Shutdown Corner - NFL

With the 2010 NFL season in the books (and a lockout battle now headed to the courts) it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.

Over the next few weeks, we'll also be adding pro day data when relevant. But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/NFL scouting combine/pro day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.

We continue the second Shutdown 40 with Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The only player in NCAA history with more than 4,000 rushing yards and 10,000 passing yards in his collegiate career, Kaepernick has a demon arm that can throw 95-mph fastballs in baseball, and his 4.4 speed is especially impressive given his size (6-foot-5, 233 pounds). Playing in the Pistol offense under Nevada head coach Chris Ault, the lightly-recruited Kaepernick got the hang of the quarterback position in a system that relies much more on play action and traditional rushing concepts than the usual spread option schemes. (For more on the Pistol offense, check out this link, and this one as well.

Debited to a certain degree because of an elongated throwing motion, Kaepernick impressed a lot of people when he took on more NFL-style systems and defenses in the week of Senior Bowl practice, and in the game itself. Further proving at the scouting combine that he could make just about any throw (though he sailed a few longer ones), Kaepernick has raised his stock in some circles to the point where he's getting multiple NFL team visited and workouts, and seems to be a consensus second-round pick in the eyes of most draft analysts.

In 50 games for the Wolf Pack, Kaepernick completed 720 passes in 1,238 attempts for 81 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He also rushed 591 times for 4,090 yards and 59 touchdowns. In his last three seasons, he never threw for fewer than 20 touchdown, and more than seven interceptions. Can he transfer that incredible efficiency and productivity to the NFL?

Pros: In the Pistol (where he's usually lined up four yards behind center, with a running back three yards behind him), Kaepernick has exceptional field vision, sense, and timing, understanding his limited reads after a playfake to a possible bootleg — he's completely conversant with that system. Good build that allows him to be a very physical runner — he'll probably make his NFL coach nervous with his predilection for running into and past hits as opposed to out of bounds. Nevada's offense was complex enough from a route perspective to give him a good overview of the throws he'll need to make in the NFL. Is used to throwing on the run to the point where he can do so accurately in just about any situation — even across his body and against his own momentum.

Cons: Has a serious lag in his throwing motion and a very wide wingspan that will make it tough for him to rein everything in and become more mechanically streamlined — Kaepernick brings the ball up and out in kind of a truncated "pizza delivery" pose before letting the ball go. Years in a read-and-run offense will probably have him thinking to bail out of pressure before he should, though this is more a schematic concern and less an issue of him fearing contact.  Intermediate to deep spirals could be a bit tighter at times — passes will sail on him once in a whiile, which is what we saw at the combine.

Motion and release point varies (this is a problem shared with Washington's Jake Locker, making me wonder if it's a pitcher-centric issue). Will need to show consistent ability to operate under center, but this is less an issue than some might think.

Conclusion: In every draft, there's a pick that comes out of nowhere and leaves everyone surprised. Last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked most observers by taking Cal defensive lineman Tyson Alualu(notes) with the 10th overall pick when many had him at a second-round grade. Similarly, in a quarterback class that is muddled at best, I'm of the belief that NFL teams are going to rate Kaepernick higher and higher the more they watch him, talk with him, and work him out.

He needs adjustments to his throwing motion and overall offensive concepts, but on an NFL where there's three times as many shotgun sets as there were a decade ago, and Chan Gailey put together a productive NFL offense based on the Pistol with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008, forward-thinking executives looking for real value at the game's most important position might very well zero in on Kaepernick and make him this year's out-of-the-box first-rounder. The Josh Freeman(notes) comp is based less on specific attributes and more on the fact that Freeman had all the measurables and intangibles in a unique package as Kaepernick very well might.

NFL Comparison: Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

More Second Shutdown 40
#41 — Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia | #42 — Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple | #43 — Aaron Williams, DB, Texas | #44 — Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech | #45 — Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA | #46 — Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois | #47 — D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas | #48 -- Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina | #49 — Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy | #50 — Jabbal Sheard, DE, Pitt | #51 — Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa | #52 — Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona | #53 — Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

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