Friday, April 29, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Is the Ponder Pick Really That Surprising? No.

It's not so much the player that's upsetting Minnesota Vikings fans this morning, it's that they used the number 12 pick to get him. As I wrote earlier this month, the Vikings needed to draft a quarterback this year and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder was their only option.

Last night, the Vikings selected Ponder with their first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The pick took most people by surprise, but when you look at how the first round played out (with three quarterbacks taken in the top 10) and the Viking's commitment to finding their future quarterback -- it made sense.

I'm not saying Ponder was the right pick at #12, but he does fill a big need for the Vikings and they've been eyeing him for several months. Ponder, who is 23-years-old, is considered an NFL-ready quarterback with the smarts to quickly grasp a complex pro-style offense (read his full scouting report).

What I don't like about the Ponder pick is he's not a dynamic player (I would have liked to see the Vikings draft a game changing pass rusher). He lacks a big arm and his physical tools don't jump out at you. He's a finesse passer, much like Chad Pennington, who is really good in the 10-15 yard range. Ponder's also battled various arm injuries, including shoulder and elbow ailments during college.

I'm sure the Vikings were trying like mad to trade down from their #12 pick and pick-up a third rounder, but by that time there wasn't a team willing to move up. The Atlanta Falcons had already moved up to #6 to get Julio Jones and the Jacksonville Jaguars swapped with Washington to snag Blaine Gabbert at ten. The big dealings had already been done and the Vikings were stuck.

Another thing that hampered the Vikings last night was their lack of a third-round pick. We all knew about the Vikings' desire to trade back in the first round and recoup that third rounder lost in the Randy Moss trade. But if the Vikings still had that third-round pick, they may have considered moving up and drafting Gabbert (a player they coveted). Jacksonville ended up trading their #16 and #49 picks for Washington's #10 pick.

I expect the Vikings to do everything in their power to make sure Ponder is their week one starter. He's now the face of the franchise and it's his job (along with the Vikings) to prove he was the right pick at #12.

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