Who’s the best runner: Kaepernick, Wilson, Newton, Griffin or Luck?

Interesting analysis by a non-coach I’d like to share with you. Andy Benoit charted every run  by Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck last season to determine which quarterback is the best runner. Benoit’s conclusion may surprise you.

To read the article, click here.

This article has 97 Comments

  1. Colin
    I put RG3 last because I want to wait to see how he is this year coming back from the knee.
    The second year back is usually telling due to confidence issues. Otherwise he’s either 2nd/3rd. Pocket presence/escapability are a different question.

    1. This is how I see it as well. Colin Kaepernick is the Ripper post season in the NFL….

  2. Benoit says:

    “Kaepernick does not read the defense before the snap. You can tell because he shows no understanding of this basic quarterbacking concept: When one receiver is covered, it often means another receiver is not. There’s no awareness of route combinations.”

    So when Kaepernick changes the play at the LOS, it’s not based on a pre-snap read, but just on a whim?

    1. There is something odd about this paragraph. After Benoit states Kaepernick does not read the defense pre-snap, his next sentence ends with a colon which is usually used to set up an explanation or example of his prior statement. So you would have expected an example of the lack of Kaepernick’s pre-snap read ability. But instead, he goes on to discuss receivers being covered or not and route combination awareness, which is all post-snap.

        1. Grant, you would have written it better. Readers shouldn’t have to guess. We never have to do that with you. Benoit must have not attended UCLA, lol.

        2. Yeah, I think he meant a mix of the two actually. He isn’t good at using his understanding of what he reads pre-snap to inform his post-snap reading of, and decision-making during, the play – i.e., he is unable to work out based on what he reads pre-snap who should be free (and when) if certain receivers are covered. A post-snap read based on pre-snap understanding of the D.

          1. Scooter, I was just playing grammar cop for a moment because of the way he used a colon. Still, it caused both you and Grant to say, “I think . . .” Well written articles shouldn’t cause that. But I get what you are stating because after using, i,e; you provided the information that didn’t cause me to have to think, lol.

            1. I think ( lol) that the colon is telling. If he expected to give an explanation he might have changed his mind mid writing when he read what he had written Then deleted it but forgot and left the punctuation. Most of these writers start out with a preconceived agenda which distorts their objectivity.

              1. Willtalk, you’re probably right: an effect of editing and then not proof-reading afterword, lol.

              2. I don’t think it was a writing error. I think he meant what he wrote. As I said previously, I believe he is saying Kaep doesn’t read the D pre-snap to inform his decision making post-snap. He doesn’t yet understand how to process what he sees pre-snap to inform post-snap decisions (at least on a regular basis) and work out which guy is going to be open if his primary target is covered. That is why we often discuss the 49ers high-low read passing game, and splitting the field in half.

                By and large he makes a pre-snap read to make a pre-snap decision on which play to go with, and for a pass, which side of the field is against coverage he believes will provide a favourable match-up. Post-snap he keeps it simple, takes what he sees in front of him, but doesn’t really use what he learned pre-snap.

              3. Scooter, my friend, you may be correct in the point he was attempting to make. You have stated very well how it should have been interpreted and have done a much better job of explaining it than Benoit did. But, really, we are talking about two different things here. I was simply giving a professional journalist a dig on his use of punctuation. It is not that big of a deal, really. I was just having a bit of fun with it, but for some reason you have taken it as some sort of football argument and feel compelled to continue on making a point that I basically agree with. But thank you for the responses: they are probably the most numerable I’ve had on this blog in quite some time.

              4. No worries spaceborn – to be honest my first reply was in response to Grant regarding Benoit meaning “after the snap”, and the last reply of mine was actually for Willtalk to point out that I don’t think it was an editing error on Benoit’s behalf, but more a matter of not providing a full/ detailed explanation of what he meant.

        3. Grant,

          Do you think that he used the word “before” when he meant to type “after”?

          It certainly takes a lot more work to learn to read what’s happening after the snap. If he looked at plays where the QB ran to escape then some of those runs could be listed as a failure to understand the defense as it developed in front of him, and he pointed that out.

          It would also include plays where the QB correctly saw nothing but defenders backs ( man to man) and a clear escape alley. We’ve all seen Colin do that, and it’s clear that he does successfully read that situation after the snap.

          The authors statement doesn’t seem to be supported by the way in which he interpreted the data that he chose to collect.

          1. We have to acknowledge that early in the season Kaep didn’t take advantage of lanes that were obviously open to him and waited too long before running. Although that was obviously at the direction of the coaching staff. Once he was turned loose towards the end of the season he was very effective. He is a very good instinctive runner. It is when he is allowed to use those instincts that he is mos effective. Most of last season he was not allowed to do that, so I wouldn’t use last season as an indicator for his actual abilities. We see it more in the playoffs.

        4. At first I thought it was a typo as well. But on reread he follows the confusing statement with something many of us have talked about here:

          “When one receiver is covered, it often means another receiver is not. There’s no awareness of route combinations.”

          Much of that comes out of a pre-snap read and the knowledge to recognize and make the right judgment call from that read. Defenses are very good at disguising where their weakness is going to be. But, sort of in the vein of Scooter’s point, a well studied QB visualizes the post snap check downs in that pre-snap read as well.

          Kapernick has been lacking in that greater “awareness”. Hopefully he has a sizable growth spurt in that department to better match the new PAYCHECK.

  3. I can’t figure out how the writer came to this conclusion.

    “Kaepernick does not read the defense before the snap. You can tell because he shows no understanding of this basic quarterbacking concept: When one receiver is covered, it often means another receiver is not. There’s no awareness of route combinations.”

    Is he saying that Kaepernick has never switched to a better play before the snap? Then why do his coaches allow him to constantly burn the play clock down to zero, one or two seconds?

    According to Young, who took some time to learn to read defenses, a quarterback can struggle for years and then suddenly “get it”. My impression is that’s the area where most young quarterbacks, including Kaepernick, struggle, and that Kaepernick and his coaches are working very hard to improve him.

    It’s certainly an area where small day to day improvements can pay giant dividends.

    1. I honestly think the author meant to type ‘read a defense AFTER the snap.’

  4. The line that caught my attention was the one about how most of the “oline failure” Seattle sacks came against a four man rush. Remind me again why Fangio rushed only 3 on that fatefull 3rd and 22?

  5. Grant asks :
    “…..Who’s the best runner: Kaepernick, Wilson, Newton, Griffin or Luck?…”

    uh-h-h-h …

    Correct me if I’m wrong, here .. but doesn’t Kaep own an
    NFL record for QB rushing.. not likely to be broken for some time ??
    (181 yds in a single game)

    methinks THAT’s your answer ..

  6. If it were Kap, you wouldn’t have linked the article. So why would the answer surprise me?

  7. Running QB’s in the NFL don’t win championships. I hope Kaepernick is not considered a running QB after next year.

    1. If the question were, Who has the strongest arm, not just the group listed, but the entire NFL. Colin Kaepernick does…..

      1. So what? Who cares the guy has the strongest arm, it’s about touch, reads, and smarts. It’s not a strong man competition

        1. Who cares who the best runner is? Why do quarterbacks with questionable arm strength get downgraded by scouts in the draft? How does a weak armed quarterback do in environmentally unfriendly venues such as the Giants stadium or the Bills. How about the Packers in freezing cold temperatures that make the football extremely heavy?

          1. Foxboro doesn’t exactly have a tropical climate, yet Brady has done alright.

              1. Arm strength was part of the reason Brady was downgraded by the scouts and he lasted until the 6th round.

                “…is a smart, tough QB who throws accurately, makes more big plays than you expect and rarely makes a big error despite not having a strong arm…he will eventually be a good starting QB, but will always have trouble making the throws that you need to get power behind.”

              2. Correct, but Brady has or had plenty of arm strength. The scouting report was wrong Jack…..

              3. The scouting report probably wasn’t wrong at the time. Brady weighed 195 lbs after the ’99 season and his combine picture looks like he’s pure flab (He came in at 211). He’s listed at 225 by the Patriots.

                Don’t know how reliable, but the only numbers (that aren’t obviously fake) online have Brady stating he’s at 55-60 yards. No idea when this statement was made. Nowhere near Flacco, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Favre, Elway. Let alone Jeff George or Jamarcus Russell.

                Velocity-wise NFL QB’s are clocked in the 50s. Drew Brees was at 52 mph. Kaep is 59 mph. and Brett Favre is believed to be the fastest at 63 mph. But not sure what to make of velocity since Colt McCoy put up 56 mph for Sports Science which is the same as Cam Newton.

                Don’t know if anyone has Brady’s baseball numbers, but as to how it translates, Kaep’s fastball for baseball was around 89-92. Andy Dalton had an 84 mph fastball and his combine # was 56 mph.

          2. Not to disagree with your overall premise but I don’t like the weather argument people use. Montana was considered to have average to below average arm strength and played the entirety of his career in Candlesticks driving winds never had an issue. Garcia had a weaker arm as well and was able to play successfully in here and in other environments.
            Personally i believe bad weather just means the qb needs to throw tighter spirals as any wobble can really change the throws placement.

            1. It’s not an argument. It’s just a fact. Weather affects people, albeit differently. You’re correct that the tighter the spiral, the better it cuts through the air.

            2. Garcia dominated in Canada before playing in Candlestick, and I don’t remember him throwing a nice ball.

              1. Ok, but that does not change the facts, weather afftects people differently and that a tight spiral cuts through the air more efficiently…

              2. I swear, some fans get more excited about an incomplete pass by a strong armed qb than a completed pass by a less strong armed qb

              3. Some fans are enamored by a noodle arm quarterback that cannot make all the throws, but can complete a pass. You can count me as one who prefers a quarterback with no physical limitations, intelligent, hard working, selfless, and a team first mindset. I think I just described Kaepernick…..

    2. Such a vague comment. Who’s to say that a QB that has the ability to run can’t win a Championship?? How can being a dual-threat QB hurt?? “Oh, Kaepernick can run when needed, oh no, he’ll never win a Lombardi because of it.” Fooey!!!

  8. Andy Benoit sez:
    ” Kaepernick does not read the defense before the snap.
    You can tell because he shows no understanding of this basic quarterbacking concept: When one receiver is covered, it often means another receiver is not.
    There’s no awareness of route combinations.”
    There is a reason that the Niners left the door open to trade/replace
    him on a year-by-year basis. Hmm ???

    Note to Coach Harbaw: I am still on your back.
    I am the Super Bowl monkey.

    1. Serving as Alex Smith’s presidential campaign manager while also sitting on Harbaugh’s back is quite a feat. Just when do you get enough time to also be Pete Carroll?

          1. Closest translation to “veracto” would be Pancho saying, “Let’s went, Cisco!”

    1. Thank you so much. I don’t know how any of us would ever have found that article without the link you provided.

      1. Brotha, meet Mary, late of the Field Gulls blog and now a regular source on the PD for all that Seahawk news you couldn’t live without, lol.

        1. Haha. I just try to keep the conversation alive with my limited knowledge. I always wondered why Harbaugh didn’t draft Luck, since he went to Stanford.

          1. At what cost Mary? A better question would be why Trent Baalke didn’t draft the DB and receiver from Stanford. Hint: They just got extended contracts and both have been a pain in ass around here for at least two if not three years.

          2. Well, I think that’s because Andrew didn’t have enough tattoos; Coach thought maybe he was a sissy.

          3. I always wondered why Harbaugh didn’t draft Luck, since he went to Stanford.

            Because the team would have given up an arm, a leg, the firstborn, the wife, and the mistress on the side just to move up to the top pick Mary.

        2. How would we ever get by without having our very own Seahawk troll post a different link to take us to the exact same article Grant used for his latest blog headline?

      2. Bro Tuna,

        Grant printed the link — I was in a rush — I think Sherman has a blog on there.

  9. Benoit only confirms what I’ve known about stats for the past 40 yrs: They don’t always tell the whole story.

    And the bottom line is this; Aside from Wilson, Kaep has a much better winning percentage then the QB’s Benoit outlines.

    There is no new revelation in Benoit’ statement regarding CK as a pocket passer. But he should be aware that CK basically had only one WR (Boldin) to throw to for the better part of the season. VD is a very good receiving TE, but his value as a blocker were of tantamount importance for our offensive scheme.
    The fact that Benoit failed to acknowledge this and rather chose to highlight CK’ shortcomings gives his article less credibility imo.
    It almost looks as if Benoit exhausted quite a bit of time and energy to take a shot at Kaep.

    1. Dude, your post is ridiculous homerism.

      Benoit says, “Kaepernick was clearly the most dangerous scrambler in terms of speed and agility…”

      That’s not the sole criteria he used to judge his evaluation on who the best runner is.

      Don’t see a reasonable tie in to running and win % and Boldin/VD are probably the best 1-2 receiving combo among all those teams. Since Harrison was out for Indy and Steve Smith, being a speed guy, has aged worse than Boldin, Boldin may have been the best WR too.

      Instead of assuming that every article or post that doesn’t paint Kaep in a positive light is some veiled shot at Kaep, why not assume that some people are just being objective.

  10. Benoit’s conclusion is not surprising. Luck was always an amazingly effective runner for a QB. He runs only when he needs to — and then he is very effective. Roman and Hamilton very rarely had designed run plays for Luck at Stanford.

    1. After Roman left they did send Luck out in a pass pattern. All he did was make a one handed catch while doing the side line tip toe dance. I don’t recall if he got both feet in but it wouldn’t surprise me if he did.

  11. How effective and objective were they in analyzing the play of the QB’s to come by those stats they give. In the readers responses below one of the posters presents a link to some Oakland’Bal highlights. In them it show Luck taking a sack in which he held the ball far too long. The announcer even states that he should have thrown that one away. Yet in the states they give Luck is shown to have 0 sack credited as his fault. Kind of makes you wonder doesn’t it.

    I wouldn’t put that much credibility on one season to conclude which QB is a better runner. RG3 was definitely not 100% so how could last years stats be used to define his abilities in that respect. I would also not put last season as an example of kaeps running ability either. The staff pretty much kept him under wraps most of the season to protect him. It sort of threw him out of sync in respect to when to use his legs and when not too. As everyone could see when they took off the chains he was a different player. Actually these states do not reveal who is the better runner rather who is the better decision maker in those situations. That would be if they were actually accurate.

    I personally would not attempt to define who was the better runner because I have not watched the other QB’s as much. I suppose it might depend on what each of use defined as better. I will say that their stats do seem to be questionable based on only upon one highlight video where it was obvious that Luck was at fault for at least one sack, yet they had him listed as being responsible for none at all. This is an example why I have little respect to media personal.

    1. It’s the best Quarterback of that group of “running QBs” that the author was trying to determine.

      Luck is, at this point in his career, a much more polished quarterback (who has major running ability) than the other guys on the list. His father was a NFL quarter back, he has been groomed to be an NFL quarter back from birth, and he played in an NFL type offense at Stanford under very good coaching staffs. In addition to that the guy graduated with honors in a very demanding major.

      It was no accident that he and his parents chose Stanford over Texas, and that RGIII went somewhere else later.

    2. The logical assumption would be that that was labeled a coverage sack. It was also a 4th and 1 play. Throwing it away is not an option. If he graded similar plays as coverage sacks for every other QB, then it’s still fair.

      But since this article wasn’t favorable to Kaep, you decided that it was “obviously Luck’s fault” and this media person chose to ignore that fact, then postured it as an example of why you have little respect for media personnel.

      But it wasn’t a media member being dishonest, it was really just your own ignorance and bias. If the article had come out favorably for Kaep, you’d have done the limited amount of thinking required to justify the play instead of assuming it was a dishonest writer.

  12. Here are two examples of God reading the defense after the snap.

    1. 1989 Super Bowl winning touchdown pass against Cincinnati. Montana looks (cooly) to Rice (double covered), comes back to Taylor who will be open for a moment before the ball gets there. Touchdown. Two things are never mentioned. The 49ers screwed up the alignment before the snap, and Montana had no pressure.

    2. 1990 Super Bowl first touchdown to Rice. Montana looked right, looked middle (Rice), looked left and everyone was covered. Montana (cool) came back to the middle (fourth read) and Rice was open and caught the ball around the ten yard line. Denver’s safety tried to kill Rice who just bounce off and scored.

    Greatest ever QB at the top of his game, and again no pressure. Montana threw well under pressure, but Young, Garcia, Smith, and Kaepernick all have had to deal with pressure more frequently. The conditions during the last Kaepernick play in the NFC Championship game didn’t look to me like there was time to go to option two or three. I just wish Colin had followed Wash’s advice to Montana just throw the ball away if it wasn’t there. At that moment Walsh and Montana had one play left. Colin had three more tries available.

    Colin probably would have made the same throw if he hadn’t been under “in your face” pressure. That would be a great new awareness for the coming season. Did Brett Favre ever learn it?

  13. Kaep is the best runner in terms of the guy who’s most likely to gobble up big yards once he starts to move out of the pocket; however, Wilson is the best at scrambling to maintain the ability to throw effectively downfield, and this is a tremendous talent, and historically (see Steve Young’s comments on this) the most useful if you want to win games, including the big game.

      1. htwaits,

        What about the gift wrapped INT that was dropped by a Bengal DB in the endzone, just before Montana found Taylor for the winning TD?

        He was the best ever, but not god.

    1. Love the 9ers but ya gotta give Wilson credit here. This article only addressed plays that ended up classed as rushes, so it doesn’t address the QB’s ability to keep the play alive by scrambling behind the LOS. Kap’s still learning to do this, and often gives up on the play too soon. I think it’s partly b/c his stride is so long – the result is often poor footwork when he’s hemmed in. Wilson, like Joe & Steve, can often dance out of trouble while keeping his eyes downfield.

      1. I’d agree Wilson tops the list of Escape & Extend, but I still think as a Runner its CK. Interestingly, an argument could be made that Cam is #2 on both those lists. He uses size and strength instead of elusiveness to keep the play alive. Luck uses both.
        We’re talking about some good players here.

        1. Newton had a phenomenal short yardage and red zone conversion rate on runs I believe, however against the 49er defense, he failed any demonstrations……

  14. Whether you’re a fan of Colin Kaepernick or not, you’ve got to respect what he did for the 49ers and for the franchise…..

    1. ? He’s basically been Alex Smith except he does it with chunk plays (YPA/YPC) instead of dink and dunk (completion %).

      Or are you talking about the contract? People seem to be oblivious to the fact that this trend already started with Richard Sherman. As well as overreacting to the perceived friendliness of it.

      As long as they make a Super Bowl (and they realistically could have gone to 3 straight), Kaepernick only has to maintain the status quo in order to get paid the extra $12 million. If they make it next year, he gets paid in full.

      If you think about it, as long as he stays healthy (80%) and doesn’t become a turnover machine, the chances he sees $114 to $126 million over 6 years while playing at Alex Smith level is pretty good. If you think Alex Smith level results & production is worth 19 to 21 million dollars, then we will have to agree to disagree.

      Though with a receiving corps like Crab, Boldin, Stevie, Lloyd and Vernon Davis, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t be dramatically improved. Even Josh McCown looked like the second coming with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.

      1. It’s not too late to be a Chiefs fan, although $18 million a year for Alex Smith would require a GM to hand in his resignation and whatnot…..

  15. Any and all quarterbacks that fail to win the Superbowl are over paid bums and should be run out of town, and replace by _____!


  16. I’m not that surprised by the results, although the wording should be altered to where it says that Andrew Luck is the cleanest runner.

      1. I’d leave the Texans out the argument on account of J.J. Watt. The man is a nightmare against QBs.

  17. Grant, as a UCLA fan what do you think of just announced series with BYU as well as the ongoing expansion talks? As a fan of the Pac12 I think they need to keep expanding and grab the best they canto get to 16 teams. I looked at BYUs future schedule and they have a lot of Pac12 games in the future. I wonder if there is a future expansion candidate with them.

  18. First time I’ve read the blog comments since the draft, and I see that the “note to Coach Harbaw” guy is still as prevalent as ever

  19. Is “Who’s The Best Runner” just packaging around…

    Peter King: “Kaepernick does not read the defense before the snap. You can tell because he shows no understanding of this basic quarterbacking concept: When one receiver is covered, it often means another receiver is not. There’s no awareness of route combinations.”

    The above statement should be its own MMBQ article. Reminds me of the liqueur store scene in American Graffiti.

    Toad: “I’d like some gum, and some flashlight batteries, a pint of Old Harper, and a Snicker bar…”

    Peter King: “Newton takes alot of sacks. RG3 is shifty in the pocket. Colin Kaepernick is the biggest pre-snap boob in NFL history. Luck is surprisingly agile…”

    1. Correction. The article as by Andy Benoit. The way by web browser is setup, it looked like Peter King was the author.

    2. hahaha…yea I got that too….That statement really came out of no where and it’s a pretty large statement to just through in as a quick side bar…

      “and oh yea Kaepernick may be the worst QB I’ve ever seen play the game and has no understanding of any concept related to decision making, oh and Luck looks more rugged with a beard”

  20. I recall the Packers spending all last summer trying to figure out how to essentially stop Kaep and his running. Have not heard of other teams doing the same for other QBs and their running ability.

  21. So what’s your point in sharing it? That some journalists actually does some legit analysis and you don’t. Or is it just another swipe at the Niners for signing Kaepernick to an extension?

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