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Q and A With Tomahawk Nation about Christian Ponder

Lost in the hoopla (okay, maybe in the forefront) of the Christian Ponder selection was the white noise of the Todd McShay's and the Trent Dilfer's of the world piss and moan over the pick, much like a teenage girl would piss and moan over...anything.   

Toddmcshay_medium I was like OHMYGOD I can't believe they picked HIIIIIMMMMM.   Ewwwwwwwwwwww.

Dilfer_medium OHMYGOD, right?  I was like so ewwwwwww, I can't believe they picked him either.

Toddmcshay_mediumI know, right?  I mean, he would've been like SO available in the second round.

Dilfer_mediumI know, right?  The Vikings are like, SO dumb for taking him, because, like, all he's ever done is like 7 on 7 drills.  That's so dumb.

Toddmcshay_mediumI know, right?  But if they didn't take him, then I would've been like why didn't you take Ponder, because you have like no one to pick from in the second round, because he was going to be so taken, and stuff.   

Dilfer_medium I know, right?  Man, we're so smart.  And stuff.

So when Bud Elliott, the publisher of the Florida State SB Nation blog Tomahawk Nation reached out to offer his perspective on Ponder, I thought it might be a good idea to get the opinion of a guy who has watched almost every snap Ponder has taken in his college career.

1.  Was Christian Ponder the best quarterback available at #12, and did the Vikings 'reach' in picking him?  Where do you rate him in terms of quarterbacks that were drafted? 

Yes, for the Vikings (he was the best available).  It is my understanding that they needed someone to come in and start immediately.  They have some good skill guys and an average offensive line to go with a good defense.  Guys like Kapernick and Dalton won't be ready for a while as they haven't had the exposure to stuff like progression reads, calling protections, drops, snaps under center, footwork, calling plays.  Some may argue that Mallet is better, but there have to be serious character issues there for no team to take a chance on him until round three.  Ponder is not a prospect drafted on physical skills and without experience.  FSU asked a lot of him mentally and physically and he is the most polished QB prospect in the draft.   The Vikings didn't draft a guy with a cannon for a right arm and not much else.  They got someone with an average NFL arm, but with good accuracy and excellent mobility and maturity.

2.  Ponder mentioned that the system he ran at FSU is 'schematically similar' to the offense Minnesota Offensive Coordinator Will Muschamp Bill Musgrave (sorry 'bout that one--Ted) will install as the Vikings offensive coordinator.  Could you give me an educated guess on what that means?

Sure.  FSU runs a multiple pro-style system.  The run game is fairly NFL-style, with inside zone, outside zone/stretch, power, etc.  And off of that FSU will boot Ponder a good bit.  The 'Noles do move the pocket some as Ponder throws well on the run, but he has also improved tremendously in the pocket.  FSU's offense involves both vertical and horizontal stretches and a lot of short-to-intermediate rhythm passing.  I think what Ponder means, having not seen Minnesota's new offense, is that FSU's scheme is not a college gimmick and that his time in Tallahassee prepared him well.  

3.  Talk about Ponder's maturation process from the time he came to Florida State to the time he left.  How did he change, if at all, as a quarterback and a leader?

Ponder came to Florida State as an unheralded three-star recruit.  He played in an option offense in high school and some believe he was offered only because his dad played for the 'Noles in the 80s.  When Jimbo Fisher came to Florida State in 2007, he told people (privately) that Ponder was the best quarterback on the roster.  At the time, however, Ponder wasn't ready to take a starting role.  FSU lost six games that year thanks to some awful QB play, among other factors.  Entering 2008, Fisher told Ponder that if he could show it in practice, that he would go to bat for him and tell coach Bowden that Ponder could start. 

Ponder was not ready to be a star in 2008, but he did have mobility and intelligence.  Florida State had the youngest offensive line in the entire country in 2008, and Ponder's wheels would be needed often.  Watch how mobile he is in this clip

Bowden reluctantly agreed to let Fisher start Ponder, and it really paid off.  The other quarterbacks would have been killed behind that line.  Thanks to his mobility, FSU won nine games and another year for Bobby Bowden.

In 2009, that line grew up a bit and Ponder worked really hard with his receivers over the summer.  Before he busted his shoulder against Clemson, he was playing as well as anyone in the country.

Ponder should be credited for leading FSU through the latter part of the "Lost Decade."  He sold out his body, often too much, for the betterment of the team.  Definitely a leader at the college level.  I'm not sure how to quantify his leadership at the pro level as a rookie, but he was definitely a leader in college

4.  Was there much of a transition for Ponder from Bobby Bowden to Jimbo Fisher?

Not really, other than the team was finally being run like a major program rather than a retirement home/ place to hire all of Bowden's friends and family who should have been retired.  Ponder dealt almost exclusively with Jimbo, so no.  But one big change did occur, that being the lack of random play insertion seen under Bowden's meddling.

5.  Christian Ponder was drawing comparisons to former FSU/Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson.  Is that an accurate depiction or not?

Both rhythm and timing guys who don't have cannons and rely on intelligence.  But Ponder is much more mobile.

6.  One of the knocks on Ponder is that he has that 'injury prone' label.  Is that a fair assessment, or are these injuries something that Vikings fans don't need to worry about?

I would be very worried if Minnesota can't teach him to slide.  Ponder's injuries have all come from him playing recklessly, like diving head first for a first down, or attempting a tackle on an All-American linebacker after a safety.

7.  Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said ideally he wants to see Ponder under center for the Vikings season opener (say it with me) if there is a season.  Give me your opinion on how he will do as a rookie starting in the NFL.

I think he'll show well for a rookie who hasn't been able to practice with the team due to the lockout.  Ponder won't require some of the typical acclimation you see many rookies need.  However, the lockout may put all rookie quarterbacks behind the 8-ball.  Evaluating him or any 2011 rookie QB against rookie quarterbacks from previous years who did get all the mini-camps, etc., is a mistake.

Final thoughts?  High floor, lower ceiling guy.  Smart, mobile, accurate.  Hard worker and face of a franchise who won't embarrass the team.

Thanks to Bud and Tomahawk Nation for a nice perspective on the Vikings new quarterback.