SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Cam Newton was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft. The San Francisco 49ers had no chance to move up and get him. They happily took quarterback Colin Kaepernick 35 picks later.
Sunday, the two dynamic young quarterbacks will play against each other in the NFL for the first time as the Carolina Panthers visit San Francisco.
The two were roommates at the NFL combine and life has been good for both since. Kaepernick has had more tangible success even though, unlike Newton, he didn’t become a starter until midway through his second season. Kaepernick has been to a Super Bowl. He has playoffs wins on his resume despite only starting 18 NFL games.
Newton, spectacular as a rookie and helter-skelter last season, has settled down and has the look of quarterback who may soon see postseason success. He has led the Panthers to four straight wins after a rough 1-3 start. Kaepernick is also rolling, leading his team to five straight wins.
“Everything’s a competition from being at the combine to being at practice to being in a game,” Kaepernick said. “Everything’s a competition.”
Kaepernick plays with a chip on his shoulder. He enjoyed beating the Titans in Week 7 and the Jaguars in Week 8. Like Carolina, those two teams took quarterbacks in the first round in 2011.
It’s difficult to argue the Panthers blew it when they took Newton over Kaepernick. Newton has a big future and Kaepernick was considered more of a project. But it is clear the 49ers are pleased the way it went down. Kaepernick is perfect athletically and emotionally to run Jim Harbaugh’s offense.
While Harbaugh called Newton’s talents “Plutonium grade,” he’d surely roll with Kaepernick. Harbaugh played along when a reporter suggested Kaepernick should be the 49ers’ scout-team quarterback this week to help prepare to face Newton.
“That’s a good idea, that’s a very good idea because they are so similar. And in ability, and makeup, and confidence, and in so many ways, talent,” Harbaugh said. “They’re both great. And that’s not a bad idea at all.”
I asked ESPN analyst Matt Williamson who he’d rather have, Newton or Kaepernick?
“I will say that Newton is playing better (against some suspect teams) than CK right now, but I still take CK, as he is just a better pure passer,” Williamson said. “Newton has taken a lot more snaps in the NFL than CK. Just wait until CK has that experience under his belt.”
The numbers suggest a team couldn’t go wrong with either Newton or Kaepernick these days. They have been the top two rated quarterbacks in the NFL in the past month. Kaepernick’s Total QBR since Week 6 is a league-leading 94.1. Newton is second at 83.5.
Ted Ginn is an authority on both. He played with Kaepernick the past two years and is now teammates with Newton.
"They both have something lot people don’t have, and they use it,” Ginn said Wednesday. “Speed. They can run."
Sunday, the two young quarterbacks will be trying to outrun, outthrow and outscore one another.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers' practice field is an amazingly talented place these days.
In what has a chance to be one of the most compelling storylines in the NFL in the second half, the 49ers are getting mass reinforcements.
The 49ers (6-2) had their bye in Week 9 following a five-game winning streak, and the off week was not a quiet one.
They activated four players who could all have an impact: pass-rusher Aldon Smith, receiver Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright and rookie defensive lineman Tank Carradine. Also, standout receiver Michael Crabtree was cleared to practice this week, and barring a setback from a torn Achilles, he will be ready to play by the end of the month.
Has a contender ever had this type of firepower come back to a team for the stretch run? Barring setbacks, they will all have major roles. The additions will deepen every aspect of a team that was already hot, one that outscored its opponents by a combined score of 174-61 during its win streak.
Linebacker Ahmad Brooks said Tuesday it is special to get all the players back and he said it will allow the team to hit its stride when it counts most.
“I think San Francisco has weathered the storm and right now, they would be my pick to come out of the NFC,” ESPN analyst Matt Williamson said.
Williamson and fellow ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said the key additions will be the receivers and Smith. Getting more out of the receiving crew beyond Anquan Boldin is paramount.
“Most importantly, the big-play weapons on the outside,” Riddick said. “(It's) going to make them more multiple in what they can do, which they will need ultimately to deal with the divisional nemesis Seattle.”
Smith brings serious pass-rush presence. His 38 sacks since entering the league in 2011 is second in the NFL.
ESPN analyst Gary Horton said the additions will have an effect on the entire team.
“It makes them so deep,” Horton said. “Their 45th-53rd players are strong. You won't see that around the league, but that's what you have in San Francisco.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers are going to get deeper at cornerback this week as they are expected to activate Eric Wright from the physically unable to perform list.
Wright was signed in the offseason to bring experience and ball skills to the defending NFC champions, and he will add to an already strong secondary. The 49ers cornerbacks have played well during the team's has string together a five-game winning streak. The starters are Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, and Tramaine Brock has taken over as the nickel cornerback fromNnamdi Asomugha. Brown is reportedly getting close to a contract extension.
Asomugha, signed earlier this year, may be in danger of being cut to make room for Wright on the 53-man roster.
It will be interesting to see if Wright can become more than a dime cornerback on this unit. I asked ESPN analyst Matt Williamson his thoughts. He said he doesn’t think Wright will break into the top three.
Still, Wright's presence will make the team deeper and provide important injury insurance.
“It’s a pretty good group for sure,” said Williamson, who also said he thinks the unit will be better when pass-rusher Aldon Smith comes back.