My last post on Christian Ponder looked into his past, trying to assess how he fared as a passer these past two years. This time around, I'm going to attempt to look forward and see what's in store for us in 2013.
Last year, Ponder had a very up and down season. He started out looking ok, and then regressed big time. It seems that most fans this year want, above all else, consistency. Lets take a look at his 2013 projections, and see if his season outlook will be satisfactory.
National Media Projections
CBS has 3 separate people forecasting Ponder's 2013 season, and an average of those three as well. The following bulleted list has the three author's projections, as well as the composite.
- Dave Richard- 317/518 for 3532 YDs, 23 TDs and 18 INTs
- Jamey Eisenberg, 301/477 for 3554 YDs, 19 TDs and 12 INTs
- Nathan Zegura, 293/476 for 3321 YDs, 21 TDs and 14 INTs
- Average 303/490 for 3469 YDs, 21 TDs and 15 INTs*
*Average stats were rounded
The projected average gives us an AYA of 6.55, which is a decent sized jump to just below average for Ponder.
ESPN has one projection for Ponder that I could find. They have him going 260/422 for 2679 yards, 17 TDs and 13 INTs. This projection gives us an AYA of 5.77, which is right where he was last season.
For what its worth, they also have some projected stats for Matt Cassel, but because they don't give us a games played projection, so it's hard to gauge what his per game stats would be.
For myself, I am using three separate projections for Ponder. One includes all his 2012 games, one contains only his games above 100 yards passing, and the last is only the games in which Harvin started and finished the game. I decided to do the three projections in an attempt to look at his possible 2013 season in a more favorable light.
The projections are courtesy rotoviz.com's excellent QB comparison app. It breaks down a QBs season into 11 distinct stats, and then finds similar QBs in the past who matched up with those stats. It then forecasts their next season based on what those QBs did the following year. The following table is rotoviz's unedited projection for Ponder based on his full 16 game 2012 season.
Ponder N+1 Full 16 (via AWEraky)
As you can see, this projection doesn't have Ponder playing particularly well. It projects his 2013 season at 3029 YDs, 18 TDs and 13 INTs, for an AYA of 6.00, which is a slight improvement from 2012, but still below league average. Furthermore, his list of comparables does not help. Here is a table showing his 2012 comparables.
Ponder Comparables 2012 season full 16 games (via AWEraky)
Not a very good list for the most part. Although a few names on the list may inspire confidence, the list is mostly full of bad QBs. Let's now take a look at his N+1 season, this time with his three under 100 passing yard games thrown out.
Ponder N+1 Season (via AWEraky)
This is more what I would expect from Ponder next year. The projection has him playing slightly better, with a season projection of 3131 passing yards, 19 TDs, and 11 INTs. His AYA for this 2013 projection comes out to 6.69, which is almost a full yard over his 2012 season, and nearing league average. While his projection comes out better, his list of comparables is still pretty unflattering for the most part.
Ponder Comparables 2012 season (via AWEraky)
The final projection is with only the 'Harvin' games. I felt this might be useful, as it shows what he may be capable with when he has a decent WR core around him. I didn't bother to do a projection of his games without Harvin, because if our WR core is that decimated again, we are in trouble, and we don't need a projection to tell us that. Anyway, this is his 2013 projection with the 'Harvin' games.
Ponder N+1 Harvin Games (via AWEraky)
This projection is actually his worst yet, for what that is worth. The full 16 game schedule comes out to 2848 Yards, 16 TDs and 14 INTs. Very poor projection to be honest. This shows us that his 2013 projection wasn't pulled down due to not having a complete WR core for a portion of the season. Here are his comparables for that hypothetical season.
Ponder Comparables 2012 season Harvin Games (via AWEraky)
Maybe it's my imagination, but these comparables are slightly better than the previous two. Regardless, the overall projection was terrible, and certainly doesn't help Ponder.
What the Projections Tell Us
Overall, the app doesn't seem to like Ponder much. Unfortunately, this syncs up pretty well with what I concluded in my last post. Even with his low games thrown out, his projection is still below league average. I'm afraid to cherry-pick the stats even more than that, because I don't want to get too small a sample size for the app to compare. And although people are hopeful due to how he ended the year, just because that game came at the end of the year, doesn't mean that it is any more or less important than his previous games. The argument has been made that it somehow means more than his other games because this game had more pressure. Quite frankly, that is silly. Every regular season game counts the same. The Vikings were really only under pressure in game 17 due to Ponder putting up some really lousy games mid season.
If Ponder does indeed end up below average again next year, can we really expect the Vikings to make a playoff push? I don't think we can bank on another 2000 yard season from Adrian Peterson (although, I'm not going to bet against a Cyborg. I enjoy living). If Ponder does indeed fall reasonably close to the above projections, the Vikings could be in trouble. The problem lots of fans have, I think, is that they look at the rest of the team around Ponder, and just assume we will be good. I also struggle with that, because outside of QB, we seem to have a fairly deep and talented squad. The defensive backfield, for example, could use some more experience, but they definitely aren't lacking on talent. It all comes back to Ponder, and whether or not he can make 'the jump'.The 2008 and 2012 Vikings covered up poor QB play with a good team around him. While we seem to have, at the least, an equally talented team this year, hoping for the rest of the squad to prop up the QB again seems like a tall task.
If we forecast Peterson's 2013 season, I'm betting we end up with around 1500 or so rushing yards. Truthfully, his 2012 season makes his 2013 projection inherently difficult to nail down, because his 2012 season was on the extreme end of ridiculous, and it makes it difficult to find good comparisons to come up with an N+1 season for Peterson. So the 1500 yards is just a guess on my part, but that still is averaging 94 yards per game. That is 500 yards of offense we just lost, and if the projections hold true, that is 500 yards of offense we won't get back, even with the improvements in our passing game. That is a big problem, so in order to make a similar playoff push to last year, we will need to field a top 10 defense and probably keep teams below 20 points per game. Unless AD goes crazy again this year, we could be looking at a team that has serious difficulties scoring points in 2013.
Even if the defense comes up with a top 10 year, and AD again treats the rest of the NFL like they are beneath him (which, lets be honest, they are) and we ride into the playoffs, I really can't see us making a deep playoff run. Ponder just doesn't seem to have what it takes to really win the game for us consistently, and his 2013 projection doesn't inspire confidence.