The 49ers didn’t draft their quarterback of the future. Unless they did.
Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, coach Chip Kelly has high praise for sixth-round rookie Jeff Driskel.
“I think he’s done a really nice job,” Kelly recently said. “He’s really intelligent. [He] picked things up conceptually very quickly. [He] was exposed to a couple of systems because he was at Florida and then Louisiana Tech.”
He’s now learning Kelly’s system in San Francisco.
“I think he’s already been exposed to multiple systems at the college level, so we’ve been impressed with him,” Kelley said. “He’s very athletic. I think he was the fastest quarterback at the combine. He’s big. He’s got a good arm.”
Although it’s unlikely that Driskel will get meaningful game action as a rookie, he has the size (at 6-4 and 234 pounds) and speed (4.56 seconds in the 40) to contribute as the personal punt protector, with an opportunity to run some fakes. Special-teams coordinator Derius Swinton II says it’s possible the 49ers could run standard offensive plays with Driskel in the role that used to be known simply as the “up back” in punt formation.
“He’s a guy that’s athletic,” Swinton said of Driskel. “He’s a guy that when he was at Florida, you saw him run all over. It comes down to a 53-man roster and if you do carry a guy like that, you just look at numbers. . . . For me, I’m playing the numbers game. I try to squeeze every little bit out of it. You have a guy like Thad Lewis, when I had him as a rookie, Thad will tell you he covered every kick for us on the practice squad. So if you have a quarterback that can do that, it pays dividends for us.”
Driskel technically is the No. 4 quarterback, but he received the third-string reps during the offseason because Colin Kaepernick has yet to be cleared. And if the 49ers trade or cut Kaepernick, Driskel presumably would elevate to No. 3 — with a chance to supplant Thad Lewis, who currently is No. 3.
Then, if Driskel improves, he could (in theory) become the starter in Kelly’s offense. Unless and until Kelly, whose eye constantly wanders when it comes to quarterbacks, finds someone else.