Drafting Christian Ponder: The Day After.
For starters, it seems the general consensus from Tallahassee to the Twin Cities is that of surprise, shock and awe. As you’ve seen in some earlier entries, I spent my first round taking in the Peter Warrick-hosted NFL draft party at Tomahawk Sports Bar and Grill in Tallahassee. Even there, when Ponder’s name was first announced as the Vikings’ pick at No. 12, there was an initial hush. Minnesota was on people’s radar screens as a possible destination for Ponder, but really only if he slipped into the second round. Seeing needs at other positions, and knowing at least TCU’s Andy Dalton was still on the board, most in the bar seemed to dismiss the fact that Ponder would even be considered in that spot.
In fact, there was actually more buzz in the bar leading up to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ pick of Blaine Gabbert at 10, as some FSU fans believed Ponder would get to stay in north Florida and play right in rival Florida’s backyard. Still, as the video that we’ve had all over the site the last few hours shows, once it all sunk in, the folks at Tomahawk began a Warchant Chop in celebration of their now departed hero and his future in Minnesota.
One patron I talked to, a Tallahassee native and longtime Seminoles supporter, said he felt bad he’d have to root against Ponder now. He wasn’t expecting to have to.
He’s a Green Bay Packers fan. (for those living underneath a rock the size of a massive NFL shield, the Vikings and Packers are like the Seminoles and Gators. … They don’t like each other.)
On television, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay was puzzled by the Vikings’ pick. He called it “a reach.” In his eyes, Ponder had long been a second-round, late-30 to mid-40s overall pick. When it came to Ponder’s arm strength and pocket presence, McShay wasn’t as wowed as he was by some of the other names on the draft board: i.e. Cam Newton, Gabbert, Jake Locker and Andy Dalton.
Part of the reason Minnesota felt it had to pick up Ponder when it did was because of the necessity of a quarterback. Brett Favre’s future, per usual, remains uncertain, but perhaps more than ever, the chances he actually is retiring are quite strong. Meaning, without Favre, the Vikings are mostly left in the unsure hands of Joe Webb, a young signal-caller the fan base isn’t thrilled about. And (free agency pending), Tavaris Jackson, another player fans aren’t excited about and one management seems pleased to do away with.
So, in order to bolster their QB ranks, the Vikings felt they had to act. And once quarterbacks started toppling in the draft — four, including Ponder, went in the first 12 picks — they had to get in while the getting was good. Chances are, they would have preferred to wait until the second round to get a player like Ponder or a Colin Kaepernick (Nevada). But teams ahead of them were going offense early in the first round.
The move reeked of desperation, NFL.com’s Vic Carucci said. In his eyes, the move of getting Ponder at No. 12 is a move that could come back to haunt the Vikings. As you’ll read in his post, Carucci said Ponder was seen mainly as a good developmental type quarterback. One who could be weaned into a system and asked to take it over in a matter of seasons, a la Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Still, with free agency and trades looming (once the NFL’s lockout officially ends), there is the potential that Minnesota could pick up a veteran like a Donovan McNabb and use Ponder as his understudy. In that scenario, it could actually be conceivable that Ponder started games this fall.
In the Minnesota papers, the Ponder pickup has been shredded.
The Pioneer Press’ Tom Powers writes the Vikings “could’ve, should’ve waited to pick a quarterback.” The way he saw it, and the way those in Minneapolis were reading the draft, defensive back Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) was slated to be the Vikings’ first-round pick. A solid, good-tackling DB who can cover receivers, Amukamara would have helped shore up problems in the secondary that plagued Minnesota last season.
Don’t believe people in Minnesota were shocked to hear Ponder’s name instead of Prince’s? Just read this from Powers’ column:
But the selection of Ponder caught everyone by surprise and sort of sent the mood spiraling. In the field house there was a gasp, followed by a very short riot. Fortunately, everyone went back to drinking beer rather quickly. When (vice president of player personnel Rick) Spielman showed up to address the peanut gallery, he was subject to a bit of heckling. But at least they didn’t boo him like they used to boo Childress.
Short riot? Thank goodness I was in friendly Tallahassee.
OK, you get the picture. People in Minnesota didn’t like the pick because it was early. They’re scared Ponder is fragile because of the injuries he had at FSU … yada, yada, yada.
Well, not everyone is panicking. Although most of the Vikings’ fan message boards feature bandwagon-jumping type posts, here are a couple that may make Seminoles fans smile. This poster feels Ponder is better than any other quarterback on the Vikings’ roster now. Before the draft, some felt FSU offensive guard/center Rodney Hudson was going to don purple and gold (it still could happen. Hudson’s still on the board). As of 7 a.m. Friday, Vikings fans were split 24 percent to 24 percent over whether they were completely upset about the pick or felt good about it. (The majority of the comments indicate more were upset than may have voted in this poll). And finally, some smart Vikings fans are thinking like I am and wondering which veteran QBs the Vikings could land to help train Ponder.
Nick’s Analysis: Last night I was definitely one of the fans believing this was a HUGE reach. After thinking it over it may still have been early but I understand the thought process is taking him. If Ponder, Mallet, or Dalton wasn’t available to us in the second rounder we would have been screwed. Ponder can be groomed to be a great QB but I think it’s extremely important that he doesn’t start day one. Bring in a vetran and let him get mentored for a season. If the Vikings happen to get knocked out of the playoff scene early in the season then and only then should we consider using Ponder this season. The 2012 season is when we should start seeing what Ponder has to offer to the Vikings organization.