Archive for March, 2011

Wes Bunting’s insider info

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Wes Bunting from the NFP has posted this piece citing some interesting insider information. It’s worth a read. 

There’s definitely a lot of validity to what Bunting is reporting and I wanted to look at three claims in particular. 

“Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard is the one guy who scouts seem to try to be keeping under the radar, as he’s quietly moving up draft boards. He had an impressive workout, showcases natural explosion off the snap and from what I’m hearing NFL teams aren’t real concerned with his character.” 

I’ve been projecting Sheard as a round one pick since February 23rd – when I touted him as an option for the Seahawks at #25. When you watch tape of Sheard it’s not difficult to see why he’s very much an option for teams perhaps even earlier than Seattle’s pick. He’s got a good combination of size and speed, he’s a capable edge rusher and he holds up well against the run. His performance at the combine (including a 4.6 forty yard dash) will only boost his stock. 

If you’re looking for a surprise riser on April 28th, it sounds like Sheard is one to keep an eye on. Josh Liskiewitz said as much recently for Scout.com.

“Talked with a scout the other day who said he thinks Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett is a lock for round one. However, at the same time he said he would take Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick any day in the second round over using a first on Mallett.”

 Bunting has been one of Mallett’s biggest critics, ranking him fifth amongst quarterbacks. A lot of people are down on Mallett and some have (unfairly in my opinion) graded him as low as the third round. For a long time I had the Arkansas QB falling into the early second round, but I think he did enough overall at the combine to convince at least one team he’s worthy of a first round pick. Miami and Jacksonville have to be considered at #15 and #16. We can’t rule out Seattle at #25, or teams moving up/down into that mid/late first region. 

But after a period where Mallett’s stock took an absolute pounding in the media, it seems like his stock may be back on the rise. The scout Bunting spoke to may prefer Kaepernick in round two, but it’ll only take one team to buy into Mallett’s talents – and whatever anyone says, he does have talent. 

“‘Mark Ingram is just too talented to fall out of the first round’ was a comment I got from one talent evaluator when his name was brought up. ‘Someone will either trade back in the first or take him over a need, but the guy is just too good to fall into round two.’” 

This is one of the toughest projections to make when trying to compile a mock draft. Ingram has undoubted quality but pairing him with a team isn’t easy. Some teams who we would logically see as comfortable at the position may have Ingram clearly at the top of their draft board. Buffalo believed CJ Spiller was too talented to pass last year, despite much greater needs on their roster. Denver spent the first of two round one picks in 2009 on Knowshon Moreno (one of the few picks I mocked correctly that year, but a surprise overall). Whether those moves were deemed worthy or not, there’s no reason why another team similarly won’t pull a slight shock by drafting Ingram early. 

He should go in the 10-22 range based on talent, but it may not necessarily be to a team who currently owns a pick in that range.

Sunday links

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Mike Mayock says Christian Ponder is a first round sleeper. Ponder is the trendy quarterback at the moment but personally I think he’s being hugely over rated. I wrote about this subject in more detail here.

Mayock also offers his top-16 prospects in this year’s class. I really don’t ‘get’ how Von Miller is being rated this high (2nd overall). Nobody had him graded that high during the 2010 college season and there was no great surprise when he didn’t declare for last years draft. I like Miller, but second best available player in this class?

Gil Brandt says running back Anthony Allen improved his stock at the Georgia Tech pro-day.

Brandt also passes on information that California defensive lineman Cameron Jordan was asked to drop into coverage and run some linebacker drills during his pro-day. Jordan weighs over 280lbs.

The Miami pro-day has been re-scheduled for March 25th after the original event had to be stopped early due to poor weather conditions.

For a full pro-day schedule click here. LSU will host their event on Monday.

Mike Sando wonders whether the lockout will exacerbate the quarterback situation in Seattle, with Matt Hasselbeck unsigned.

Brandon Adams has an interesting piece on Hasselbeck’s future and his performance in the playoff win over New Orleans.

Ryan Kerrigan and ten-yard splits

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

When I watched Purdue defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan, I didn’t see a LEO pass rusher on tape. He played in the 260lbs range in college and was a fun player to watch – relentless, maximum effort and big time production (32 sacks between 2008-10).

Even so, he never flashed a consistent burst off the line or pure edge speed. He looked like an effort guy playing with OLB size. The way he performed lent itself to the right end position in an orthodox 4-3, but not necessarily Seattle’s unorthodox LEO.

He added weight before the combine, showed up at nearly 270lbs and honestly – I didn’t expect a good forty time.  Then he ran an eye catching official 4.71, but has also been clocked in the late 4.6′s. You can’t ignore those numbers because according to the times, he’s not a great deal slower than more obvious LEO candidates like Brooks Reed, Robert Quinn and Jabal Sheard.

Scouts tend to pay more attention to the ten-yard split posted by defensive lineman, because essentially they aren’t going to be running forty yards very often in a game. Do they have a quick burst? Will they be able to get out of a stance and explode? The National Football Post had this article in 2009 on the subject:

“The 10-yard split is a vital time gauge for every position in the NFL, but it’s arguably more important for edge pass rushers than other positions. Pure pass-rushing specialists who rely on their first step to gain an advantage on offensive tackles need to display explosive first-step quickness out of the stance. Therefore, the timing of a pass rusher’s 10-yard split is an excellent indicator of how quickly he can explode off the ball and cover the ground needed to get after the quarterback.”

The article lists some of the faster ten-yard splits from the 2009 draft class, with Clay Matthews unsurprisingly listed at the top. What did surprise me was the time they gave – 1.49 seconds. I haven’t seen that time paired with Matthews before and I was under the impression he ran a 1.58. The article itself describes anything over 1.6 seconds as ‘average’, yet most of the 2011 class posted times in that range.

Indeed the general information for ten-yard splits appears inconsistent and tough to diagnose. In doing research for this piece I noted Ryan Kerrigan listed with a 1.61, a 1.64 and a 1.65. I’ve seen Brooks Reed credited with a 1.58 and a 1.62. Chris Long (Kerrigan is tentatively compared to Long) is given a 1.53 in 2009 by the NFP piece which seems a bit too quick.

Surely there has to be a better way of tracking all this information officially? It’d certainly be more helpful to judge these guys and compare.

Let’s give Kerrigan the benefit of the doubt and say he ran a 1.61. Do you buy into his potential based on the relentless approach and the college production? He’s not a slouch off the edge, but he’s certainly more effort than pure speed.

To see Kerrigan’s combine work out, click here.

Game tape vs Ohio State courtesy of the brilliant Aaron Aloysius:

Pat Kirwan on Ryan Mallett: Big risk, big reward

Friday, March 11th, 2011

One of the reasons I’ve tried to bring some perspective to Ryan Mallett’s draft stock is really only because not many other people appear willing to do so.

Pat Kirwan isn’t one of those people.

Most of you will be aware of Kirwan and his close ties to Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll. He recently had a chance to sit down with the Arkansas’ quarterback and it makes for interesting reading:

“The NFL is starving for quarterbacks. This is a throwing league, and good teams are averaging close to 40 pass attempts a game. Where are the rare signal callers talented enough to do what every offensive coordinator wants and every defensive coordinator hates? Few and far between. No one is perfect, but when it comes to the 2011 draft class you can’t deny that Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallet is an interesting candidate. Sure, he has some issues surrounding him that will cause some teams to back off. But when it comes to throwing the ball down the field, he might be the best of the bunch. I have had three separate opportunities to sit down with Mallett and dig a little deeper each time. And I have to tell you, he gets more intriguing each time. There’s risk, but there also could be a big reward.”

It’s a really good read for anyone who is prepared to acknowledge Mallett’s issues on and off the field, while also appreciating the positives that aren’t always discussed.

Friday morning draft links

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Will Brinson reports nine teams have organised a private work out with Auburn quarterback Cam Newton – including the Seahawks.

Mike Mayock runs down the prospects he grades in the late first round. With the Seahawks picking 25th overall, these are the guys Mayock expects to go in that range.

And here’s Mayock’s 17-24. He has Jake Locker at #20 and Cam Newton at #21.

Mayock and Charles Davis talk about the key pro-days that took place this week at Auburn and Alabama.

Rob Rang has news from the Miami pro-day which was cut short due to poor weather conditions.

Jimmy Smith’s stock took the jump I expected before the combine, but seems to have dropped again as reported character concerns linger in the background. Everything I saw from Smith in 2010 suggested he had elite potential. Here’s his combine work out.

Marvin Austin raised a few eye brows with his combine performance – here’s why.

Dan Kelly has a nice piece on the ‘Pete Carroll offense’. I’d recommend checking out Kelly’s blog, it’s new and definitely worth adding to your regular reading.

Another new Seahawks blog that has become a daily staple for me is Brandon Adams’ ’17 Power’. He follows up his recent piece on the Patriot’s much discussed draft policy with a look at how Bill Belichick would handle the Seahawks this off season.

Brian Baldinger has a top-ten mock draft. Gabe Carimi will not be a top ten pick.

Todd McShay has a few thoughts on Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft for ESPN:

Cameron Jordan – meet Jordan Cameron:

Four mid-range prospects to keep an eye on

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Sometimes I’m asked about small school prospects and potential sleepers in the mid-late round range. I don’t have access to tape from smaller schools, but I’d recommend following Matthew Elder on twitter for some really solid input on those players.

I tend to use the combine to see who catches the eye. It’s not ideal because I’d never let a combine performance dictate an opinion over tape, yet that’s essentially what I have to do with small school prospects. It is good, however, to see how these guys mark up against the top prospects at each position.

Edmond Gates (WR, Abilene Christian) really stood out to me. He ran a blazing 4.37 forty yard dash (best amongst receivers) and was one of the few people to take anything out of the catching drills showing strong hands. His stock is on the up – so much so that Mel Kiper has even touted the possibility that Gates will go in round two. I think this is unlikely because he’ll be a 25-year-old rookie who hasn’t got elite size (6-1, 192lbs), but with his deep speed it’ll only take one team to fall in love and put him in that higher bracket.

You can watch Gates’ combine work out by clicking here.

It’s been confirmed that the Seahawks met with the Gates during the combine, as well as another small school prospect – Appalachian State corner Mark LeGree.

Edmond Gates video #1

 

Edmond Gates video #2

Fresno State aren’t necessarily a small school, but they do produce some big-time talent. Ryan Mathews went in the top-15 last year after San Diego made a big move up the board and while there’s nobody going to repeat that in 2011, I’m still a big fan of DE/OLB Chris Carter.

At 6-2 and 248lbs his future may lie as a pure 4-3 OLB project, but if he could add some weight and maintain his speed then he’s a possible LEO down the line. Carter had eleven sacks as a senior, he’s a relentless prospect with excellent edge speed and ran a 4.62 at the combine – only bettered among defensive lineman by Texas’ Sam Acho.

The big issue with Carter will be that lack of size and holding up against the run. He won’t be able to play the LEO on the line of scrimmage at 248lbs because he’ll be a liability on rushing downs. He could be used as a project linebacker and specialist pass rusher, but that limits his stock in terms of which round you’d be willing to take him.

You can watch Carter’s combine work out by clicking here.

The video below not only shows why Carter is a sleeper pick next April, it also shows the limitations of Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi (#68) against the speed rush.

Chris Carter highlights

Buster Skrine (CB, Chattanooga) flashed some skills in Indianapolis and ran a 4.29 forty yard dash unofficially. He also had the best 20 & 60-yard shuttle and the most impressive three-cone. At 5-10 he’s on the cusp of what this team will look for in terms of height at corner but he could do with adding some weight (186lbs). Even so, you wouldn’t draft Skrine with the intention of starting him as a rookie.

You might give him some kick return duties as he’s shown real potential there particularly with that impressive straight line speed. He only has three career interceptions as a senior but he at least flashed some ball skills in the video below. With that speed and the potential to add some bulk, he could give some value to a team in the mid-late rounds.

You can watch Skrine’s combine work out by clicking here.

Buster Skrine highlights

One of my favorite prospects likely to go in the middle rounds is Connecticut running back Jordan Todman. He ran a 4.40 forty yard dash (third among RB’s) and was the Big East offensive player of the year with 16 touchdowns and 1695 yards. At 5-9 and 203lbs he doesn’t have the size to carry the load as much as he did for UConn, but he runs hard and at that speed he’s going to find a home in the NFL. The Seahawks may have bigger needs overall, but with the second pick in round four if you get the chance to draft a player who will probably stick like Todman, I think you make that move.

I could really see two things happening – either he’ll go earlier than expected (R2/3) or he will last until that fourth round range and in a few years we’ll wonder how that happened.

You can see Todman’s combine workout by clicking here.

Jordan Todman highlights

Thursday morning draft links

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Later today I’m going to look at four ‘under the radar’ prospects – a couple of guys from small schools and two others I think could be mid-round sleepers. Also don’t forget to check out the latest mock draft which you can discuss here.

Mike Mayock was at the Alabama pro-day and had strong praise for Mark Ingram and Marcell Dareus. Ingram runs a better shirtless forty yard dash than former Crimson Tide top-ten pick Andre Smith.

The NFL Network team grade Mark Ingram. It’s a mixed review really and while Ingram is clearly a talented player, he may last until the late first round.

Charles Davis and Michael Lombardi discuss who stood-out in the pro-days so far. Lombardi had strong words of support for Marcell Dareus, while Davis talked up Ryan Mallett. Included in the clip is an all-time classic – Tom Brady’s forty yard dash footage.

Bucky Brooks was at the Wisconsin pro-day, featuring JJ Watt and Gabe Carimi.

Charley Casserly offers a mock draft without Cam Newton in the top ten. The Panthers take Da’Quan Bowers first overall.

Jake Locker was also on set and heads to the chalk board to talk coverages with Trent Green.

Kendall Hunter ran in the 4.5′s during the Oklahoma State pro-day. It was a similar time to the one he clocked at the combine.

Arizona pass rusher Ricky Elmore talks draft to ESPN:

Updated mock draft: 9th March

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Mocking Calais Campbell to Seattle was a mistake in 2008, will lightning strike again?

Another week, another prospect at #25.

To see the latest projection click here or select ‘mock draft’ from the title bar.

Regular visitors to the blog will know how I treat these mocks – they’re a means to represent possibilities rather than seriously project what is going to happen on April 28th. Even in March so much can change, especially if a new CBA can be agreed this week and free agency does take place before the draft. Of course, that remains an almighty ‘if’.

Part of the mystery at #25 is also down to the fact we’re still relatively green when it comes to this new Seahawks front office. Tim Ruskell became very predictable during draft season because he had such a refined and specific idea of the prospects he wanted to select. We’re not even close to understanding Pete Carroll and John Schneider in the same way.

I made a huge error in judgement trying to mock the Seahawks last time they owned the #25 pick in 2008. I projected Miami defensive lineman Calais Campbell to Seattle, thinking he was a bit of a rough diamond the Seahawks could nurture. In reality he was a poor choice. He fell from a possible top-15 position due to inconsistent effort/production and having never played up to his potential as a senior. Ruskell drafted a defensive end – Lawrence Jackson – who made the most of what he had and over achieved at USC. It all seems obvious now.

I wonder in my latest mock if I’m making the same mistake, albeit with less understanding of the Carroll/Schneider blue print. The pick at #25 this week is Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas).

We’ve talked a lot about Mallett on this blog but this is the first time I’ve had him going to Seattle in a mock. I’ve been more positive than most about his off season but please don’t mistake this for anything other than perspective. Every issue that has been raised about Mallett is legitimate – whether it’s the character concerns, the lack of mobility or the footwork that will need repairing at the next level.

My main desire for perspective was down to a slight feeling of injustice for the guy. Not enough attention has been paid to the positives, because Mallett did make significant improvements during 2010. He isn’t a lost cause and there’s definitely a talented football player in that 6-7 frame. Faultess? Absolutely not. A write off? No way.

John Schneider was one of just two GM’s present at the Arkansas pro-day to watch Mallett throw. Does it mean anything? Not necessarily. It could just be due diligence, he may even be concentrating on another Arkansas player. Equally you can’t write off his presence at the same time. Maybe there is interest there? He didn’t attend the Auburn event (or the Cam Newton show) which took place on the same day.

Neither Schneider or Carroll appeared to attempt too many smoke screens before last year’s draft. Carroll gave interviews at Sam Bradford’s pro-day and it was common knowledge that the pair went bowling with Russell Okung after a trip to Texas (Earl Thomas). Neither travelled to Jimmy Clausen’s pro-day, but Jeremy Bates and Jedd Fisch conducted a three-hour work out with the Notre Dame quarterback immediately after the event.

Maybe it’s worth considering how early Seattle picked (#6 & #14) and the fact they had two first round choices. They possibly didn’t feel the need to play any mind games, having an idea how the first few picks would fall and who would likely be available. That luxury doesn’t exist in the late first round. Again – this is all just supposition.

Really it’s impossible to take too much out of this either way, but I wanted to represent the possibility in this mock. So why do I think it could be a mistake on my behalf a la Calais Campbell in 2008?

Pete Carroll has preached an ‘all-in’ mentality and an incurable enthusiasm for ‘the programme’. Does Mallett fit into that and more specifically, does Carroll effectively make him the face of his latest NFL excursion? I am not convinced the Seahawks Head Coach is willing to tie his success or failure in the NFL to Ryan Mallett.

Secondly, this doesn’t appear to be a great scheme fit. Carroll spoke about having mobility at the quarterback position in his end of season press conference. The team traded for Charlie Whitehurst – a mobile quarterback. JP Losman is no slouch and Nate Davis has plus-athleticism. These are all guys this regime has added to the team at various stages.

Mallett has a big arm – something else seemingly courted – but he has a real mobility issue emphasised by a 5.37 forty yard dash which was actually slower than a shirtless Andre Smith. Indeed Mallett’s main problems as a pro-prospect come down to poor footwork and inability to deal with pressure.

I’m not even convinced how much this team wants to make the big splash on a quarterback in round one. It’s something we’re going to learn over the next few years. I’m not suggesting they’d rule it out completely – whether considering an Andrew Luck early on or another Aaron Rodgers who falls into the 20′s. They might, however, choose other ways of finding a productive quarterback.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe players like Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer may be more tempting to Carroll. I don’t necessarily agree with such moves – I think Kolb is over rated and Palmer can’t be considered anything more than a stop-gap – but it would not surprise me at all if the Seahawks traded the #25 pick for either in preference of spending draft capital on Ryan Mallett. We’ll see what happens.

Either way I suspect the team will be pro-active in trying to secure the long term future at quarterback and even if the solution is an extension for Matt Hasselbeck, I think we’ll see some kind of addition during the off season either for competition or long term planning.

So I’m willing to admit this may be a poor selection at #25 but it’s also something I want to bring to the table. You can after all change an offensive game plan. It’s assumed Darrell Bevell will bring a more ‘west coast’ or Holmgren flavor to the offense, but I don’t agree with that. He’s worked much longer with Brad Childress and Andy Reid who both utilised down field threats, big armed quarterbacks and mobility. Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick aren’t Holmgren style QB’s yet that’s a system Bevell has been associated with. Minnesota drafted Tarvaris Jackson and Joe Webb and used a system more equated to Philly than Holmy.

But perhaps most crucially, they adapted when an ageing and much less mobile Brett Favre joined the team in 2009. You can make the point that ‘it’s Favre’, but they still adapted. There’s no reason why Seattle’s offense – which I still think will fit the desires of Pete Carroll rather than Bevell - cannot similarly adapt.

***NOTE***

Some people have complained that it’s not possible to comment directly on the mock draft page. Due to weekly updates, comments would quickly become out dated which is why I start these ‘discussion’ threads alongside every projection. I have added a link to this thread at the top of the mock draft page to make things easier.

Wednesday morning draft links

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Seahawks GM John Schneider attended the Arkansas pro-day, preusmably to watch Ryan Mallett.

Bucky Brooks was also at the Arkansas pro-day for the NFL Network. Brooks says Mallett had a ‘phenomenal’ work out throwing the ball, which isn’t really a surprise. A 5.37 forty yard dash equally wasn’t that surprising, but it was maybe worse than some were expecting (a shirtless Andre Smith ran in the 5.2′s). It’s important to remember though, Tom Brady also ran a +5.2 forty.

Mike Mayock was at the Auburn pro-day to watch Cam Newton and leaves us with this thought, “You either buy in or you don’t.” Mayock has both Newton and Gabbert going as top-ten picks, although I suspect his own personal grades may be slightly different (particularly on Newton, he seems quite high on Gabbert).

Mayock and the NFL Network team also have a report on Nick Fairley’s performance at the Tigers’ pro-day. Nice red outfit, Nick.

Michael Lombardi has an updated mock draft. It’s only a top ten projection, but there’s some very logical picks particularly in the top-six.

Matthew Fairburn at Mocking the Draft passes on a scout’s not-so-positive view of Texas A&M’s Von Miller. I have to say, I’m a little surprised Von Miller’s stock appears to be so entrenched in the top-10. I still see him strictly as a project 4-3 OLB but understand why some 3-4 teams would entertain drafting him as a pass rusher. I think it’d be a gamble to take him in the top ten.

Brandon Adams has a great piece at 17 Power that breaks down New England’s recent draft history. Many people think the Patriots ‘trade down’ policy has worked wonders over the last few years, but Adams shows why that may be a misconception.

Walter Cherepinsky offers an updated mock draft. The Seahawks take Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith with the #25 pick.

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have another podcast available courtesy of ESPN. Kiper says he’d be comfortable drafting Ryan Mallett at #25 and suggests he’d be the most talented second round quarterback he’d ever scouted if he slips out of the top-32.

Kiper also updates his mock draft with the Seahawks taking Jake Locker with the 25th overall pick. After publishing his first mock, he touted sources suggesting the Seattle brain trust preferred Mallett over Locker. In this scenario, the Seahawks take the Washington QB with Mallett still on the board.

Patrick Peterson speaks to ESPN about the combine and next April’s draft:

Christian Ponder: the anti-hype piece

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Ponder has had three surgeries in the last 15 months

The Christian Ponder hype machine has gone into overdrive.

This is a prospect who watched his stock sink during the 2010 season. A collection of high profile errors, a meltdown performance in Oklahoma and a series of injury problems saw a potential first or second round pick dropping down the board.

So why, over a month before the draft, is the Florida State quarterback suddenly a hot topic?

Wes Bunting at the NFP ranks Ponder as the #1 quarterback in this class. I cannot agree with that assessment. Even with all the criticisms surrounding Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Mallett and even Jake Locker there is still a clear gulf in quality between that quartet and the rest of this QB class.

Bunting often likes to think outside of the box and he should be applauded for that. However, he had eventual 6th round pick Jonathan Dwyer as his top running back last year and I probably disagree with his grading of Ponder even more than I disagreed with his judgement on the 2010 running back’s.

ESPN’s John Clayton says the Seahawks should draft Ponder before Jake Locker and has been talking up the possibility of the former Seminole going #25 overall.

Evan Silva has Ponder going 16th overall to Jacksonville in his updated mock draft.

Rob Rang at NFL Draft Scout suggests Ponder could be among five quarterbacks selected in round one. He previously had Ponder as high as a top-15 pick in an early mock draft during the 2010 college season, but dropped him out of the first round by the end of the year. Rang says team’s left the combine impressed with the quarterback but stresses the importance of the results of his medical exam.

Ignore every other issue with Ponder (and there are many) and let’s just focus on the injury concerns for a moment. He’s had three surgeries in the last 15 months (two to his elbow and one to his shoulder). This is a guy that never had the strongest throwing arm anyway and now you put multiple surgeries into the mix? That alone should set off alarm bells in war rooms across the NFL.

People may want to use the example of Sam Bradford, who suffered what should’ve been a season-ending shoulder injury during Oklahoma’s 2009 season opener. He tried to return against Texas a few weeks later and didn’t last until half-time. Season over.

He was still drafted first overall and had no injury issues during his rookie season. Even so, Bradford added substantial muscle to his frame during his time out and went from skinny to pro-QB in the space of a few months. There’s no doubt that the extra weight has increased Bradford’s durability so far and he’s shown no side effects on the field. 

Ponder’s frame is maxed out (6-3, 227lbs) and he won’t be able to add bulk to improve his durability. Despite suffering persistent injuries he was still able to make eleven meaningful contributions during the 2010 season. The results? He threw for more than 200 yards just three times, decreased his completion percentage by around 7% and saw his YPA drop from 8.23 to 6.84. He tried to do more with his legs and ended up being sacked 23 times and after a vanilla four-touchdown performance at home to Samford, threw just 16 touchdowns compared to eight picks.

Florida State still made the ACC Championship game, but without Ponder in the line-up E.J. Manuel led the Seminoles to victories over Clemson and South Carolina (Chick-fil-A Bowl) and only a narrow shoot-out defeat to Virginia Tech.

You could say this is all well and good – if he is now fully recovered from injuries is it a false concern?

This brings me to perhaps the most over hyped part of Ponder’s game. Time and time again you’ll hear about Ponder’s intelligence. Listen to any of his interviews and you’ll soon notice that he’s an articulate, clever individual. It’s a common misconception that this actually translates onto the field, because it does not. He makes bad decisions. He’s not accurate.

When you’re grading a quarterback in round one, if they haven’t got extreme physical talent they at least need to be able to keep the chains moving and be at least above average for accuracy. There is no evidence that Ponder’s football IQ compensates for a weak arm and the injuries.

Throw on the tape during Florida State’s car crash 47-17 defeat at Oklahoma (Ponder: 11/28, 113 yards, 0 TD’s, 2 INT’s) and tell me that’s a first round decision maker. Move on to the Boston College game, where Ponder barely warranted a grade at all. How about the North Carolina State encounter, when having put the team in position to win with a late fourth quarter drive – Ponder’s fumble costs FSU the game.

Here’s what I wrote after the victory over BC:

“Physically he’s left wanting and his decision making isn’t great either. Against BC he consistently failed to put velocity on any of his throws – short, medium or long range. A lofted deep ball down the right against single coverage? Floats it up for grabs. He hasn’t got a big arm so that’s understandable to an extent, if not what you necessarily want to see. But if you haven’t got the physical tools to be a difference maker then you have to be accurate and make good decisions. You simply cannot – like Ponder did today – toss little floaty slants over and over again that are just begging to be intercepted. It was bad enough after Ponder’s second interception – a careless short slant with the CB well placed to make the pick. He never learnt from that mistake and just kept throwing it out there with a definite ‘come and get me’ plea to any watching defensive back. A second pick was inevitable – it happened eventually, this time for a touchdown.

“There are fundemental errors when Ponder throws his short slant. One – he doesn’t get it out of his hands with anywhere near enough juice. It needs to be a quick snap to the receiver, not a loose floated delivery two yards in front of the LOS because it will nearly always lead to the play being broken up or at worst – an interception return. Secondly – he needs to make a better judgement of the coverage and try to understand when to call off that throw and look for another target. A number of times he’d take a three step drop and without even looking elsewhere fire to his hot read. The result? His second interception and numerous other busted plays.

“The ball not only doesn’t come out with enough velocity, it’s often a loose spiral too. The case in point – an easy throw down the right to one of his receivers who had done a good job settling in between two defensive backs. The throw comes out wobbling all over the place and forces the WR to bobble the ball as he catches it. His initial step is in the field of play, but because it’s such a difficult pass to grab he ends up juggling it and a solid first down in the red zone is a third down back near the 40. He also forces a lot of throws -as emphasised by the third pick, always sticking to one receiver and trying to fit into an ultra tight window despite the massive frame of Mark Herzlich blocking the way. It wasn’t an isolated incident, too often his throws were really forced.”

If you need a second opinion, let’s refer to a seperate report from Scouts Inc. I’ve picked out several key notes from the piece:

“Has a lot of room to improve as an overall decision maker. He telegraphs too many throws, especially on vertical routes. Struggles at times when his primary target is covered. He takes too many chances. Needs to learn when to call it quits and play for another down. Tries to force too many throws. Also has lapses in game management. Short accuracy is better than long accuracy. Deep ball will sail on occasion. Touch is only decent. Will miss within the strike zone on occasion and can do a better job of leading his receivers on certain routes near/outside the numbers (quick outs, flare routes, etc).”

I appreciate that Ponder performed well enough at the combine to impress several observers. I understand why an intelligent guy from a good school will get built up above his station. We also see quarterbacks get rated way above their stock – indeed last year was a perfect example. Jimmy Clausen? Top ten pick. Colt McCoy? Late first rounder. Dan LeFevour? Round two or three.

Clausen went in round two, McCoy in round three and LeFevour in round six.

Although McCoy and Ponder are very different prospects, I see some similarities between the two. Both were recovering from an injury that meant they had to leave their teams’ respective bowl games. Both received a certain degree of hype in March. Both suddenly re-appeared in first round mock drafts.

And like McCoy last year, I suspect a few people will be surprised when Christian Ponder is still available in round three and possibly later.