DENVER, CO. –. As the Niners join the Super Bowl 50 Champs for practicing and scrimmaging prior to their meeting this coming weekend, they have signed the 12th overall pick from the 2011 Draft, Christian Ponder. Ponder joins Blaine Gabbert (10th overall) and Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers 2nd round pick in 2011 (36th overall).
Ponder was originally drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. It was not long before Ponder was discarded by the team who drafted to him and for the most part labeled as a “bust” by NFL standards. Ponder’s best season came in his second year in the league as he threw at 62%, 2,935 yards, 18 TD’s, and 12 INT’s. Additionally, he ran for 253 yards and score 2 TD’s. The Vikings went 10-6 that year. The former Florida State Seminole did not play in 2015 though he was very shortly with the Raiders auditioning for a job.
So far, and it’s very early, Blaine Gabbert did not pick up exactly where he left off in 2015 with his competitive spirit. This past Sunday, Gabbert was not the most efficient as he went 4 for 10 with 1 TD and a couple of scrambles for 1st Downs.
Colin Kaepernick has yet to see action due to what is being reported as “arm fatigue” by team officials. NFL Insider, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Kaepernick’s ailment to be a “dead arm” which would indicate some sort of issue with the tendons and/ or rotator cuff in this shoulder. Later this was somewhat retracted by Schefter. The former NFC Champ (2012) has had issues with consistency and struggled mightily in 2015 ultimately losing his job to the now assumed starter, Blaine Gabbert.
With the addition of Christian Ponder, who has 4 years of NFL experience, it is a possibility that if he does well within Kelly’s offensive scheme, that we could very well have a three way competition at the quarterback position. Jeff Driskel is clearly a dark horse in this but his lack of experience could very well keep him buried; at least for this season.
There is a ton of context and background to consider with all three quarterbacks. Between all three, Kaepernick has the most experience in NFL games started with 47; Ponder has the next most with 36 and Gabbert with 35. Ponder and Kaepernick’s production has regressed while Gabbert’s last year progressed.
This is one of the more interesting quarterback competitions the Niners have had in recent years. Kaepernick was involved in another QB competition with Alex Smith just a few years ago but was, for the most part, assumed to be the front runner to start. With Kaepernick’s inability to partake in camp for a big portion, his recent issues with arm fatigue or dead arm, and should he not be able to go against the Broncos this weekend, it is almost a guarantee that Gabbert will at least begin the year as the starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
However, if Kaepernick is able to go by August 20th against Denver, the singular team who was heavily interested in him this offseason, and perform slightly better than Gabbert, then Week 3 of the preseason against Green Bay will be the deciding factor of the Week 1 regular season starter. Colin Kaepernick has traditionally done very well against the Packers, so this week could be very instrumental in what the Niners do heading in to Week 3; which by most NFL teams standards is always the rehearsal game prior to the regular season.
As things stand, Gabbert still has a slight edge on either Kaepernick and obviously Christian Ponder who joined the team yesterday. According to first year head coach, Chip Kelly the quarterback position is still wide open. However, that said, it’s Gabbert’s to lose. Last weeks game combined with reports by Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s, Grant Cohn (49ers beat writer) from today’s practice of Gabbert’s struggles suggest that he is not doing himself any favors in paving the way in his case to be the starter.
In keeping things in perspective, here are the most recent stats from each quarterbacks (Kaepernick, Gabbert, Ponder) last season of production:
Colin Kaepernick 2015: 8 games started, 2-6 record, 144 passes completed, 59% completion rate, 1,615 yards, 6 TD’s, 5 INT’s, longest pass 76 yards, 6.2 yards an attempt, 28 sacks.
Blaine Gabbert 2015: 8 games started, 3-5 record, 178 passes completed, 63% completion rate, 2,031 yards, 10 TD’s, 7 INT’s, longest pass 71 yards, 7.2 yards an attempt, 25 sacks.
Christian Ponder 2014: 1 game started, 0-1 record, 22 passes completed, 50% completion rate, 222 yards, 0 TD’s, 2 INT’s, longest pass 18 yards, 5.0 yards an attempt, 6 sacks.
Final thought: Stats are never the be all, end all. They are however a good measuring tool. They measure what players have done, are doing, or the possibility of what is to come in projections. Some players are arrow up and others are arrow down and then there are those who sort of stay on a plateau of consistency. It is very difficult to suggest that any of these three quarterbacks have demonstrated consistency at any point in their careers to this point. While they are all relatively young with room to grow under Kelly in his system, it remains to be seen whether or not any of them will pan out to anything more than what they are now.