In 2006, Jay Cutler took the Senior Bowl practice field after starting all four years at Vanderbilt. In his final start, Cutler engineered a 28-24 upset of Tennessee, giving the Commodores their first victory over the Vols in 15 years. Observers knew of Cutler’s impressive arm and athleticism, but he lacked a high profile because Vandy didn’t win much.
Cutler went on to blow away scouts in Mobile with his quick release, accuracy, and arm power. He earned the Senior Bowl start for the North squad, winning 31-14. Three months later, Cutler was selected with the 11th pick in the draft.
In 2011, Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the Senior Bowl practice field as a four-year college starter coming off impressive wins over undefeated Boise State and Boston College in the Fight Hunger Bowl. Observers knew Kaepernick could throw a baseball 95 mph and was a former Cubs draft pick. They also knew of Kaepernick’s athleticism. He averaged 6.85 yards per college rushing attempt, joining Missouri’s Brad Smith as the only players in NCAA history to top 8,000 yards passing and 4,000 rushing. Onlookers questioned Kaepernick’s ability to play in a pro-style offense coming from Nevada coach Chris Ault’s pistol spread.
Like Cutler in ’06, Kaepernick appears to have silenced doubters.
According to FOX Sports’ Adam Caplan, Kaepernick was “great” on Monday and “by far” the best quarterback in practice on Wednesday. CBS’ Rob Rang noted Kaepernick’s “spectacular” arm strength. Rotoworld’s Michael Schottey observed that Kaepernick “threw the ball as well as anyone,” generating “buzz from team scouts.”
Asked about more heralded Washington QB Jake Locker, NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan replied “The kid from Nevada … has shined on top of him a little bit.”
Of course, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock already knew about Kaepernick’s “huge” arm. At the 2010 Manning Quarterback camp, Mayock recalled seeing Eli and Peyton so awed they were “giggling” about the 23-year-old’s howitzer. Said Mayock after watching one of Kaepernick’s Thursday throws, “Did you see the RPMs there? Man, I’d love to work with that kid.”
Kaepernick entered the Senior Bowl with a middle-round projection. Could he make a Cutler-like jump into the first round?
The arrow seems to point in that direction.
In Tony Pauline of SI.com’s blog, Kaepernick is already suggested as second-round prospect while reportedly drawing significant interest from the Dolphins and Vikings. Citing a league source, the Palm Beach Post seconds Pauline’s report in saying the Dolphins “think very highly” of Kaepernick.
The Sacramento Bee‘s Matt Barrows capped it with this clincher:
“One scout told me (Kaepernick) might have made the most money of any Senior Bowl player this week.”