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No longer off the grid, Kaepernick forcing teams to look closer

The buzz surrounding Colin Kaepernick started at the Senior Bowl. Here was a quarterback at nearly 6-foot-5 who could zip the ball like it was nobody's business and outrun pursuing linebackers. The coaches who hadn't seen him were asking scouts about the kid from Nevada whose name was more difficult to pronounce than the play-call for an option route with four-wide personnel.

As the days went by and he more than held his own against more highly regarded prospects like Washington's Jake Locker, Florida State's Christian Ponder and TCU's Andy Dalton, Kaepernick became a prospect of serious interest. He forced teams to go back to film room and investigate who, what and why he could be a legitimate NFL player.

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By the end of March, seven teams -- San Francisco, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Miami, Tennessee, Denver, and Kansas City -- will have held personal workouts with Kaepernick. A lot of teams are interested because a lot of teams -- at least 10 -- need a quarterback. To Kaepernick, it doesn't matter why teams are interested, just that they are.

"It was something I expected," Kaepernick said. "I don't think a lot of people watched me too much. A lot of people didn't know who I was or how capable I was. Being on a level playing field at the Senior Bowl and the (NFL Scouting) Combine was huge for me. I got to show that I can play ball like the rest of those quarterbacks, throw as well as all of them and run better than most of them."

Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert are considered to be the only quarterbacks who will be taken in the first round. After that, Kaepernick, Ponder, Dalton, Locker, and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett are considered to be the second tier of signal callers.

Carolina, Buffalo, Denver, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Washington, San Francisco, Tennessee, Arizona, and Miami all need help at quarterback. Each team has its own need and plan, which is why as good as things might look for some of these quarterbacks now, when and where they get drafted will be in the eye of the beholder of that pick.

Kaepernick may have the prototype size and arm, but a team might feel that Ponder or Locker is better suited to their scheme. That said, Kaepernick is very appealing to a lot of teams, multiple league sources said. NFL personnel men mention his huge arm, size, speed, work ethic and acumen -- Kaepernick has already graduated with a Business Management degree and scored a 37 on the Wonderlic test given at the combine -- as NFL-quality traits.

Make no mistake, though. Kaepernick is still considered relatively raw.

One NFL assistant coach likened his skill set to that of Minnesota's Joe Webb, but noted that Kaepernick is probably more advanced. A general manager said that even though Kaepernick is still more of a developmental type of prospect, he might hold more promise than some of the other quarterbacks not named Gabbert or Newton.

"Right now I'm not worried about where I'm grouped or who they're comparing me with," Kaepernick said. "My goal is to be the No. 1 quarterback in this draft. I'm going to do everything I can to move into that spot. Whether a team thinks I'm the No. 1 quarterback or the No. 3 quarterback, that's their opinion. I feel that I can be the best quarterback at the next level."

Don't misinterpret those words as arrogance. Kaepernick isn't about that. He's feeling good about himself and, based on his history, has had to sell himself to get opportunities.

Kaepernick was a Wing-T quarterback in high school and didn't get any scholarship offers except from Nevada, who only offered after watching him play basketball. He was an athlete, not a football player, best it could judge. If that scholarship hadn't materialized, Kaepernick probably would have pursued a pro baseball career -- he was drafted by the Cubs in 2009.

He was provided an opportunity to play football in college, though, and he did it so well that he has no plans to pursue baseball. Football is his future.

His résumé is strong: Kaepernick was a four-year starter at Nevada, throwing for 10,098 yards with 82 touchdowns and just 24 interceptions, while rushing for 4,112 yards and 59 touchdowns. Those are staggering numbers, especially the rushing totals.

Kaepernick said teams haven't asked him much about why he ran so much, or so well, in college. But he has been put through pretty intense questioning in the film room and on the white board during visits with teams. Translation: Did he run because he didn't properly diagnose the defense, because he had to, or because the option to run was incorporated into the play call?

Kaepernick, like many of the other quarterbacks in this draft, took snaps from the shotgun formation while playing in the Pistol offense at Nevada. So there are questions there, too. He said that he's been asked to do a lot of drills during his pro day and private workouts with teams as if he was taking snaps from under center.

He said that's not an issue because he was always under center in the offensive system he ran in high school. He also said that he played under center in certain situations at Nevada and that all quarterbacks did drills from under center each day during practice.

"We were always prepared for when we needed to be under center, so it's not a huge deal for me," Kaepernick said.

Nothing really seems like a huge deal for Kaepernick right now, but that is going to change soon. At the moment, there are few expectations of him. He's just auditioning. But he's going to get drafted because he's no longer the guy who was off the grid until the Senior Bowl.

Kaepernick has put himself in position for a team to invest in him. At some point everything is going to be a much bigger deal.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89

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