2016 San Francisco 49ers Starting QB Expert Pick
The Cleveland Browns on Monday revealed that Robert Griffin III would be the team’s starting quarterback this season. No real surprise there. The Denver Broncos are currently listing Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian as co-No. 1s. I believe Sanchez wins that job. So that leaves one other starting QB battle in the NFL in San Francisco between Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert. I believe Gabbert will win the job under new head coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers open the preseason at home against the Houston Texans on Sunday as 3-point favorites in online NFL betting.
Analyzing the 2016 San Francisco 49ers Starting QB Expert Pick
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Gabbert vs. Kaepernick Breakdown
Gabbert, a former first-round bust for the Jacksonville Jaguars, ended last season as San Francisco’s starter under former coach Jim Tomsula. Kaepernick struggled and then got injured. But there’s little doubt he has way more upside and also a much bigger contract. Kaepernick requested a trade this offseason but the Niners never got an offer they liked.
Spring practices saw Gabbert work exclusively with the first-team offense. This was a result of Kaepernick nursing three offseason surgeries. But now that Kaepernick is back, the reps have been split 50-50 with the first offense. While Kaepernick is a better athlete, Gabbert is probably more accurate and that could be the deciding factor.
“I think accuracy is one of the most important things that you look at in a quarterback,” Gabbert said this week. “Ball placement, whether it’s an incompletion or completion, good ball placement is key. Run after the catch is a lot bigger, prevents interceptions and just lets our guys make plays after the catch. So when we’re watching filming, we kind of look at the ball placement on certain plays.”
Kelly was also asked recently what he looks for in practice when it comes to a starting quarterback. Kelly immediately responded with “precision” and “decision making.”
“Are they hanging too long on a read?” he said. “Are they quick to move on if in their progression – one or two – is covered? How quickly do they get to three? Do they get stuck? Do they get caught in seven-on-seven and 11-on- 11 (sessions) holding the ball too long? You know, part of it is getting the ball out on time. It’s a timing-based offense in terms of getting the ball out. So those are things that you can observe,” he said.
Kaepernick has the significantly longer windup, has been criticized in the past for not going through his passing progressions and last year was the more imprecise of the two. Blaine Gabbert completed 63.1 percent of his throws and Kaepernick 59.0 percent. Gabbert also reportedly has looked better in training camp thus far.
Multiple offseason surgeries rendered Kaepernick an observer after Kelly’s arrival, so Gabbert took the first-team snaps and seemed to be the frontrunner entering camp. But Kaepernick earned Kelly’s praise for quickly grasping the new playbook mentally.
In three years in Philadelphia, Kelly never had one quarterback start all 16 games. Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford all made starts over that span. But injuries played a role there.
My Expert Pick
Gabbert wins this job but I don’t think he keeps it all year.