Colin Kaepernick and the NFL’s Biggest Duel-Threat Quarterbacks

  • Colin Kaepernick

    Kaepernick is one of the NFL’s best leaders and most successful quarterbacks. Part of that is falling into the perfect place; the Niners are loaded with talent at almost every position and afforded this QB the chance to make mistakes and learn from them when he first took over the starting job from Alex Smith during the 2012 season.

    Kaepernick struggled at times from the pocket last year in his first full season as the starter, and yet he was still No. 7 in Total QBR at 68.6. He threw eight interceptions the entire year, and added in over 500 yards on the ground to 3,197 through the air. The most impressive number of all is that in his last six playoff games, he’s averaged over 313 total yards from the line of scrimmage.

    He’s won multiple playoff games with his legs and if San Francisco is going to win a Super Bowl this year, they’ll need their leader making plays all over the field.

    1 of 7
  • Cam Newton

    At 6-5 and 245 pounds, Cam can take the hits and bounce back up for more. In his best season yet as a pro, Newton put up nearly 4,000 yards of total offense and 30 touchdowns while leading Carolina to the playoffs in 2013. Out of all the quarterbacks on this list, as a runner, he is probably the best mix of power, speed, and moves.

    He is also the most dangerous to score. Already in three NFL seasons, Newton has 28 touchdowns on the ground. To compare, Kaepernick has nine over that span, RG3 has seven in his first two years, and Vick has 36 in 11 seasons.

    Coming off offseason ankle surgery, Newton is hard at work regaining his form. But if we know anything about him — considering where he’s come from — it’s that he’ll overcome it and stay the same old Supercam.

    2 of 7
  • Michael Vick

    Michael Vick probably won’t even start this year in New York — at least at the beginning of the season — but we can’t have this list without having the duel-threat gawd on here. Remember Madden 2004? Sure you do. Vick was like Barry Sanders crossed with Peyton Manning. In real life, he had eight touchdown runs during his second season in Atlanta, and later rush for 1,039 yards during the 2006 season.

    Vick doesn’t have the burners he once did, but he carved himself a nice little career despite never being an accurate passer. His career completion percentage is only 56.2, but when you can rush for over seven yards per carry, that helps negate the fact that you can’t always hit that crossing pattern on the numbers.

    3 of 7
  • Robert Griffin III

    After major reconstructive knee surgery and a subpar second season in the NFL — where he didn’t score any rushing TDs — RG3 is back in the fold, healthy, and ready to cause chaos.

    As a rookie, Griffin rushed 120 times, scored seven touchdowns, and racked up 815 yards on the ground while throwing for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns. It would’ve been a lot to ask any QB to replicate, much less one coming off a big injury on a struggling team. Still, I find it amazing so many were jumping off the bandwagon so quickly.

    With some new weapons around him, like DeSean Jackson, I expect Griffin to have a monster comeback year. Out of every quarterback on this list, he might be the best pure athlete, with a legit 4.4 40-yard dash time and his history as an Olympic-level hurdler. He’s shown that duel-threat ability before and he’ll show it again soon enough.

    4 of 7
  • Andrew Luck

    Because he’s such a great passer, and because he’s Peyton’s replacement, which causes everyone to automatically assume he isn’t athletic, Luck is probably the league’s most underrated duel-threat. Even his predraft trainers admitted they were surprised by his speed and talent.

    “Everyone tries to slot him, especially since he was in the same draft as RG3, they try to say, ‘Oh, RG3 was an athlete and Andrew Luck was more of the cerebral, typical drop-back passer,'” Luck’s trainer Roy Holmes told me this summer. “I don’t really think there’s much of a difference between the two.”

    High praise. But did you see Luck truck Sean Cattouse at Stanford? This is a big, strong quarterback who rushed for nine touchdowns (and 632 yards) through his first two years in the NFL, too. That’s more than RG3 during the same span, more than Vick, more than Russell Wilson, and the same amount as Kaepernick. Defenders, doubt him at your own risk.

    5 of 7
  • Russell Wilson

    Wilson is probably the NFL’s most important man as the leader of the defending champs. He’s not the fleetest of foot, running just a 4.55 40-yard dash. He’s not particularly big, at only about 5-11 and barely 200 pounds. But he’s shifty enough to get the job done, rushing for 1,028 yards in his first two seasons, as well as five touchdowns.

    Wilson isn’t the type to spring 76-yard runs, like RG3, or the type to bowl over defenders, like Luck. He’s more likely to evade a potential sack, break containment, and pick up a first down. He’s smart, doesn’t fumble (only four of them in two years on the ground), and doesn’t take big hits. He’s a smart runner, a dangerously smart runner.

    6 of 7
  • Johnny Manziel

    Aaron Rodgers. Ryan Tannehill. Jake Locker. Terrelle Pryor. All are names you could’ve potentially included on this list, but as a duel-threat, there’s no one else more dangerous than Johnny Manziel. Of course he hasn’t played in a regular season game yet, and hasn’t even won Cleveland’s starting job. But you know he’ll be on the field at some point. And when he gets there? The dude has always made plays.

    At Texas A&M, his rushing numbers were off the charts: 2,169 yards and 30 trips to paydirt through two years. He won’t come close to those in the NFL but like Brett Favre before him, Money Manziel should be able to move around in the pocket and fling passes from almost any angle. He’ll be turnover-prone, but he’ll be exciting, too. Now he just needs to win the job.

    7 of 7
  • Colin Kaepernick
  • Robert Griffin III
  • Andrew Luck
  • Russell Wilson
  • Johnny Manziel

For a long time, the NFL feared the duel-threat quarterback, and not in the way today’s defensive coordinators stay up at night sweating bullets. QBs were supposed to be one thing and one thing only, tall, sturdy pocket passers, with arms made of steel and legs from mush. They didn’t run because it was dangerous to their health. And they didn’t take shots because it was dangerous to their health.

There were exceptions. Fran Tarkenton. Steve Young. Kordell Stewart. Donovan McNabb. But for the most part, the league’s decision makers stuck with tradition. If you were an athlete, you played a skill position.

That’s not the case today. Out of last season’s 12 playoff teams, four teams (Seahawks, 49ers, Panthers, Colts) wielded running threats at QB and another (Philly) started the year with one as their starting quarterback (Michael Vick). The duel-threat is here to stay, adding another dimension to a league with no qualms about their interest in protecting their offensive players and increasing scoring.

With Kaepernick one of the headliners of the next Game Plan from Champs Sports this week — stay tuned for more info — we’re breaking down the NFL’s biggest duel-threat quarterbacks this season.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney