SANTA CLARA -- Dead ahead for Colin Kaepernick: Three chances to show teams that bypassed him in the 2011 draft that they made a mistake.
That three-game stretch begins Sunday against the host Tennessee Titans, who selected Jake Locker with the eighth overall pick while Kaepernick fell to the second round and 36th overall.
"It's something I definitely haven't forgotten," Kaepernick said Wednesday.
After facing the Titans, Kaepernick and the 49ers (4-2) head to London to face the Jacksonville Jaguars (Blaine Gabbert, No. 10 overall). Then comes a Nov. 10 home game against the Carolina Panthers (Cam Newton, No. 1).
Titans coach Mike Munchak fondly recalled evaluating Kaepernick before the draft and isn't surprised at his play-making emergence as the 49ers starter since Nov. 19.
"We knew he'd be a special player, because he has such a passion for the game," Munchak said on a Wednesday conference call with Bay Area media. "He's so big and so athletic, so he's been fun to watch."
Kaepernick is 11-5 as a starter, including last season's run to the Super Bowl and the 49ers' current three-game win streak. He was listed on the 49ers' injury report last week with a foot issue, one he claimed Wednesday was a "hangnail"; the validity of that seemed to wane as he then said it was on his little toe, on both feet.
Locker, meanwhile, has gone 7-8 as a starter and is expected to miss a third straight game because of a hip injury. Ryan Fitzpatrick has started in place of Locker the past two games, both defeats, for the Titans (3-3).
Locker was one of five quarterbacks drafted ahead of Kaepernick, who went 36th overall (fourth in the second round) to the 49ers. The others were Christian Ponder (No. 12, Minnesota Vikings) and Andy Dalton (No. 35, Cincinnati Bengals).
Kaepernick has never started against any of those five teams who chose other quarterbacks, until this Sunday's game against the Titans.
Said Kaepernick: "I thought I was somebody they were interested in, whether it was then (at No. 8 overall) or later, I didn't know. But it's in the past now."
Munchak vividly recalls the 2011 draft process: "Just sitting and watching tape with him, we spent time that way, and I thought he really had a great feel. ... I wasn't surprised all of a sudden he was starting last year and making plays, because of how competitive he was. It was just hard to project when that would happen."
"I didn't think he'd get into any more trouble after what was going on," Walker said on a conference call. " ... It kind of did surprise me a little bit."
Smith will miss a fourth straight game while seeking treatment at an inpatient facility after his Sept. 20 single-car accident and subsequent arrest for suspicion of drunken driving. Walker said he hasn't kept in touch with Smith, whom he described as "a young guy, a little wild dude. I didn't think something like that would happen during the season."
Earlier last month, Walker was named with Smith in civil suits by men who sustained gunshot wounds at a 2012 party at Smith's house; Walker and Smith allegedly discharged weapons from a balcony to disperse the crowd, but their shots did not hit the men suing them. Walker did not comment on those lawsuits.
Walker has became outspoken in another off-field area, joining Mothers Against Drunk Driving to raise awareness about their campaign. His aunt and uncle died in a car accident -- hit by an alleged drunken driver -- near New Orleans hours after Super Bowl XLVII.
After spending seven seasons with the 49ers and being overshadowed by Vernon Davis, Walker is on a career-best pace, having totaled 20 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He's dropped 2 of 28 passes intended for him, after racking up 11 drops on 48 targets all of last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
The Titans defense has recovered seven fumbles, however, and protecting the ball is a point of emphasis among the 49ers this week. Gore has lost only one fumble this season (at St. Louis), to which coach Jim Harbaugh said: "When that happens to Frank, you're not going to sneak up on Frank again and hit him over the head with a bag of dung a second time."
49ers (4-2) at Tennessee (3-3), 1:05 p.m. FOX