the teams would have opted for a quarterback like Kaepernick is anyone’s guess. What is undeniable is had they chosen Kaepernick or Dalton, they would have been much better off in the long run.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.