We all know a lot has been made about Ponder going too high. Personally I really like the pick, as if you watched some of the Gruden videos on four letter interviewing the QB prospects you'll notice just how mental much of the NFL passing game is. Yes, guys need the athleticism and arm strength to simply put the ball into the very narrow window NFL defenses give you, but I am astounded at how much goes into just getting to the point where that passing window exists: reads, adjustments, audibles, understanding player tendencies, calling the plays, etc etc.
I really haven't paid attention as to how much heat (or not) the Titans are getting for drafting Locker, but selecting an accurate, intelligent QB who scouts agree is probably the most NFL ready at reading defenses of all the prospects is hardly a bad thing, especially when you have a Percy Harvin, an Adrian Peterson, and a Visanthe Shiancoe on the roster. Our situation, which is incredibly important when trying to analyze Ponder's value as the 12th overall pick, elevates a guy like Ponder over some other prospects. In a perfect world we could've gotten Ponder in the second round, but this world ain't perfect. TJax had wonderful measurables - arm strength, athleticism, zip. What he didn't ever seem to have was a feel for the game, a feel for timing, or an understanding of how defenses were trying to play him. At this point in my Vikings fandom I am more than happy to trade some athleticism and arm strength for a player who simply recognizes and capitalizes on what defenses give him.
It takes me back to watching Favre play the Vikes in the late 90's and early 00's, thinking about QB's who take what defenses give them that is. Favre was a gunslinger and had all the arm strength and all that, and yes I get that this also illustrates the upside knock on Ponder (that he'll never have a career like Favre's because his lack of arm strength prevents him from doing Favreian things), but one of the things Favre back then did that absolutely killed us late in games was simply moving the chains. He had a great ability to sniff out where his open guy was who could keep the drive alive. Drove me absolutely nuts as a Vikings fan, but I respected that ability as a hallmark of a quality QB, an upper echelon QB. I read somewhere that of Ponder's 45 passes on 3rd down last year, 41 resulted in 1st downs.
Lastly, I think it's interesting how the most recent memory of a player can significantly impact their draft position and perception. It's much more apparent in basketball where an NCAA tournament star goes way higher than he should because he caught lightning in a bottle for a couple weeks despite the rest of his career. As for Ponder, he was very highly thought of after his junior year - in fact, as you'll see below, he looked for all the world like a guy who should go right around #12 in the draft (give or take a few picks). Same with Locker. What a difference a year makes, right?
Granted, shoulder and forearm injuries are significant details not to be overlooked. Maybe it will always limit Ponder's career and ability, but maybe not. I would remind people that Adrian Peterson is all the example we need of how a player's college injuries can (or cannot) impact a player's NFL career.
In summary, for better or worse Ponder is our guy. I think it's as solid a choice as we could've gotten, and I think he has a great chance to be good NFL game caller and manager. Maybe never a Pro Bowler, but the kind of guy who could combine with a great running back and defense to do some damage in the playoffs.
With ten months to go, we have our first 2011 NFL Draft related post!
Although the Jaguars are affiliated with BLESTO, the release of National's grades is something that is worth a look at. According to National, the Top 10 draft eligible seniors are
1) Prince Amukamara/CB/Nebraska/7.3
2) Adrian Clayborn/DE/Iowa/7.3
3) Mark Herzlich/OLB/Boston College/7.2
4) Allen Bailey/DL/Miami-Fl/6.9:
5) Von Miller/OLB/Texas A&M/6.9
6) Greg Romeus/DE/Pittbugh/6.8
7) Marvin Austin/DT/North Carolina/6.7
8 ) Christian Ponder/QB/Florida State/6.7
9) Jake Locker/QB/Washington/6.7
10) Stephen Paea/DT/Oregon State/6.5
The ranking of Ponder as the #1 QB is definitely an eye opener. Even though the service doesn't rank any juniors or sophomores, there by rendering Ryan Mallett and Andrew Luck ineligible, I still would have thought he would've been in the teens at best.
The numbers on the right indicate the grade each player received from national. Anything above a 6.5 would be considered "Very Good" to "Can't Miss". The player who had my jaw drop the most is Boston College LB Mark Herzlich. Herzlich missed all of 2009 due to bone cancer. While he was considered the top LB in college football prior to being diagnosed with the disease, how is he going to fair after all of that time away from the game?
According to Draft Insider, Ponder may have overtaken Locker based on the strength of a very strong preseason Wonderlic score. While it has nothing to do with arm strength, if say, Ponder scored in the high 30's while Locker was in the low teens, it will have scouts wondering on Locker's ability to absorb a NFL playbook.
In addition, this position should put to rest any concerns about Ponder's arm after season ending shoulder surgery. There were concern's that Ponder could end up with being Chad Pennington 2.0, but he wouldn't have that kind of grade if that were the case.