2011: QB rating: 70.1; TD-INT 13-13. Sacked per attempt: 9.7
2012: QB rating: 81.2. TD-INT 18-12. Sacked per attempt: 15.0
Injury history: In college, Ponder had elbow bursitis a few times. In 2011, he had a hip pointer. In 2012, in Week 17, he took a helmet to his throwing arm. He sustained a deep contusion to the triceps. He was able to finish the game before it swelled up. Six days later, before the the Wild Card game at Lambeau, Ponder couldn't throw except for gentle lobs in warm ups. Vikings medical staff made the right call and made him inactive for the game. He couldn't help the team with a throwing arm that wasn't any good that day. In comparison, the Redskins played RGIII while hurt, and RGIII suffered a traumatic knee injury. While nothing in the NFL is a sure bet, Ponder's injury history doesn't have any red flags.
Week 17 game stats: 120.2 QB rating, 3 TD, no turnovers. Ponder is coming along nicely as a quarterback. He needs to get better. The year 2012 was a very good developmental year for Ponder. He quarterbacked as the team went 10-6.
Now to discuss Ponder's future. The next steps for Ponder will be mechanical work and consistency, and working hard for the whole offseason. If Ponder goes into the 2013 season as a better quarterback, that is good but it is not enough. A key objective for him must be to earn the respect of his teammates enough for them to put a 'C' on his jersey. Yes, Ponder must step up into the role of team leader in 2013, not because he has earned it already, but because he has the ability to earn it over time, and it's the next step in his path.
Without any doubt, Ponder's main problem this year was his lack of decisiveness. Facing blitz after blitz, he often held the ball too long. He didn't scan the field like a quarterback needs to and thus didn't see a number of open receivers. These issues are all correctable.
Ponder is developing. He has the ability to develop past where he is now. He can lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl and the Lombardi trophy. Furthermore, he has all the tools that can't be taught. Ponder's ceiling is very high. He can become an elite or near-elite quarterback in the NFL. He can reach these goals with the right mix of hard work, teammates, and coaching. I am very optimistic about the opportunities that Ponder will have in the future.
Quarterback: Joe Webb. As we saw in the playoff game, Webb is not an NFL pocket passer, nor does he have a realistic chance of becoming one. He is a talented football player, but his skills don't necessarily fit what the NFL typically looks for. I would be in favor of keeping Webb as the #2 quarterback only if the run-option and other "running QB" plays were kept in the offense and used liberally whenever Webb entered the game. If Frazier and Musgrave decide they can do that, then keep Webb. If the Vikings want to run the same offense regardless of who is in at quarterback, then Webb needs to go.
Running back: Adrian Peterson. Trying to evaluate Adrian Peterson's stupendous year is crazy. He absolutely crushed it. This will sound incredibly arrogant and stupid as a fan trying to comment on how All Day runs the ball, but since this is an evaluation, I might as well say that I think that Peterson had his best year to date partially because of his increased patience. At the risk of sounding very stupid, I think if Peterson was even a little more patient, and was more willing to go north-south and take what the defense gives him on a little more often, instead of trying to stretch it outside and turn the corner so often, he might be even more effective next year. Or maybe not. Peterson is a football player's football player. To conclude, I will just mention two numbers, 2,097 and 6.0.
Wide receiver/running back: Percy Harvin: Despite not knowing how to run the route tree, Harvin was able to get open in the flat a number of times. Harvin is a star, and he often did incredible things with the ball. Percy Harvin had a very good year. His injury cut his year short, unfortunately. If Vikings could get Harvin running routes, the sky is the limit for him. With Harvin's athletic ability and drive to succeed, he should have already learned the route tree. Unfortunately, he can't run the route tree because he doesn't know how. This is solely because he hasn't been taught. George Stewart has been his wide receivers coach for the entire time that Harvin has been a Viking. After four years with the same coach, Harvin would benefit from a new coach. A new WR coach is needed for Harvin and the Vikings. That's why the Vikings should let George Stewart go and hire a new wide receivers coach. I think it is fine moving Harvin around between wide receiver and running back. Spielman ended his year not willing to take any chances that the young receiver could get injured. Spielman did right both by Percy Harvin and by the Vikings in that decision.
Running back: Jerome Felton. Felton has expressed interest in re-signing with the Vikings, and they should make it so right away. He only went to the Pro Bowl as the most outstanding fullback in the NFC. He also seems to be good with the ball in his hands, despite limited opportunities thus far. Felton blocked for #28 as he went for 2,097 yards. That's a very good year.
Running back: Toby Gerhart. He is ready to go. He made some good plays. He blocked well on 3rd down. He didn't get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball. I wish the Vikings would give Gerhart more opportunities, even spelling Peterson on some serieses. It could be a tremendous one-two punch from the running back position, not even to mention what Harvin can do from the backfield.
Tight end: Kyle Rudolph. It is clear now that Rudolph is not a super-athletic tight end like Rob Gronkowski or Jermaine Gresham. He nevertheless has very good hands and can block very well. It is too bad that the Vikings haven't taught him to run the route tree, or he could be that much more effective as a receiving tight end. Rudolph is a big reason why the Vikings had a lot of red zone success in 2012.
Wide receiver: Michael Jenkins. He is surehanded and can run routes. Restructure his deal and bring him back. He will be most effective when the Vikings add to the talent pool at wide receiver.
Wide receiver: Jarius Wright. Very exciting player. He could be a factor in 2012 if he improves.
Wide receiver: Greg Childs. I think the Vikings are right to keep him as he rehabs. The one thing the Vikings should do is be very, very cautious before he suits up for practice or a game. He might not be ready until the 2014 season.
Tight end: John Carlson. It's hard to evaluate him because he was injured. While his season was very disappointing, why was that? If his deal can be restructured, the Vikings might bring him back to see what he does in OTAs and camp.
Tight end: Rhett Ellison. Good utility player.
Offensive line: The line has made the transition to the man blocking scheme very well, putting the the road bumps of 2011 long past them. The line consistently faced heavy run-blitz and pass-blitz pressure. Enough holes were opened for Peterson to run for 2,097 yards. Nevertheless, Peterson far too often saw defenders in the backfield. While the line won most of the battles, they lost too many battles. In pass protection, the line was inadequate until the tail end of the season. It still wasn't where it needs to be. Hopefully the line can build on this for the future.
Center: John Sullivan. The leader of the offensive line.
Left Tackle: Matt Kalil. He had a very good rookie season. He is a fighter. If he keeps putting in the work, he will be an elite player in the league.
Guard: Charlie Johnson. He did a lot of good things. He does get shoved around by the likes of BJ Raji, Ndamakong Suh, and other defensive tackles.
Guard: Brandon Fusco. He had an up and down year. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to get better.
Right Tackle: Phil Loadholt. He did great in run blocking, but was inconsistent in pass blocking. He had several penalties. On the whole, he had a good year.