Colin Kaepernick Has Actually Been Much Better Than You Think

Kaepernick's struggles are well known, but there are some redeeming aspects in his numbers.

How many pick-sixes does it take for the San Francisco 49ers to consider benching Colin Kaepernick?

A few weeks ago, that was shaping up to be a fair question.

The fact that Kaepernick could be benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert wasn't exactly far-fetched. 

Yes, things were bleak, but they've improved. And before they got bleak, things in San Francisco were actually pretty good, whether anybody can remember it or not.

Again, yes, the 49ers are still just 2-4, but let's just be blunt: if you're of the opinion that Kaepernick has been the worst quarterback in the NFL, then I'm sorry, but you're wrong.

Okay, You're not Very Wrong

Entering Week 6, Kaepernick owned a Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) of -0.98. That means that he lost about one point from San Francisco's expected scoring with his cumulative drop backs.

You might be thinking something like, "Really? Even after those horrible interception returns, he's netted just a single point below expectation-level through Week 5?" If that's the case, then you're thinking a lot like how I thought you might be thinking.

Of course, a negative Passing NEP isn't great by any means. In fact, Kaepernick was just 1 of 8 quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs entering Week 6 and a Passing NEP below zero. His score ranked him 26th among those 32 guys, so he wasn't the worst of the bunch.

But yes, in Weeks 3 and 4, the Kaepernick-led team combined for 10 points, and he had a lot to do with that. But entering that ill-fated Week 3 tilt with the Arizona Cardinals (you know, the one that led him to throw 4 picks and tally just 67 passing yards), Kaepernick ranked 10th in the league in Passing NEP with a score of 15.68.

His Passing NEP after that game was -- wait for it -- a paltry, gross -- no, seriously, it's not enough build up yet -- a score of -6.13. Dude lost nearly 22 points in expected scoring on his 21 drop backs. That's beyond adjectives.

And we all know that his Week 4 was also not great. The 49ers tallied just 3 points, and Kaepernick saw his Passing NEP drop from -6.13 to -12.16. At that point in the year, his Passing NEP ranked him 29th among 32 quarterbacks with at least 75 drop backs.

Of course, we now know that he's battling to get on the right side of zero with his Passing NEP, so he's clearly been doing something right since those two disasters.

Being Forgiving

It's really not fair to factor out Kapernick's woeful games and penalize other passers for theirs, but let's just stroll through his game log and see how he would stack up if his Week 3 and Week 4 just disappeared. We'll separate his Week 6, too, and give that its own treatment.

Here are his marks through Week 5 but excluding Weeks 3 and 4.

WeekDrop BacksPassing NEPPassing NEP/PPass SuccessesSuccess Rate
Week 1274.260.161348.15%
Week 25111.420.222752.94%
Week 53711.180.301848.65%

Um, yeah, that's pretty good. If Kaepernick had entered Week 6 with a Passing NEP of 26.86, he would have ranked 10th in the NFL among passers with at least 100 drop backs. His Passing NEP per drop back (0.23) would have ranked eighth. His Success Rate, the percentage of drop backs that led to positive NEP gains for his team, of 50.43 percent would have ranked ninth.

Am I saying this is how we should view Kaepernick instead of how we currently do? No. I'm not. But when we overlook two abysmal outings, he's been a top-10 passer by various measures of efficiency.

And then Week 6 happened.

Week 6

According to our initial tallies from numberFire Live, Kaepernick secured a Passing NEP of 15.75 against the Baltimore Ravens. In terms of raw stats, he was 16 of 27 for 340 yards and 2 touchdowns, so it's not surprising that he posted a really solid day analytically.

Basically, his games in Week 5 and 6 undid the negatives that his Weeks 3 and 4 caused, and he's back to where he was -- roughly -- after two weeks.

No, this isn't going to get those wins back for the 49ers, but his opponents in those games -- Green Bay and Arizona -- were top-seven defenses according to our Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play metrics entering Week 6.

He's going to see a significant boost to his Passing NEP and could potential climb somewhere around the midway point of quarterback rankings in the metric -- and that includes his two awful outings. After all, only 16 quarterbacks through Week 5 owned Passing NEP scores higher than 16.

Fair and Honest

Kaepernick has had some truly horrific games this season, and nobody needs any sort of metric to prove that.

However, before and after those games (again, against some of the best pass defenses in the NFL after adjusting for schedule), he's been playing like a top-10 quarterback.

Not many people are willing to say it, but Colin Kaepernick -- even after some meltdowns -- has been good this season.