Looking back at the 2011 NFL Draft on Wednesday, the 49ers head coach reminisced about two of the top signal-callers coming out that year – Cam Newton and
Harbaugh believes each passer brings “plutonium-grade raw material” to the quarterback position.
Newton, for example, caused Harbaugh to heap such unparalleled "plutonium" praise prior to his first NFL Draft.
The Panthers quarterback has led his team to four consecutive victories, accounting for 10 touchdowns (7 passing and 3 rushing) during the win-streak. Harbaugh sees the same talent from Newton that he discussed in 2011.
“(He) continues to grow and blossom into a top-shelf quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “My father-in-law, Merrill Feuerborn, was adamant that Cam Newton was the, we had to get Cam Newton and he was the future of the NFL. You’ve got to give him credit, I mean, he saw that. He saw some things in Cam Newton, which we all did. But, I think all the football world saw at that time and we weren’t in a position to pick him. He’s been a great addition to the league and to the Carolina Panthers, he’s a great player.”
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Harbaugh realized the 49ers would not be in position to move up to draft Newton at the top spot, but was happy to trade up and select Kaepernick in round two. Newton was the No. 1 overall choice of the Carolina Panthers; Kaepernick was selected No. 36 overall by San Francisco.
In choosing Kaepernick, Jack Harbaugh, was most pleased.
“My father, Jack Harbaugh, was championing Colin Kaepernick,” the 49ers coach said. “The two fathers each championing their champion.”
Each young quarterback has gone on to carve out stardom in the NFL, just not a championship, yet. Newton is the only player in league history with 50-plus passing touchdowns and 25-plus rushing touchdowns in his first 40 career games. Kaepernick, on the other hand, has won five games in a row and is a perfect 8-0 when he posts a 100.0 or better quarterback rating.
Kaepernick roomed with Newton at the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine and said things were competitive between the two as they tried to state their case to be the top quarterback in their draft class.
Not much has changed between the passers since those days.
“Everything’s a competition from being at the combine to being at practice to being in a game,” Kaepernick said. “Everything’s a competition.”
Both players are known for being strong-armed quarterbacks and talented runners outside of the pocker.
“I think we have similar attributes, but I think we’re two different players,” Kaepernick said. “I think we’re both just trying to do the best we can to put our team in a good situation.”
San Francisco’s starting quarterback didn’t want to fully explain the differences between the two, but
“I think ‘Kap’ is a little better,” the 49ers running back said. “He can throw better than Cam.”
Kaepernick hasn’t needed to throw often in the team’s five-game win streak. After attempting 39 passes in San Francisco’s Week 1 victory over Green Bay, the most pass attempts from Kaepernick has been 29 passes on Oct. 13 against Arizona.
Outside of that win, Kaepernick has attempted 23 or fewer passes in all five of the team’s consecutive victories.
The 49ers currently rank No. 32 in passing yards, but it doesn’t bother Kaepernick.
“We’re winning games,” the third-year pro said. “There’s teams ahead of us that are obviously doing better in the passing game that aren’t where we’re at record-wise. So, that’s what we care about is wins.”
The Panthers, with their own “plutonium” quarterback, rank No. 25.