It's a lot to put on the fifth-year quarterback who has struggled with consistency for much of his career, especially when he'll be without coach Jim Harbaugh, and teammates Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and Justin Smith, who are either playing elsewhere or retired.
A season ago, when the 49ers finished 8-8, Kaepernick had career bests in attempts (478), passing yards (3,369) and rushing yards (639), but he also threw more interceptions, took more sacks and lost more fumbles than at any time during his four years in the league.
But according to offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, Kaepernick didn't take a step backwards in 2014.
"And then last year, you're playing with some different sets of challenges," Chryst said, via the MercuryNews.com. There was more change within the offensive line than he had experienced the last couple of years. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? You're behind more often in games. How does that affect your production as a quarterback? I cite the fact that we had six touchdowns nullified by penalty. You plug that back into his formula, he really wasn't ... he didn't regress off his line as much as perceived."
First-year coach Jim Tomsula said in March that Kaepernick not only didn't regress in '14, but he had his best season as a professional, according to the story. The piece added that Kaepernick ranked eighth in QB efficiency in 2013 and 13th the season before that, but none of that matters now because this 49ers team barely resembles the ones that had so much success under Harbaugh. Kaepernick ranks just 14th among QBs on our list. He could turn out to be a nice late-round QB2 who ends up having a bounce-back year, especially if the offense moves to more of a read-option.