The Denver Broncos drafted a quarterback in the first round. The New York Jets took one in the second. The 49ers? They waited until the end of the sixth round to select Louisiana Tech’s Jeff Driskel.
Those moves strongly suggest the 49ers’ liveliest offseason story – when will they trade Colin Kaepernick? – is all but over.
For the last two months, the Broncos were the likeliest trade partner. But they not only selected Memphis’ Paxton Lynch in the first round Thursday, they traded ahead five slots to get him. Denver general manager John Elway told reporters the move eliminated the possibility of acquiring Kaepernick, a move Elway later acknowledged nearly happened.
“With Colin, I thought we were really close,” Elway told MMQB’s Peter King. “That one surprised me a little.”
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The Jets entered the draft with questions at quarterback, too. They selected Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg in the second round. That doesn’t clear up who will be their Week 1 starter, but it gives them three quarterbacks, not counting last year’s starter, free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick, who they are trying to re-sign.
While the Broncos and Jets were eager to pick quarterbacks, the 49ers were relaxed about the position. They took long looks at only two quarterbacks, Cal’s Jared Goff and Michigan State’s Connor Cook, before the draft.
They had several chances to select Cook, who was taken by the Raiders in the fourth round. The 49ers took Driskel with the 32nd pick in the sixth round, suggesting they are content with Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick competing for the starting role.
“Very little,” Driskel said when asked how much attention the 49ers gave him before the draft. “Just for a few minutes out at the combine.”
The 49ers now have five quarterbacks: Driskel, Kaepernick, Gabbert, Thad Lewis and Dylan Thompson.
Since talks broke down with the Broncos, who wanted Kaepernick to take significant pay cuts in 2016 and 2017, Kaepernick has seemed resigned he will play for the 49ers this year. He arrived for the start of the offseason program April 4 and has attended every session while recovering from knee and shoulder surgeries.
Kaepernick has resumed throwing a “bit,” a league source said Tuesday, and doctors are expected to clear him by the end of the month or soon thereafter.
When coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Baalke were asked whether the draft squelched the possibility of a trade and if it meant Kaepernick will be with the 49ers for the rest of the 2016 season, both declined to talk about the future and cited the present and recent past instead.
“I think he’s been outstanding,” Kelly said. “I think he doesn’t get the credit for that. He’s been here every day and worked as hard as anybody on this football team in terms of preparing for the 2016 season, and that’s the way we are with him. We’re moving forward.”
Said Baalke: “We’ve answered this question a lot, and we’re moving forward with the guys that are on this football team, and Colin’s on this football team and been a big part of this football team for a long time.”