Updated Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 12:31 AM
NEW ORLEANS — To say that running quarterbacks have been greeted by skepticism from some veteran personnel men in the NFL would be an understatement.
Two years ago, a leading executive in personnel for an NFC team paused to consider a quarterback class that included great athletes such as Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor.
"You can have all those guys," the exasperated scout finally exclaimed. "When one of them wins the Super Bowl, then I'll go to one of those spread-offense guys. Until they do, I'm sticking with the Sam Bradfords."
Bradford, the St. Louis Rams' selection with the first choice in the 2010 draft, represents the pure pocket passer that has been the NFL's prototype forever.
On Sunday, Kaepernick will have a chance not only to lead San Francisco past the Baltimore Ravens in the 47th Super Bowl but also stick it in the face of doubters across the league.
Kaepernick is the most intriguing player in this Super Bowl. He might be the most intriguing player the NFL's championship game has seen in years.
Baltimore's rock-ribbed defense, girded by possible Hall of Fame players at all three levels, will have had two weeks to prepare for the flying feet and laserlike arm of Kaepernick.
If defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, middle linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, not to mention outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, can't slow Kaepernick, who can?
Kaepernick's seven starts in the regular season are the third-fewest for a Super Bowl starting quarterback behind only the Rams' Vince Ferragamo (five) and the Giants' Jeff Hostetler (four).
He joins Ferragamo, the Rams' Kurt Warner and the Patriots' Tom Brady as the only quarterbacks to start a Super Bowl in the season of their first start.
Kaepernick was the 36th choice in the 2011 draft, the sixth quarterback taken. Preceding him were Newton (No. 1), former Washington Husky Locker (eight), Blaine Gabbert (10), Christian Ponder (12) and Andy Dalton (35).
Most scouts were circumspect — one referred to Kaepernick as a project worthy of just a fourth- or fifth-round choice.
"Kap had all the physical tools on the field and all the off-field intangibles," a scout said. "He just needed time to develop into a pro style. But now that the 49ers are basically running his college offense, there is no learning curve. He is dynamic in it.
"It's the same scenario as the Redskins with RGIII (Robert Griffin). He flourished because they ran his offense. It would have been a struggle for him otherwise."
Said an AFC scouting director: "Aaron Rodgers was a natural passer. This guy is more of an athlete than a thrower. He's got a funky delivery. He's not your prototype. He's like a better Tim Tebow."
But in his first nine NFL starts, Kaepernick has passed for 2,310 yards (99.8 rating) and rushed for 617 yards (7.6). He has led the 49ers to a 7-2 record, outplaying both Rodgers and Atlanta's Matt Ryan in the playoffs.
On Sunday, one of the personnel directors who rated Kaepernick third in his QB class was asked to rate the group again based on what is now known. He put Newton first, Kaepernick second and Dalton third.
"Athletically, he's very exciting," Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said. "He's one of those that quarterback coaches look to salivate over to see if they can make him into the player they want him to be."
San Francisco vs. Baltimore @ New Orleans, 3:30 p.m., Ch. 7
HECTOR AMEZCUA / AP
Colin Kaepernick was the 36th choice in the 2011 draft and the sixth quarterback taken.
STREETER LECKA / GETTY IMAGES
Colin Kaepernick's seven starts in the regular season are the third-fewest for a Super Bowl starting QB.