Has anyone written anything about this Christian Ponder guy? What? Everyone has? Oh well, I'll write something else anyways.
I've heard a lot of things negative about this selection. Of course, there's also a lot of positive floating around, but in particular I would like to take each negative thought and refute it, and therefore infuse a sense of optimism in the doubters.
Now, I had mixed feelings when the pick was made. My first knee jerk reaction was "hey, the guy I wanted us to draft for QB was exactly who we took! Sweet!". Then I thought about it some more, and felt, "but we left Prince Amukamara on the board?" and "Well, so much for Anthony Castonzo or any other O-lineman who could keep Ponder/ Webb/ whoever upright." My final thought was "oh crap, Detroit just took Nick Fairley, and our QB is going to die." (Also had a nightmarish recollection of this Warren Sapp guy going in hauntingly similar fashion.) So for anyone who spoke to me during the whole confused time period- sorry for coming off like I had multiple personalities.
I've settled down now and am pleased with our move, and had I the ability to go back in time and re-draft... I wouldn't change it. Again, let me go over the various negatives, negatives posted on this fine community by our discerning members, thoughts that I indeed shared. And let me break them all down.
First off is the whole "Really? Christian Ponder at #12?!" Yes. Christian Ponder at #12. Was it BPA? That's to be seen, but even now with my optimism... I would say ‘no'. I think BPA would still be to take Prince Amukamara. The guy will shut down his side of the field and is a day one starter with a very bright future. Christian Ponder does have injury concerns (behind our O-line... uh oh) and probably will take a bit to develop.
BUT- There are times to draft for BPA, and there are indeed times to draft for need. We needed a QB, and while our secondary is... bad, we didn't truly need a CB on the same level. Was Ponder really a guy meant for the #12 pick? Maybe, but maybe not. But what matters is this- he was available, and he was a QB we had targeted as the future of our QB situation, a future that up until then was cast in haze and shadows, haze and shadows that were also filled with the sounds of our childhood nightmares. Rumor is Washington was targeting him shortly after us. Well... if true, Washington had a shot at stealing him from us, and traded back. Which leads me to the next point...
Rumors swirled both before and after the pick that Spielman was interested in trading down. Ergo, the FO wasn't truly, truly sold on Christian Ponder on #12, or else he wouldn't have even considered it.
BUT- Do we know how far down Spielman was interested in trading down? I don't, none of us do. The Lions and the Rams were both below us, and neither had a need for a QB- it would have been a safe bet to assume that switching with either of them would have still allowed us a shot at Ponder, as well as an additional late round pick. Think about this- at #12 there was still ridiculous talent on the board. Again, Prince Amukamara. Anthony Castonzo. Nick Fairley. ...Christian Ponder. What, NO TEAM in the NFL wanted to discuss the chance to get the #12 pick and take someone ranked as a top-15 player in the draft? Hard to believe. I figure that Spielman was probably interested in trading down with either the Rams or the Lions, and neither accepted, knowing that the guy they wanted would probably be right where they were already. And the whole "he received no phone calls for it" rumor... again, simply too hard to believe. #12 is a sweet pick. SOMEONE would have called to at least see what he wanted for it. So, Spielman and Frazier probably WERE sold on getting Ponder, but were at least hoping to get a little something extra while still pulling the trigger by swapping down one or two spots. Doesn't show a lack of faith in the Ponder pick one iota; in reality, it just shows Spielman was interested in playing the draft right. After all, he did later trade a fifth rounder for two sixth rounders- he was obviously stockpiling lower round picks.
Next concern- Frazier has said that there will be an open competition amongst Joe Webb, Rhett Bomar, and Christian Ponder. Ergo, he's not sold on Ponder being our guy from day one.
BUT- Nor should he be! Christian Ponder has proved the exact same thing thus far as Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Jake Locker- that he was worthy of the gamble that a draft pick is. He hasn't proven that he deserves to start day one, any more than the other three QBs have. And not all QBs who end up with Super Bowl rings or Hall of Fame careers start day one, either. I point to that Brett Favre fellow, or to use another hated analogy, that Aaron Rodgers fellow, as examples. Frazier is simply being smart right now. Let Ponder first prove in an open competition that he's our starting guy. QB is a key position- a position that should be pushed, tested, and challenged. Pitting him against Webb and Bomar not only secures that the right guy will be starting from day one, but it also increases the fire lit under all three for that job. Handing the reigns to Ponder and saying "good luck kid!" without doing anything else is not wise- it's not wise for any QB who has been drafted and has yet to play a single NFL snap. I have often promoted the theory that, in fact, a rookie QB regardless of draft pick should never start in the first season, unless they absolutely prove they deserve it, or if injuries force the matter. I would personally always have them sit at least their rookie season, learning and developing- as well as giving the team an opportunity to assess their character. Two things I also often point out- would Peyton Manning, who obviously proved to deserve to start right off the bat, have suffered for sitting? Very much doubt it. Flip side, would JaMarcus Russel and other famous busts have busted like they did had they sat their first year? Perhaps the arrogance and self-entitlement would have either been stymied, or at least seen and recognized by the team in time to avoid a complete disaster. (Not saying, BTW, that Ponder will suffer any of these dilemmas. Just a general point.) So again, having an open competition for QB does not mean that Frazier isn't sold on Ponder being our guy- it's just a sign of smart management and good coaching.
Next and for now final point- Christian Ponder has an ‘injury history' and will be behind the tragedy that is our O-line.
BUT- Hard as it is to believe, I will refute this. First off, Ponder's injury history is as of yet any proof that he is in fact ‘injury prone'. While I really hope he doesn't become the next Matthew Stafford (and again, believing that the injuries he's been collecting won't hamper his career some is naïve), we did at least boost our O-line depth in the latter rounds, and as much as I stumped for Castonzo round one- I'm pleased overall with those results. There's also the possibility that we'll still end up snatching a stop-gap vet for a year while Ponder develops and our O-line solidifies; in fact, rumors continue to swirl concerning McNabb. (It will, assuming there is a draft in 2012, also give us another shot at getting first round material for LT or even C.) We might also end up starting Joe Webb, whose scrambling ability could help prevent him from racking up injuries behind the swiss-cheese line currently in front of our QB, again sparing Ponder any danger during his rookie campaign. But let's say Ponder does start, and our O-line remains the tragedy that it was in '10. Well... OK, I haven't really come up with a counter for that just yet, the guy might end up a greasy stain on the field. However, I'm sure Frazier's well aware of that- let's see how it plays out, and I'll trust the judgment of the coaching staff in that regard. Frazier will have no intention on ruining his first round pick, franchise QB. And Bill Musgrave and Craig Johnson have danced this song before- they will also know what they're doing in this regard.
So let's keep our chins up and remember that there are several things going for Christian Ponder. He's got Bill Musgrave to help develop him, as well as Craig Johnson. The O-line just got a shot in the arm, and will have a new, better play strategy designed for their skills. Our offense will provide him some great weapons- Visanthe Shianco, Percy Harvin, (hopefully) Sydney Rice, and now Kyle Rudolph. Oh, and some guy named Adrian Peterson to help ease the burden. And yes, Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman really have shown full faith in him- I refuse to believe that they reached for a QB for the sake of getting a QB. There's no way that Frazier, who happened to be a defensive coordinator for years prior to his promotion, passed on Prince Amukamara without full faith in this QB. And there's no way that Spielman threw out his long-standing BPA policy without being sold on him.
Skol Christian Ponder, and be it in 2011 or 2012, we look forward to watching you begin your path to guiding us to the promised land.