They say "it" — that something special all the best players seem to possess — cannot be defined. I disagree. I think "it" is nothing more than poise. Specifically, poise under pressure.
"It" is what separates the good from the great, and I think I caught a glimpse Monday night in the form of 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.
Making the first start of his career on national television, against one the league's better defenses, a week removed from San Francisco playing to a lackluster tie against an inferior opponent, the second-year pro played like a five-year starter. There was no shortage of pressure, and he played like it didn't exist.
Had Kaepernick played badly and the Niners lost to the Bears, or even if they won with Kaepernick "managing" the game, we wouldn't be talking about him today. And Alex Smith would feel a lot better about his future.
But Kaepernick played well from the opening snap in the 32-7 blowout. He finished 16-of-23 for 243 yards and two TDs. And no interceptions — a huge factor against a defense that has seven INT returns for TDs this season.
Kaepernick couldn't have made much more of the opportunity to put himself in the conversation as San Francisco's starter moving forward and the franchise's QB of the future. Now he can't be ignored.
He also can't be ignored as a legitimate fantasy option. His performance made him the most coveted player on the waiver wire this week, and if he gets a second straight start, he's got a great matchup against the Saints' defense.
He's easily a top-10 start, and with his running ability (which, amazingly, he didn't even need to showcase against Chicago), he's got RG3-like fantasy upside. Don't get too carried away, though, and think he's a better play than the top QBs. Don't outsmart yourself and bench Rodgers, Brees, Brady, etc. However, if you do not have a dependable QB on your roster, Kaepernick is a great play.
Regardless, he is someone you need to keep in mind next year. Smith could be back this week, relegating Kaepernick to his usual role of playing a few snaps to utilize his athletic ability. But unless Smith leads the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory, Kaepernick will be under center Week 1 next year.
Selected in the second round last April, Kaepernick was considered a reach. He was just an athletic guy who put up ridiculous numbers in a weird offense at Nevada. But if you watched him closely Monday night, you saw a guy who really could be the future of the quarterback position. He's got the size of Cam Newton, the elusiveness of Griffin and an arm no one expected. In addition to having above-average strength, he throws with touch. His seventh pass Monday night, on the 49ers' second series — a 57-yard completion to WR Kyle Williams along the right sideline — was a textbook throw. The kind of throw you see from Peyton Manning.
On the next play, he threw his first career TD.
Poise. That's "it."
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