The San Francisco 49ers have a chance to win their sixth Super Bowl on Sunday and a big part of their run has been Colin Kaepernick. Jim Harbaugh made the decision to go with Kaepernick as his starter midseason, and now he looks like a genius.
Kaepernick was drafted two years ago with the fourth pick of the second round (36th overall) when the 49ers traded up with the Denver Broncos. If the Raiders also wanted to draft Kaepernick (and it seems like they did), they would have needed to trade ahead of the 49ers to draft him.
Hindsight is 20-20 and you can play the what-if game all day, but not moving up to get Kaepernick might have been the most franchise-altering moment since the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders' failure to move up and draft Kaepernick likely set the franchise back five years.
The 49ers and the Raiders were reportedly in talks with the New England Patriots about the 33rd overall pick, but the 49ers thought the price was too high according to Peter King of Sports Illustrated. The Raiders must also have thought the price was too high, and the rest is history.
The Patriots reportedly wanted a second-round pick in 2012 to go along with the third-round pick in 2011 from the 49ers who originally drafted three spots ahead of the Raiders that second round. If the Raiders had been willing to give up the same for that pick, there is a lot that would be different about the team today.
What’s strange is that the Raiders would eventually trade the second-round pick to the Patriots for a third and fourth-round pick that they used to draft Joseph Barksdale and Taiwan Jones. A quarterback is obviously more valuable than a right tackle and speed running back, which just makes you wonder what Al Davis was thinking at the time.
Barksdale is no longer on the team, and an undrafted free agent received more carries than Jones last year. If Kaepernick was drafted, the Raiders also might not have drafted Stefen Wisniewski. At the time of the draft, Wisniewski was liked more by some scouts than others, and it’s possible he could have fallen to the Raiders with the 81st pick that the team used to select DeMarcus Van Dyke (also released).
Would you rather have Kaepernick or Wisniewski, Barkdale and Jones? Today that’s an easy question to answer, but I don’t think it was a really hard question to answer in 2011 either. If you believe Kaepernick is a franchise quarterback, it doesn’t matter if the other three turn out great. The Raiders also had to use other resources to try to solve the quarterback position.
The Raiders wouldn’t have surrendered their 2012 third-round pick to draft Terrelle Pryor in the 2011 supplemental draft if they had just drafted Kaepernick. Since Kaepernick would have been with the team for all of training camp and for the first part of the season, Hue Jackson never needs to make the trade for Carson Palmer.
No Palmer, no Pryor, no Wisniewski, no Barksdale and no Jones. In their place would be Kaepernick, a first-round pick in 2012, a third-round pick in 2012, a second-round pick in 2013 and a more flexible salary cap situation.
Would Kaepernick have been as good if he was pressed into starting as a rookie in Week 7? The presence of Kaepernick would have certainly kept Jackson from trading for Palmer, but there’s no telling how good Kaepernick would have been.
If Kaepernick wins one more game than Palmer and they make the playoffs, then firing Jackson becomes a more difficult decision for Reggie McKenzie. It would have been tough for McKenzie to fire a coach that took a rookie quarterback to the playoffs.
There are fans that wish Jackson was still the head coach, and if the Raiders had drafted Kaepernick, he still might be. If Jackson was still the head coach, that means the Raiders would never try to switch to the zone-blocking scheme that so poorly fit Darren McFadden.
The defense would likely still have been poor, but McKenzie would have more picks and cap space to throw at that problem. People forget that the trade for Palmer is a big part of the reason that the Raiders have been in a bad salary cap situation that they will not be out of until 2014.
The Raiders still don’t have a franchise quarterback. Palmer is not the long-term solution and Pryor hasn’t proven he’s the future. The series of events that not trading up to get Kaepernick set off was extremely devastating.
We don’t know what went on behind closed doors, but if the Raiders really walked away from Kaepernick because of a second-round pick that they ultimately gave away for Barksdale and Jones, then all you can do is shake your head.
Every team has decisions they’d like to have back, but few franchise have frittered away their resources as much as the Raiders have in recent years. There are those that are still skeptical about the new regime in Oakland, but it’s clearly unfair to expect great things when the team is left in disarray.
The new regime was left with a messy cap situation, few draft picks and still looking for their quarterback of the future. It’s a trifecta of fail that made the Raiders' situation more difficult than any in the NFL.
The Raiders will have their salary cap problem solved by 2014, and they will also have their full allotment of draft picks. If Pryor develops or if the Raiders draft their franchise quarterback in the next two years, the Raiders might finally get out of the hole that was started when the Raiders didn’t move up to draft Kaepernick.