Vikings Take DT Christian Ballard With 4th-Round Pick

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 10:34 am

The Vikings beefed up their defensive line by selecting DT Christian Ballard with their 4th-round pick. This is another great value pick for the Vikings because some had Ballard slotted as a 2nd-round talent.

Ballard played college football at Iowa and stands at 6-4, 283 pounds. His scouting report says he “possesses a great frame coupled with quickness and agility.” He might have the versatility to be able to play both DE and DT in the Vikings 4-3 scheme, which is a great quality because he could join the rotation at left DE (if Ray Edwards leaves via free agency) and he could also slide inside to DT should a need arise there (Kevin Williams suspension).

The Vikings now have 6 picks remaning in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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Vikings Set For A Busy Day 3 Of The NFL Draft

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 30, 2011 – 9:55 am

Day 3 of the 2011 NFL Draft – rounds 3-7 – is about to begin and it should be a busy for the Vikings because they have 7 selections at their disposal. Let’s take a brief look at where the Vikings stand and what they could address as the 4th round draws closer.

We know the Vikings have addressed the QB position, tabbing Christian Ponder with the 12th pick of the 1st round. The Vikings then got a tremendous value pick in the 2nd round by grabbing TE Kyle Rudolph, the best player at his position in the draft.

In the 4th round, the Vikings hold the 9th overall pick (#106 overall). The Vikings then have 2 picks in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds. There are several positions the team could address today, but don’t be surprised to see the team package a pair of picks to trade up and grab a player they really like. Also keep in mind that compensatory picks cannot be traded, so the Vikings can’t use their 2nd picks in the 5th and 7th rounds in any trade.

Here are several players I’ll be keeping my eye on in the 4th and 5th rounds…

DT Christian Ballard (Iowa), S Ahmad Black (Florida), OT Clint Boling (Georgia), CB Kendric Burney (North Carolina), CB Brandon Burton (Utah), CB Quinton Carter (Oklahoma), DB Chimdi Chekwa (Ohio State), WR Tandon Doss (Indiana), WR Edmund Gates (Abilene Christian), RB Taiwan Jones (Eastern Washington) and WR Greg Salas (Hawaii).

Of those names, you’ll notice that Ballard is the only defensive lineman, so if he somehow slides to the 9th pick of the 3rd round, the Vikings might pounce on him to beef up their defensive line. If he’s gone by the 9th pick of the 3rd round, watch for the Vikings to add Boling to fortify offensive line depth, Black to boost the secondary or one of those CBs to compete with Asher Allen, Chris Cook and Co.

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Former Viking Doleman Announces The Rudolph Pick

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on April 30, 2011 – 9:35 am

As was the case for all second round picks during this year’s Draft, a former player from each team announced the selection at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.  The Vikings were lucky enough to have Chris Doleman, and eight-time Pro Bowler who played the bulk of his career in purple, in the Big Apple to announce the pick of Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph.  Click here to view the video of Doleman making the pick.

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Rudolph “Too Good To Pass Up” For Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 29, 2011 – 5:52 pm

The Vikings used the 43rd pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to grab the #1 player at his position – TE Kyle Rudolph of Notre Dame. Considered a 1st-round prospect by most, Rudolph slipped into the 2nd round but he didn’t slip past the Vikings.

The only reason one can muster for his slight slide into the 2nd round is a medical issue, as he missed the last 7 games of the 2010 season because of hamstring injury that required surgery. The Vikings clearly felt comfortable with Rudolph’s medical report and whoever the Vikings QB will be in 2011 will feel more comfortable with Rudolph on the field.

“We had no issues with him medically after he was cleared by our doctors,” Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman explained. “When he fell to us, it was too good of a player to pass up. We feel he has a lot of unique skills as a tight end and we’re going to stay true to our board. That was a situation where there was a player that normally I don’t think if he had that hamstring injury you would’ve even had a chance to get. We feel we got great value where we got Kyle.”

Many will compare Rudolph to New England’s Rob Gronkowski, as both have a combination of great size, strength and speed, along with tremendous ball skills. Despite playing in just 29 games for the Irish, Rudolph ranks 4th all-time among Notre Dame TEs with 90 receptions for 1,032 yards. His career-best 33 catches during his sophomore campaign placed 7th among TEs on the school’s season-record chart.

“He has a lot of different skill sets,” Spielman explained. “They’ve split him out wide. They’ve put him at the H. They put him on the line of scrimmage. He’s going to develop into a solid starting tight end in this league.”

At first glance, TE doesn’t appear to be a need for the Vikings. Visanthe Shiancoe is a solid starter and both Jeff Dugan and Jim Kleinsasser are effective in their roles. But Spielman says the Vikings just couldn’t pass on Rudolph and they’ll figure out the roster situation at a later point.

“This was a situation where, I know we have three tight ends that are on our roster right now, but when you have a player like that it’s just too good to pass up,” Spielman said. “I know we’ll sort it all out as we get there. But we just wanted to stay true to our board and he was by far the highest player on our board at this time and we weren’t going to pass him up.”

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Vikings Take Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph In 2nd Round

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on April 29, 2011 – 4:58 pm

With their second round pick, the Vikings selected Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph.  We’ll have more info on him posted soon, including reaction from Rick Spielman, Vikings VP of Player Personnel.

Stay tuned to’s Draft Central section for full coverage on the Vikings first round pick, QB Christian Ponder, and all picks moving forward into the weekend.

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5 Names To Watch For The Vikings In Round 2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 29, 2011 – 4:00 pm

Today’s been such a “Welcome to Minnesota Christian Ponder” day that it’s easy to forget there are 2 more rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft tonight. At this time, the Vikings have the 11th pick of the 2nd round (#43 overall) and no choice in the 3rd round.

The 2nd round begins at 5:00 p.m. CT, so we have some time to go over a few names to watch as the Vikings pick draws closer. The names are listed in alphabetical order. Let us know what you think the Vikings should do in Round 2.

DE Da’Quan Bowers, DL Jarvis Jenkins
I’m kind of cheating here by including two names in one entry, but both of these guys deserve a brief mention. Bowers was once thought to be the best player in this draft, but then concerns emerged about a knee injury that some believe could be degenerative. Yikes. That’s why he slid out of the 1st round. Think about it: a player once considered the best player in the class is still there in Round 2.

As for Jenkins, he measures in at 6-4, 310 pounds and is a bit of a tweener. He’s not a NT in the traditional sense, so he might be a good DT in the Vikings 4-3 scheme. But he’s also apparently not a player you’d keep in the game on obvious passing downs. Given that limitation, maybe the 2nd round is too early for him. But keep an eye on Jenkins, the Vikings might be.

DT Kenrick Ellis
A big, space-clogging DT out of Hampton, Ellis stands at 6-5, 346 pounds and would occupy one of two DT spots in the middle of the Vikings line. Scouts say he has excellent quickness for his size, a trait that made Pat Williams so effective for the Vikings over the last several seasons. With Pat Williams unlikely to return in 2011 and with Kevin Williams facing the possibility of a 4-game suspension to begin the season, DT became a position of need for the Vikings. I have confidence in Letroy Guion in this role, but there’s nothing wrong with adding a body like Ellis as developmental and potentially impactful run-stuffer.

DT Stephen Paea
Although he doesn’t have the same size, Paea (6-1, 303 pounds) can be just as effective on the interior of an NFL defensive line. He is also a DT, but I’m not sure he’d play the same DT spot as Ellis. Regardless, Paea made waves at the Combine when he put up an incredible 49 reps of the 225-pound bench. As you can guess, Paea’s strength is as a run-stuffer. He uses his hands well, as a good body for taking advantage of leverage and he’s active in pursuit. Paea is not a great pass rusher, so that’s an area of his game that needs improvement.

TE Kyle Rudolph
I thought Rudolph would go in the 1st round, but he fell out of the top 32 spots and now a team with a need for a pass-catcher might be in luck. The reason his stock isn’t higher at this point is because he missed much of the 2010 season with a hamstring injury. But he has excellent size (6-6, 259 pounds) and is fast. Run blocking is supposedly a weakness, but if you’re taking Rudolph you’re not taking him to block; you’re taking him to stretch the seam and score red zone TDs.

CB Aaron Williams
This is my favorite player still on the board. Williams stands at 6-0, 200 pounds and might some day be moved to safety. But that’s okay for the Vikings because they could use him at either spot eventually. Williams is known as an aggressive player who likes to come up in run support. He’s not a terrific player “on an island” in coverage, but he can play CB in the nickel and his physicality and willingness to play near the line of scrimmage might make him an effective safety in the NFL some day. He blocked 5 punts during his career and he ran a 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash.

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Audio: Listen To Ponder’s KFAN Interview From Friday Morning

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on April 29, 2011 – 12:31 pm

New Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder joined the voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen, on AM-1130 KFAN during PA’s show on Friday morning.  To download / listen to that interview, click here.

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Welcoming Christian Ponder To Minnesota In Style

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 29, 2011 – 11:37 am

On Thursday morning I woke up 14 hours before the start of the 2011 NFL Draft unsure of whom the Vikings would select with their 1st-round pick. Just a few hours into Friday morning, though, I not only knew who the Vikings selected at #12, I also met him at the airport and welcomed him to Minnesota while riding back to Winter Park.

Ponder and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave

Yes, Vikings Entertainment Network, with the help of Paul Martin and the Vikings operations staff, was there to swoop Ponder up at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport late Friday morning and deliver him to Winter Park, where the QB met with the Vikings coaching and personnel staff. VEN Videographer Jordan Struck was there to record all the action, and we’ll have an entertaining and informative piece about Ponder up on the site momentarily.

Ponder arrived right on time at MSP and was promptly met by representatives from Brooks Brothers, so he could try on a suit coat and tie for his press conference later today. After a quick fitting and the selection of a purple and white-striped tie, Ponder and the VEN clan headed back to the limo for a ride back to Winter Park.

Inside the limo on the way back, we had a chat with Ponder about his time at Florida State, the draft-day experience and phone conversations with Frazier and Spielman, his thoughts on living in Minnesota, why he’s so driven to do well in school and pursue advanced education, what charities he wants to support while with the Vikings and some of his other interests and hobbies.

Ponder even took the time to call in to AM 1130 KFAN and join Paul Allen’s 9-noon radio show. It was a great trip with Ponder and I could clearly see that he’ll be a good fit in Minnesota. He never once seemed impatient with the suit fitting or with having to wear a microphone for the VEN piece. He was smiling a lot and was enthusiastic about being in Minnesota. He wasn’t checking his cell phone constantly and there were no awkward silences in the car. He was thoroughly happy to be chosen by the Vikings and I think he’s going to win a lot of fans over very quickly.

Ponder with Frazier and Spielman

Be sure to check back frequently to today because we’re going to carry Ponder’s press conference live. We’re also going to have a sit-down interview with Ponder on later today as well as comprehensive coverage of the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Also, don’t forget to look for the “Meet Christian Ponder” piece that Jordan and the rest of the VEN video guys are working on right now.

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What Are The Pundits Saying About Ponder?

Posted by cjsiewert on April 29, 2011 – 8:31 am

Now that we’ve had a night to soak in all of yesterday’s 1st-round selections, let’s take a look at what draft pundits around the web are saying about the Vikings 12th overall pick, Florida State QB Christian Ponder. – Todd McShay
“If he can stay healthy, which was a problem last year, you have quarterback that’s ready to play now, has great football intelligence and is a throw-back type of quarterback. He’s tough, he will get out of the pocket and make some throws on the run and he can be very accurate throwing short to intermediate. He doesn’t have the great arm strength but they don’t need that in this West Coast-style offense.” (NFC North Blog) – Kevin Seifert
“So what are they getting in Ponder? It won’t be the mobility of Cam Newton or Locker, and Ponder isn’t as smooth of a passer as Gabbert. But the Vikings undoubtedly got one of the smartest quarterbacks in the draft, one who scored a 37 on his Wonderlic test and who graduated from Florida State in 2 1/2 years. He completed his MBA in May 2010 and spent last season working on a second graduate degree in sports management.” – Mike Mayock
“(VP of player personnel) Rick Spielman is tied at the hip with this young quarterback. Man, he’s betting an awful lot on a kid that most thought would go between 25 and 40.” – Pete Prisco
“I love this pick. I think he will be the best in this class. Smart. Tough. Sees the field. Great move, Vikings.” – Matt Bowen
“I do see Ponder developing into a starting QB in this league; however, there was plenty of defensive line talent (Fairley, Quinn, Kerrigan, Jordan, etc.) sitting by the phone at No.12.” – Nolan Nawrocki
“Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier desperately needed a new franchise quarterback with Brett Favre moving on. Ponder is a great fit for Bill Musgrave’s West Coast offense. A strong Senior Bowl and pro-day workouts elevated his draft stock. The biggest challenge for Ponder could be staying healthy, having been snake bitten by injuries in college.” – Peter King
“Christian Ponder is, quite simply, the classic example of a quarterback who was overpicked in the first round, the way we’d heard so many of them would be. But the Vikings obviously figured they liked Locker and Ponder, and they couldn’t trade down to gather currency in rounds two or three. So they sat at 12 and picked a developmental quarterback they felt they had to have.”

And as for Mr. Ponder himself – @cponder7: “It’s great to be a MINNESOTA VIKING!!!!!!!!”

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5 Points To Ponder On Vikings Top Pick

Posted by Mike Wobschall on April 28, 2011 – 11:21 pm

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.

5. Athleticism
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.

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