Let me qualify the title a bit better – I wouldn’t draft Christian Ponder (QB, FSU) in the first four rounds. In the 5-7 range I’d feel comfortable bringing him in, letting him learn the ropes and one day maybe being a solid backup. However, forget any talk of him going in round one or two. It isn’t going to happen. His performance against Oklahoma wasn’t a one off, Ponder was truly horrendous against Boston College today. He was completely bailed out by FSU’s defense and running game in a 24-19 win.
He went 19/31 passing for 170 yards, two touchdowns and three picks. A fourth pick (returned for a TD) was called back for a defensive lineman having his big toe in the neutral zone. Ponder has only passed for more than 200 yards once this season – during a 31-0 blow out against 2-5 Wake Forest. That’s SIX games where he’s not put up 200. A 243 yard, 2 score game against Wake Forest is hardly an eye catcher either. He’s on pace for a tight 2034 yards for the season, which isn’t enough.
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.
There’s a lot of talk about Ponder’s athleticism, but he was a non factor in the running game and he’s not going to worry anyone in the NFL with his legs. He had -5 rushing yards from eight attempts and a long of nine yards. Ponder can move around a bit in the pocket, but that’s the extent of his abilities.
Neither physically great or accurate enough, it’s stunning to see some people still ranking him amongst the top forty picks for next year’s draft. Not happening.
I’ll have reaction to the other games on my weekend schedule by tomorrow after I’ve watched all of the tape, including thoughts on Anthony Castonzo (OT, Boston College) from this game.