Fantasy Film Study: Colin Kaepernick vs. Carson Palmer

Today in the fantasy film study, a tale of two quarterbacks. One was probably considered to be the steal of your fantasy draft. The other, was likely selected as a backup, if at all. I'm of course referring to the odd couple of Colin Kaepernick and Carson Palmer, who are both surging in fantasy football of late. Bet you never thought we'd be comparing the two of them in the same fantasy piece? Yet here we are, heading into Week 13 and wondering which one might be the better option to carry you through the fantasy playoffs. Funny how the fantasy cookie crumbles, no?

Using Game Rewind, I took a look at the recent successes of both Kaepernick and Palmer to determine which signal-caller has the better chance of helping you through the fantasy playoffs.

1) Palmer -- Target(s) acquired

On paper, Palmer has the clear advantage in who he is throwing the football to. Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, and Michael Floyd looks poised for a breakout next season.

When it comes to Fitz, new head coach Bruce Arians has been moving him all around the offensive formations.

Floyd, in only his second year, has begun to show flashes of great potential. He's high-pointing the ball, able to control his body on the sideline, showcasing strong hands and breaking tackles for tons of yards after the catch (YAC).

In the play above, Floyd is going to run a simple post-pattern, beating his cornerback and catching the ball in traffic. Where he shines though, is in what he does after securing the catch.

Floyd has three defenders around him, but thanks to his big body, strength and balance he's able to run through their tackles for a 91-yard score.

Fantasy impact: Palmer has benefitted greatly from the emergence of Michael Floyd over the last two weeks, posting his two best fantasy performances of the season. Having big, capable targets pays great fantasy dividends for quarterbacks, as we've seen in the past and likely will see in the future with Palmer

2) Kaepernick -- Where there's a will, there's a way

Kaepernick has been without his top target, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, for the entire 2013 season. This could be partly to blame for Kap's rather lackluster fantasy performance so far this season. However, while the 49ers wait for Crabtree to return (which should be Sunday), offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been finding ways to make due.

Kap's ability to run was one of the reasons he was so highly sought in fantasy drafts this fall. Defenses know this as well, and have to respect his ability to run -- which Roman has been using as an effective decoy. Below, the 49ers have a trips formation to the right, which looks like a designed run to Kap. Only rather than block, tight end Vernon Davis will slip out as a target for Kaepernick.

The rest of the offense sells the run-fake, which allows Davis to sneak behind the secondary. The result is an easy pitch-and-catch for Kap and Davis.

While Kap still makes some of the mistakes he's been pummeled for in the media (locking in on his first read, etc.) he still can throw darts across the field. Check out the screen grab below, where Kaepernick shows great anticipation and confidence on a deep out to Boldin. This is not an easy throw, and Kap delivers it on a rope to where only Boldin could snag it for six.

Fantasy impact: Between the creativity of offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and the impending return of Michael Crabtree, Kap's fantasy stock is on the rise. If you drafted him back in August, or acquired him through some other means you may finally be able to get the return on your investment you originally anticipated.

3) The road ahead

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As most of you are well aware, neither Palmer or Kaepernick is an elite fantasy signal-caller this season. Both are still prone to mistakes and both have missed plenty of throws they should have had this season. Since neither option is a matchup-proof must-start in fantasy, it means we have to consider who they are facing on Sunday before risking our fantasy matchup by plugging them into the starting lineup.

When taking a look at the coming schedules, it is clear Kaepernick has the cushier ride through the fantasy postseason. He faces Tampa Bay (18.64 fantasy points-per-game to quarterbacks) and Atlanta (19.17 fantasy ppg to quarterbacks) in Weeks 15 and 16, which are typically the last two weeks of the fantasy postseason. Before that, he gets a Seattle secondary at home that should be without two members of the Legion of Boom, and Crabtree should be back in the mix for San Francisco. Meanwhile, Palmer has to take on St. Louis, Tennessee, and Seattle, all of which are in the top-15 for fewest fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Now, strength of schedule doesn't mean everything in fantasy, but it's absolutely worth keeping in mind.

Fantasy Impact: Palmer's mistake-prone ways, coupled with staunch fantasy defenses doesn't bode well for his success when it counts. Meanwhile, Kaepernick's cushy schedule and the return of Michael Crabtree could be a sign of great fantasy deeds to come.

Conclusion

Count me among the fantasy players disappointed in Kaepernick's performance throughout 2013 after I spent a mid-round draft pick on him in August. However, I am optimistic he can help me in the fantasy playoffs -- much more than I would be if I had Carson Palmer on my roster. While Palmer has shown flashes of late, his schedule and tendency to turn the football over (17 turnovers in 2013) worries me for the fantasy postseason. Kap might not be as great as we all hoped heading into the season, but sometimes "good" is all it takes to win the big one in fantasy football and in real life. Just ask Trent Dilfer.

- Alex Gelhar writes features and fantasy pieces for NFL.com, and his heart still breaks everytime Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown. You can follow him on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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