Which college quarterback is the best fit for Chip Kelly’s offense? Even the dean of draft gurus, Mel Kiper Jr., doesn’t have a bead on what the 49ers’ new coach wants at that critical position.
On the eve of the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Kiper noted Monday that Kelly’s quarterbacks at Oregon were excellent runners. Marcus Mariota, for example, rushed for 752 yards and five touchdowns in 2012, Kelly’s final season with the Ducks.
On the other hand, Kelly’s passers with the Philadelphia Eagles were generally stationary. Sam Bradford, acquired by Kelly in a trade last March, rushed for just 39 yards in 2015 but had the “repetitive accuracy” on his throws that Kelly often mentioned in Philadelphia.
“You would think it would be a quarterback who was versatile and mobile and athletic and could do both,” Kiper said. “So it’s hard to really gauge which direction they’re going to go and which type of quarterback fits.”
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The two quarterbacks at the top of April’s NFL draft have those traits.
North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz is 6-foot-5 and 232 pounds and athletic enough that quarterback runs were a key element in the Bison’s offense. Wentz rushed for 294 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing eight games because of a broken wrist.
Cal’s Jared Goff rushed for minus-eight yards and no touchdowns and was sacked 26 times. But he threw 43 touchdown passes and is considered the best pure passer in the draft.
“He spins it as well as any quarterback in the country,” Kiper said of Goff.
Kiper projects Wentz being drafted before Goff – perhaps to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 2 overall pick – because Wentz has an NFL-ready body while Goff is more spindly at 6-4 and 215 pounds.
“But Goff’s going to get bigger and stronger once he’s in the league,” Kiper said. “Goff’s a better passer. Wentz has mobility, but Goff can move around in the pocket. That’s a tough call.”
Kiper said Goff will be scrutinized during the combine’s weigh-in with teams wondering how much muscle he can add.
“If he was a little bigger right now in terms of weight, I don’t think there’s any question he’d be the first quarterback taken,” Kiper said.
Kiper said Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch also likely will be selected in the first round, and Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg could be picked on the draft’s first day.
Whether the 49ers take a quarterback early – they have the No. 7 pick – probably will hinge on where Colin Kaepernick plays in 2015. The 49ers will owe him nearly $12 million April 1, and they might part with him – possibly via trade – this offseason.
Team officials plan to meet with Kaepernick’s representatives this week in Indianapolis, presumably to gauge whether the quarterback even wants to stay with the 49ers. He has been rehabilitating from three surgeries at a private facility in Vail, Colo., instead of the team’s facility in Santa Clara.
If Kaepernick stays, Kiper said the 49ers could find some intriguing prospects late in the draft.
Oregon’s Vernon Adams, whose small size (5-11) and big arm have drawn comparisons to the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, could be available in the fourth round, Kiper said. Arkansas’ Brandon Allen completed 66 percent of his passes in 2015 and looked good at last month’s Senior Bowl. According to Kiper, Allen is a fifth- or sixth-round selection.
NFL scouting combine
- When/where: Tuesday through Monday in Indianapolis
- Who: NFL executives/coaches, top college players eligible for draft