QBs in Focus: Colin Kaepernick

Starting into the NFC West's passers, Steve Palazzolo looks at where Colin Kaepernick excelled and where he fell short in 2013.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Colin Kaepernick

qb-month-kaepernickThough we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.

We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.

We’re going to examine quarterbacks from a number of situations before looking at each of them individually. The grades and numbers should reveal each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses from the 2013 season.

As we go through this series, it’s important to understand the relationship between QB Rating (NFL’s version) and PFF Grade.

While QB Rating is obviously supposed to be a QB statistic, it’s actually a better gauge of what the entire offense did in a given situation. This is the type of information that is actually extremely valuable to our NFL team customers as their game planning efforts must go towards stopping an entire passing offense, not just the quarterback.

If the quarterback throws an easy dump off pass to the RB who then weaves through the defense for the touchdown, it’s certainly not a great indicator of quarterbacking skill as it is the running back and defense accounting for the majority of the work on the play. Of course the QB Rating will look quite shiny in that situation.

On the other hand, PFF Grade is a good indicator of how well the quarterback actually performed in a given situation. Whether they throw an accurate pass that was dropped, or perhaps an inaccurate one that should have been intercepted and the defense dropped, the PFF grade will account for those situations with a positive and a negative grade respectively while QB Rating will simply reflect the 0-for-1 passing.

It’s important to distinguish between QB Rating and PFF grade, though there’s a good chance they’ll match up in most situations.

After taking a look at the entire league in various situations, it’s time to break down each quarterback individually.

Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick (2)

Colin Kaepernick (3)

All categories with a * are normalized so that the league average is 0.0.


•  Showed well on third down at +7.9, particularly 3rd-and-Long (+6.6) and 3rd-and-Medium (+3.7).
•  Led the league with a +4.9 grade on designed rollouts.
•  Graded well on passes traveling at least 20 yards in the air (+4.3)
•  Ranked fourth with a +7.7 grade on passes outside the numbers to the right.
•  Fourth-highest grade when blitzed (+10.3) including a solid +1.6 when pressured from the blitz.
•  Graded at +7.4 on drop-backs in 7-to-8-yard range and +5.8 on drop-backs of at least 9 yards.
•  Among the league’s best on passes lasting 2.1-2.5 seconds (+7.7) and drop-backs lasting at least 3.6 seconds (+6.2).
•  Ranked third with +12.7 grade on throws to tight ends.
•  Ranked second with a +7.5 grade on corner routes and showed well on post routes at +4.5.


•  While third down was generally positive, struggled on 3rd-and-10+ at -4.9.
•  Among the league’s worst on passes in the 1-to-10-yard range (-4.2) and 5-to-10-yard range (-5.5).
•  Struggled on 4-to-6-yard drop-backs (-5.0).
•  Graded at -3.3 on passes lasting two seconds or less.
•  Graded at -1.6 on passes to running backs.


•  38.1% of drop-backs came from under center, fifth-most in the league. Also took the third-most drop-backs from the pistol at 15.3%.
•  9.3% of drop-backs were designed rollouts, fourth-highest in the league and broke the pocket on 9.7% of drop-backs, third-highest in the league.
•  Threw 31.7% of passes in the 5-to-10-yard range, sixth-highest in the league and threw the fourth-highest percentage of passes in the 11-to-20-yard range (26.3%).
•  Led the league with 32.7% of passes going outside the numbers to the right and threw the league’s highest percentage of passes outside the numbers at 58.7%.
•  44.2% of drop-backs came in the 7-to-8-yard range, sixth-lowest in the league.
•  Third-highest percentage of drop-backs that lasted at least 3.6 seconds (27.4%).
•  Used play action on 28.0% of drop-backs, seventh-highest in the league.
•  Led the league with 46.2% of first-down drop-backs using play action.
•  Threw 27.1% of passes to tight ends, fourth-highest in the league.
•  56.2% of drop-backs came against base defenses, highest percentage in the league.
•  Threw screens on only 6.3% of drop-backs including only 1.3% to running backs, second-lowest in the league.
•  5.7% of attempts were corner routes, highest percentage in the league.


For the entire set of “Quarterbacks in Focus” posts, click here.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Notso Smart

    There’s a reason that the official NFL stat is not called Quarterback but Passer Rating… D’uh!

  • Sammy G

    Hopefully this article, will prove to all those non-9er fans and those bitter 9er fans, that Kaep is better than they ever thought.

    All his cons, are easily correctable and go along with the narrative that Kaep just cares about winning and not checking down to his RB to pad his stats.

    Keep it up Kaep, and continue grinding, you will be an MVP if you do!

    P.S. Compare this article to Cam Newtons and its hilarious.

  • ChickenHunter

    It does show he is a top QB in many categories. But it also shows that he has a problem anticipating WR breaks and has to wait to see him open. That’s why he does badly “on passes lasting two seconds or less” but does well in “passes lasting 2.1-2.5 seconds (+7.7) and drop-backs lasting at least 3.6 seconds (+6.2).” The reason for this is that he can get away at ‘looking’ a receiver open and still complete it because of his cannon arm. Most QBs that ‘look’ receivers open throw more interceptions because they lack his his ability to rifle the ball in.

  • 8ArIvd5

    It would be awesome to see statistics based on the conditions off the field included. Home/Away, Indoor/Outdoor, Time Zone, Days Rest, Etc.