But it appears Kaepernick, who's recovering from three offseason surgeries and was just cleared for individual drills, is already well behind the eight ball and fighting an uphill battle.
ESPN's John Clayton noted in an Insider piece on Tuesday that Kelly "is particularly pleased with Gabbert," and that Gabbert has "a substantial lead" in the competition.
NFL.com's Michael Silver went a step further, saying there's "allegedly" going to be a competition and calling Gabbert "the heavy favorite." "[Gabbert]'s loved in this locker room, did a lot of good things last year, and I would be shocked if he's not the quarterback in the opener," Silver added.
It's a rather surprising position Gabbert and Kaepernick find themselves in considering where the two quarterbacks -- taken 26 spots apart in the 2011 draft -- stood just two years ago. That offseason, Kaepernick carried a 21-8 record (including playoffs) as a starter, while Gabbert was coming off a season in which he had just three starts (all losses) for the 4-12 Jacksonville Jaguars.
But Gabbert replaced Kaepernick midway through last season (going 3-5 to Kaepernick's 2-6) and appears to be the odds-on Week 1 starter for 2016.
Kelly compared the two quarterbacks last week on 95.7 The Game, saying, "From a skill set standpoint, the two of them are kind of cut out of the same mold."
With Kaepernick unlikely to participate in team drills until training camp, it seems he has a ton of work to do to prove to Kelly he's the better option.