I think we all watched the draft and saw what unfolded. For a minute it looked like Blaine Gabbert was going to slip to #12. Teams were picking and no one was picking a quarterback. Then came the monkeywrench. The Titans moved up to pick Jake Locker.
I believe the Titans reached for Locker, because Locker only completed half his passes in college. Accuracy is the #1 most important skill for an NFL quarterback to possess. But Locker allows the Titans to keep their playbook intact - because when you look at the Titan's former QB's, you see mobile quarterbacks - Steve McNair, Vince Young, and Locker (Kerry Collins was never the full-time starter; he just filled in when Vince got shaky).
Then Jacksonville jumped up to pick Gabbert. The Vikings were offered Dallas' #9 slot for their #12 and their #43 and decided that was too costly to move up 3 places. I'm okay with that, because I understand the slotting and ranking system for draft picks. If it's not your guy, you can't do the trade and I believe the Vikings came into the draft believing they would get the opportunity to draft Locker (which, believe me, I didn't want) at #12.
The Vikings frantically tried to trade down. Couldn't find a taker. And like we've seen the front office do before, they froze and essentially settled for a 2nd round quarterback in the 1st round because they couldn't handle the pressure. They were fearing a run on quarterbacks (which never happened) and reached for Christian Ponder.
Christian Ponder may turn out to be a great quarterback. I know about 25% of the fanbase is really excited about Ponder. I'm not. He didn't stand out to me in college. FSU had a lot of talent but only won two division titles (one shared) and had 33 wins. Part of this may be due to the coaching situation at FSU.
I'll admit, I only watched about 10-12 of FSU's games over the last 2 years. Ponder's strong points appear to be his intelligence, mobility, and short-range pass accuracy. However, he has a history of injuries: shoulder, elbow and concussion history. I never favor drafting a player with injury history - for example, I would have loved if the Vikings had traded up and drafted Jeremy Maclin instead of Percy Harvin. Aside from the one game Harvin's missed, though, the migraines haven't bothered him much and Harvis has been as/more valuable to the Vikes as Maclin has been to the Eagles, albeit in different roles. Ponder doesn't have a good deep ball and there are concerns that he locks on to his first read and doesn't progress nor use his eyes to throw off the defense well. What this really mean to me is that defenses are going to continue to load the box to stuff the run and disrupt the short throwing lanes.
After the jump, I'll get into how I feel the Vikings should have approached the draft... if you want to keep reading.
I think we can all agree that the Vikings had 4-5 areas of need: Quarterback, Offensive Line, Cornerback, Safety, and Defensive Line. You might even add in Wide Reciever; if Sidney Rice leaves via free agency, well, we all saw what happened last year without Sidney Rice: nothing.
I'm not a GM. But to me, if I am the guy in charge of the strategy of how to build my team, I shore up my strengths unless there is a can't miss guy staring me in the face.
When the #12 pick rolled around, I felt there were 5 choices for our Front Office.
1. Nick Fairley, DT. Most likely the best available player on every team's board.
2. Mike Pouncey, OL. Graded out higher than Solder, Castonzo, or Carimi and can play OG and C.
3. Jimmy Smith, CB. Best bump-and-run corner prospect. Character issues.
4. Prince Amukamara, CB. Projected as a top-10 pick and NFL ready corner.
5. Cameron Jordan, DE. Son of Vikings great Steve Jordan. Could shore up an aging line.
I personally would have drafted Mike Pouncey. Although Castonzo or Carimi would have allowed the Vikes to jettison Bryant McKinnie (and really, is Phil Loadholt on stable ground either?), Pouncey could slot in at RG which hasn't been a position of strength and fill in at center if Sullivan can't stay healthy. I feel you have to keep the running game and line healthy and strong. Line can't block, AP can't run. Line can't block, quarterback is going to get killed.
Fairley would also be a good choice as Pat Williams is gone. Pairing Fairley with Kevin Williams, who could also mentor him, would keep the DL a position of strength. The run defense has been slipping and Fairley is a beast. Instead, now the Vikings get to face Detroit with Fairley, Suh, and Vanden Bosch twice a year. Jordan is also a consideration here, simply because it might take pressure off Jared Allen and we need to fill that other DE spot.
Finally, I like Smith over Amukamara simply because of his physical style. We can all agree that the Vikings need another CB due to injuries and the aging of our current roster and Smith could be mentored by Winfield.
I understand that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. You simply don't need a great QB to win the Super Bowl, however. Jon Gruden, who has somehow reinvented himself as some kind of QB guru, never developed a quarterback. He had his greatest success with two NFL veterans who bounced around - Brad Johnson and Rich Gannon. When you reach for a second round pick in the first round, good things usually don't happen. Given the Vikings history of flubbing in the draft, that's just about a sure thing.
I would have preferred the Vikings select an OL and then make a deal for Donovan McNabb. We know he can win and succeed due to his past history in the NFL. He's a veteran. By shoring up the OL with that first pick, you make the spot more attractive from that standpoint while keeping the running game strong and AP happy. Then Sidney Rice sees he has a QB that can throw the ball 40+ yards downfield and re-signs. Your offense just went from a bunch of question marks to a team strength. I'll concur that the Vikings need to develop a QB. That's Joe Webb. McNabb would have been a great role model for him to learn from.
On the other side of the coin, let's say I draft Nick Fairley. You're putting him next to a All-Pro in Kevin Williams. Surely the professionalism of Williams and Jared Allen rub off on Fairley. Plus, Fairley can play nasty and I feel that that's how Pat Williams played. Finally, you keep Detroit from GETTING Fairley and pairing him with Suh. So you help your own team regain that tough run defense and keep your opponent from getting stronger.
Who knows. Maybe Christian Ponder will never get hurt and make me eat my words enroute to a Super Bowl title. I will be the first to come on here and proclaim my ignorance. But right now - devoid of the panic that enveloped the Viking's draft room - the Ponder move looks like one that's desperate and shaky.