Colin Kaepernick, who remains an unsigned free agent, has a better skill set than six quarterbacks who could potentially start in the NFL this season, according to a recent ESPN survey with 50 prominent talent evaluators.
The survey, conducted by ESPN.com’s Mike Sando, ranks Kaepernick ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Blake Bortles, the Denver Broncos’ Paxton Lynch, the San Francisco 49ers’ Brian Hoyer, the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff, the Houston Texans’ Tom Savage, the New York Jets’ Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns’ Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Among those surveyed were head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts and general managers.
Sando noted that Kaepernick’s rating was recorded slightly higher than in 2016, before the controversial quarterback began kneeling in protest of oppression of blacks in America during the national anthem at games. According to Sando, evaluators believe Kaepernick can compete as a starter in the NFL, but decision-makers question the quarterback’s commitment to the game.
Some evaluators also hinted that with the controversy surrounding Kaepernick, it might not be worth signing a borderline starter at a position that the entire offense is catered to. Sando wrote that one of his takeaways from the survey is that if Kaepernick were playing another position at a similar skill level, he would most likely be rostered.
Many NFL players, including Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, have spoken in support of Kaepernick, who began demonstrating after a series of highly controversial deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police officers around the country. Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins earlier this month called NFL executives “cowards” for shying away from signing Kaepernick.
Sports Illustrated recently released a list of some 30 players who have kneeled or demonstrated in some fashion at preseason games so far this season. The list includes Bennett, Jenkins and former Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who now plays for the Raiders. Other high-profile demonstrators include Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr and Browns wide receiver Kenny Britt. SI qualified minor gestures such as placing a hand on a kneeling teammate as a demonstration.
In May, sportswriter Peter King claimed that some in the 49ers organization, where Kaepernick last played, believe that the University of Nevada product is more committed to activism than football. According to King, some in the organization said he would prefer full-time social justice work. On the July 4th holiday, Kaepernick made several social media posts detailing a trip to Ghana in which he said he was seeking his “personal independence.”
“How can we truly celebrate independence on a day that intentionally robbed our ancestors of theirs?” Kaepernick asked in a message on Twitter.
Kaepernick earned more than $14 million in his final year with the 49ers, a season in which he split time with quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick’s resume also includes trips to Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 and the NFC championship in 2014 under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Earlier this summer, Chip Kelly, who coached Kaepernick in 2016 during his only season leading the 49ers, said the controversial quarterback was an ideal fit for the position. Kelly said on Adam Schefter’s podcast: “He came to work every day, extremely diligent in terms of his preparation, in terms of his work ethic. I really enjoyed Kap. I’ve talked to Kap three or four times since. I think he’s a really good player and a really good person, and I really enjoyed coaching him.”
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a former NBA player and devout Muslim who received his own backlash for social demonstrations during his career in the 1990s, told The Undefeated earlier this summer that Kaepernick’s story “mirrors” what he went through.
Abdul-Rauf during the 1995-96 NBA season refused to stand for the national anthem, calling the American flag a symbol of African-American oppression. Abdul-Rauf, who remains a social justice activist, has cited penal system repression and wrongful death cases involving police as some of his motivations.
“I said from the beginning that I wouldn’t be surprised if (Kaepernick) didn’t get another job,” Abdul-Rauf, who last played in the NBA in 2001, told the sports website. “With all the death threats and assassinations of his character, it mirrors what I went through. This is just the way things are. It’s unfortunate when in particular black athletes are in this position.”
Kaepernick’s Twitter page is filled with messages of support from various groups, activists and charities. On Wednesday, supporters demonstrated outside NFL headquarters in New York during a rally of support organized by civil rights groups.