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Jim Harbaugh: Colin Kaepernick still a 'great player'

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Now that Brock Osweiler has defected to Houston, Colin Kaepernick sits atop the Denver Broncos' wish list at quarterback.

If general manager John Elway reaches out to former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh for an opinion on the quarterback who led San Francisco to Super Bowl XLVII, he should expect a strong endorsement.

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Joining The Rich Eisen Show on Wednesday, Harbaugh was effusive in his praise, insisting Kaepernick remains "just a great player."

"If you look at the three most important things for any player at any position, number one would be competitiveness," Harbaugh said. "And there is a will to succeed and a will to win, nobody's got it like Colin Kaepernick does. I mean, to an ultimate level.

"And then athletic ability. Again, it doesn't get any better. And then awareness would be tied for second. He's so intelligent, he's so smart, he's so aware of everybody around him."

Harbaugh bristled at the notion that Kaepernick seems "lost" in his career after a disappointing four-month span in which he was ignominiously benched for Blaine Gabbert, underwent season-ending surgery and ultimately requested a trade out of San Francisco.

"There's no 'lost,'" Harbaugh said. "He did go through some injury last year ... but he's got the grit, the mental toughness, the confidence, etc. to flourish -- which I know he will."

Kaepernick experienced undeniable success under Harbaugh in 2012 and 2013 only to take a downward turn the past two seasons, struggling not only with the rudimentary passing elements such as accuracy, anticipation and touch, but also with protections, field vision and decision making.

If the Broncos pull off a trade, it might go a long way toward helping us solve the following conundrum: How much of Kaepernick's slide can be attributed to a sea change in coaching and surrounding talent versus his own regression as NFL defenses adjusted to the read-option trend?

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