On draft night in 2011, Oakland Raiders head coach Hue Jackson set his sights on drafting Nevada's Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick was the ultimate Al Davis quarterback: an unconventional physical specimen with a rocket for an arm and blazing speed. However, cruel fate stepped in when the San Francisco 49ers traded up and selected Kaepernick 12 picks before the Raiders. Unfortunately, the Kaepernick saga is more than just a "what-if" scenario. It's a commentary on the 49ers outsmarting the Raiders' bluster with misdirection. While Oakland mouthed off to anyone who would listen, San Fran waited in the bushes, hopped out, traded a few mid-round picks to the New England Patriots and swept in to take Kaepernick 36th overall.
Ironically, the Raiders would have selected Kaepernick in the first round, if they had not traded their pick to the Raiders for Richard Seymour in 2009. Seymour gave Oakland four seasons and made $40 million, but his unofficial legacy may be as the player who cost Oakland a franchise quarterback.
Via Sports Illustrated:
"Coach Jackson told me before the draft they were going to do everything they could to try to get me,'' said Kaepernick. "I thought there was a good chance they'd pick me. I never heard anything from the 49ers before the draft after I worked out for them [at Nevada]. I just figured they weren't interested."
Brilliant disguise. That was the first fast one coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke — working together for the first time — pulled on the league, and, as you have seen, it wasn't the last.
A quick recent history lesson: The Raiders had Kaepernick the top-rated quarterback on their draft board — ahead of the five quarterbacks who were taken ahead of him that year (Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton). And both teams knew they could wait until the second round to get him. The Niners picked seventh overall (Aldon Smith) and 45th, Oakland 48th, having given up its first-round pick in the Richard Seymour deal with New England.
Rick Kaepernick, Colin's dad, told me he'd heard Al Davis threw a glass across the room when it was announced San Francisco had taken him.
"I don't know that he threw anything,'' said Jackson. "But he was upset. So was I. Scouting him, I fell in love with the kid. Leader, won a ton of games at Nevada, really impressive when you talked to him, strong, all the tools to win in the NFL. No doubt in my mind he was going to be good.''
Would Jackson still be coaching Oakland had Kaepernick fallen to them? Certainly, Carson Palmer wouldn't have been traded to the quarterback-needy Raiders six months later. Certainly, the Raiders wouldn't have used (wasted?) a third-round Supplemental Draft pick two months later on Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor. With Kaepernick, the Raiders likely would have stuck him in the lineup in mid-2011, when Jason Campbell went down with an injury. And I doubt sincerely Oakland would have gone 4-12 last fall with Kaepernick playing.