Friday, July 12, 2013

Colin Kaepernick and the Harbaugh-Effect


Yesterday I asked if the 49ers really were better with Colin Kaepernick at QB instead of Alex Smith and broke down their 2012 numbers.  My response to that question is yes, and I base that on two things:

1) Kaepernick's numbers were not that far off of Smith despite starting for the first time in the NFL

2) The track record of Jim Harbaugh coached quarterbacks in the second year in the system.

The Harbaugh-Effect is something that I noticed last offseason when trying to project the performance of Smith for 2012.  In the link below Grant does a nice job of outlining the improvement of Andrew Luck at Stanford under Harbaugh.

http://49ers.pressdemocrat.com/2012/06/inside-the-49ers/can-alex-smith-duplicate-andrew-luck/

Now let's take a look at the improvement Smith made from 2011 to 2012.  I have prorated the 2012 numbers out to show what they would have been if he had played all 16 games.

Completion Percentage - 2012 = 70.2%   2011 = 61.3%

Average yards per pass - 2012 = 8.0   2011 = 7.1

Touchdowns - 2012 = 25   2011 = 17

Interceptions - 2012 = 9   2011 = 5

Yards per game - 2012 = 208   2011 = 196.5

Now let's take a look at how Kaepernick's numbers should look in 2013 with that same type of improvement.  Again the 2012 numbers have been prorated to a full 16 game season.

Completion Percentage - 2012 = 61.3   2013 = 70.2

Average yards per pass - 2012 = 8.3   2013 = 9.3

Touchdowns - 2012 = 21   2013 = 31

Interceptions - 2012 = 6  2013 =10

Yards per game - 2012 = 236  2013 = 253

My predicted stat line for Kaepernick based on the Harbaugh-Effect would be

306/436 - 4,054 yards 31 TD's, 10 Int's

Are the 49ers better with Colin Kaepernick?  The answer is yes.  While Smith was playing at a high level, Kaepernick was playing at close to that same level despite a lack of experience.  In short his floor is about what Smith's ceiling was.

In additon to this, moving Smith allowed the 49ers the cap room to sign Anquan Boldin, a huge move now given the injury to Michael Crabtree.  It also allowed them to draft one of the best DE prospects in the draft, Tank Carradine, and will pay off again in the 2014 with either a 2nd or 3rd round selection.


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