Friday, April 29, 2011

Christian Ponder: Pros and Cons

As I wrote Thursday, the biggest thing I felt the Minnesota Vikings needed to do in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft was trust their board and pick the best available player.

You can't trust the ability to trade back, because you need a partner to do that.

(Actually, Vikings vice president Rick Spielman told the Fan Radio Network Friday that they called every team picking behind them in the first round, and no one was interested in moving into the 12th spot. So there's that.)

With no one moving up, the Vikings were stuck at No. 12. They had two choices. Either make a pick, or repeat the embarrassment of a few years ago, when they passed on their pick and had to get their selection in as other teams were running to the podium to get picks ahead of the Vikes.

The pick was made on time, and Minnesota chose Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. I tweeted earlier Thursday that I felt he was the No. 2 quarterback in the draft, and I still feel that way. I like his skill set and how it translates to the NFL a lot more than I like the skill set of Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, two guys picked ahead of Ponder.

That said, there is a downside to the decision by the Vikings, and it's fair to point that out. It's probably not fair to scream, boo, cry, or throw a chair in protest, but it's fair to say that you don't like the pick. I'm not sure I like the pick, even though I like the player.

As far as pros go, there's the idea that the Vikings had little choice. They could have drafted Nick Fairley or Nate Solder and solidified either the defensive or offensive lines, and not gotten a bad value. They could have gotten Prince Amukamara and added depth to the secondary. But it would have come at the price of likely not getting the needed quarterback of the future -- whether it be Ponder or Andy Dalton, a player the Vikings like.

The lack of a third-round pick would have made it virtually impossible for Minnesota to trade back into the first round without mortgaging much of this year's draft and/or part of next year's draft. That wasn't desirable for a team that needs help at as many positions as the Vikings do. If anything, Spielman probably needs to focus on moving down in the second round if he can, so he can re-acquire the third-rounder that some moron traded for Randy Moss.

I understand the fans' negativity, though. Ponder isn't a sexy pick, and it's hard to argue (Spielman intimated this on the radio more than once) that Ponder was in the Vikings' top 12 on their board. That alone makes this a less-than-great pick. The Vikings have too many needs to be reaching off their board for a quarterback. It's an undeniably important position, but Ponder doesn't help the Vikings much if he's flat on his back, and he doesn't help them much if he's constantly running for his life because Bryant McKinnie can't block anymore.

It also pigeonholes the Vikings a bit, in that they have to make a move for a veteran quarterback when free agency and trades begin, perhaps as soon as Monday. The options aren't great, but the Vikings can ill afford to start the season with Joe Webb, Rhett Bomar, and Ponder as their only quarterbacks, and it doesn't seem like anyone really thinks Brett Favre is walking through that door again.

Of course, with Webb and Ponder on the roster (along with the underwhelming Bomar), the door might just be open ...

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