by Tommy Lawlor – http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com
Florida State Senior QB Christian Ponder is one tough player to evaluate. You can make a very strong case for him, but there are some issues that will affect his value as well.
Ponder has a build that I love in QBs at 6’2, 229, the middle ground between the huge guys and small guys. He is a good athlete. Ponder runs well and is quick, fast, and elusive. Great student. He graduated a while ago and kept right on going with his academics. No ballroom dancing classes for him (Matt Leinart took that as a Senior). There really are no questions about his physical ability to play or the mental side of things.
There is a downside to Ponder. First, injuries. He didn’t miss a game in 2008. He then missed 4 games as a Junior. He missed 2 games as a Senior and was knocked out of the bowl game early on with a concussion. The injury from his Junior year was a serious shoulder separation that required surgery. And it was on his throwing arm. He had an elbow injury that bothered him in 2010. NFL teams will examine him very thoroughly to make sure they are comfortable with him. Can he handle the beating that QBs take in the NFL? Ponder is also a highly inconsistent player. Let’s just talk about some games from this past season:
vs Oklahoma … 11-28-113 with 2 INTs
vs UNC ……….. 24-34-264 with 3 TDs, 0 INTs
vs Boston Coll.. 19-31-170 with 2 TDs, 3 INTs
The initial reaction is to say that struggling vs OU isn’t a big deal. Good defense. Not this year. OU was 53rd in Total Defense and 51st in Pass Defense. BC was 13th in Total Defense, but only 76th in Pass Defense. Neither unit was elite. Put on the game tape and you don’t see anything crazy from them. Ponder just struggled. He was really bad against BC. He threw one pick-six and had another called back by penalty. They were bad passes/decisions.
The UNC game showed him at his best. He threw the ball well and the offense was efficient. FSU lost the game, but it wasn’t because of the offense. They put up 35 points. The PK missed 2 FGs, including one at the end of the game. Ponder played really well and looked like a star QB. Ponder played well in the Senior Bowl (MVP). He did well at the Combine. You could see his talent and potential. You start thinking that maybe he’s going to be a great value pick. 1st round physical skills, but without having to spend a 1st round pick.
Ponder is at his best running a short, controlled passing game. He gets the ball out pretty quickly and has good accuracy. He can throw on the move and has excellent mobility. Ponder would fit very well with a team running the West Coast offense. His vertical passing needs work.
While there certainly is a lot to like about Ponder I don’t think you can ignore his injuries and inconsistency. The lack of good QB prospects means he will get over-drafted, probably in the 2nd round. Personally, I’m not sure that he can be a good starter in the NFL. There is just nothing compelling about Ponder. He was never a great player at FSU. He’s not a passer that wows you with some of the throws he makes. He never was a guy that carried the team on his back and got them to overachieve. I do think he could be a good backup, based on his smarts and athleticism. Ponder may very well become a good starter. I’m just not willing to bet on it, with a 1st or 2nd round pick. I have no problem with a team using a mid-round pick on him.
If Ponder checks out medically, he could go in the very early 2nd. You wonder if some team will reach and make a play for him in the late 1st. I don’t think that would be wise, but teams have a habit of falling in love with some prospects. If Buffalo doesn’t take Newton or Gabbert in the 1st I could see them going for Ponder. He has the athleticism that Coach Chan Gailey seems to want and reminds me a bit of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the incumbent starter for the Bills.