The Vikings selected QB Christian Ponder with their 1st-round pick on Thursday night, a move that was met with mixed reaction among the Vikings fan base. I understand some of the criticism, but I also experienced some frustration right after the pick because of the negative reaction to the selection.
So, let’s talk it out quickly. Here are 5 points to Ponder about our new QB…
1. Assessing Ponder’s value at pick #12
It’s clear to me that the critics’ number one beef with this pick is the value, meaning there’s a belief the Vikings could’ve traded back in the 1st round to acquire more picks later in the draft while still ending up with Ponder. This may be true, but it might also not be true. The Miami Dolphins (#15) and Washington Redskins (#16) were lurking just a few picks back, and it’s certainly possible they could’ve selected Ponder with their picks. Also, I’d submit to critics that the true “value” of a rookie QB isn’t determined now. It’s determined down the line, when we know whether he turned out to be a productive starter who leads his club to wins and, ultimately, playoff victories.
To me, here’s the bottom line on this issue: The Vikings didn’t find themselves without a partner at the end of this year’s QB shuffle. Now that would’ve been reason for criticism.
2. An ideal fit in the Vikings offensive scheme
I’ll say that the reaction and mood of Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and QBs coach Craig Johnson following the 1st round is the complete opposite as the mood of critics of this selection. Ponder was described by many analysts as the perfect QB for a west coach-type of offense. I’m not sure “west coast” is the most accurate characterization of what Musgrave will run in Minnesota, but I am sure that many of the principles of the west coast offense (rhythm, timing, variety of routes) will be found in the offense that Musgrave employs here. Ponder has experience being under center - a quality not always found in today’s college QBs – and Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman says he is composed in the pocket, even when facing pressure.
Fans will see almost right away that Ponder is comfortable in the pocket and won’t compromise the chance for a completion whenever he faces pressure.
3. Intelligence and passion
In doing some reconnaissance on Ponder’s mental makeup and character, it became clear to me quite quickly that Ponder is considered an extremely intelligent player and he has a passion for the game that was admired by his teammates and coaches. Spielman said he talked to coaches who described Ponder as a player who wouldn’t come off the field, whether it be in games or at practices. A Vikings scout also told me that Ponder’s offensive coaches at Florida State were able to run a completely new scheme each week because of Ponder’s ability to grasp concepts in a matter of a few days. Also, Ponder graduated in 2+ years from Florida State and he’s currently working on his second Master’s degree.
4. An experienced, senior QB with a lot of wins
I actually tend to favor senior QBs coming out of college. While it can be argued that underclassmen QBs tend to be more talented (which is why they’re entering the NFL draft early), I think the difference in physical skill sets between senior passers and underclassmen passers is negligible compared to the bigger difference in their awareness and ability to both handle adversity and process information quickly during a game. Ponder played in 35 games during his college career, winning 22 of them and performing well in big spots. He’s the first QB since Chris Weinke to defeat both the University of Miami and the University of Florida in the same season and he was also named MVP of this year’s Senior Bowl.
A legitimate knock on Ponder is his injury history. He missed time in both 2009 and 2010 with throwing arm injuries, but he should also be credited for insisting on playing through pain during his career, particularly during his last game in 2009 and throughout the entire 2010 season.
I think one trait of Ponder’s that Vikings fan will be particularly pleased with is his athleticism. He throws pretty well on the run and he had 10 rushing TDs in college, displaying the mobility necessary to both elude rushers and pick up yardage down the field. Should the Vikings pass protection break down, Ponder will not be a sitting duck in the backfield; he’ll be able to escape and either find an open receiver downfield or simply take off and pick up yardage with his legs.
Tags: 2011 NFL Draft, Bill Musgrave, Christian Ponder, Craig Johnson, Leslie Frazier, Rick Spielman
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 93 Comments »