I watched Florida State’s defeat of Boston College last weekend and once again came away distinctly unimpressed by FSU quarterback Christian Ponder. He threw three picks, looked lost at times and for the fifth game out of six this season he failed to throw for more than 200 yards. He hasn’t got good arm strength, he isn’t that accurate and whilst mobile he’s certainly not the same level of athlete as Jake Locker or even Andrew Luck. Simply put, I just can’t place him on a NFL roster starting games at the next level. A solid backup? Perhaps. But I certainly feel he’s being over rated by those slating him for round one and right now, I wouldn’t take him in the first four rounds.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had this to say today:
There is clearly something wrong with Ponder. We don’t know whether it’s the lingering effects of an early-season triceps injury or something that has not been disclosed, but it’s hard to believe he has simply regressed to the point where he could become one of the Seminoles’ biggest liabilities.
The Eagles have a good defense and coach Frank Spaziani does a good job mixing up looks and confusing a quarterback’s reads, but three interceptions — and two other bad throws that were dropped by defenders — along with a fumble are unacceptable from a senior quarterback who is supposed to be at the top of his game.
Florida State was able to win despite Ponder’s miscues and he has half a season to turn things around, but he is far from a first-round lock and teams that would value him in a West Coast offense that emphasizes accuracy and good decisions were surely unimpressed. Ponder was not strong in either area against Boston College and he needs to shine in those areas in order to make up for a lack of ability to drive the ball down the field.
Assuming underclassmen Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallet enter the 2011 draft, they and Washington’s Jake Locker will clearly be the top three quarterbacks on the board. Ponder has a chance to play his way into the fourth spot but he has not helped his cause recently and needs to turn things around in a hurry.
Is an injury holding Ponder back? He certainly looked a lot better last year, especially against a UNC team still carrying a lot of it’s talented defensive prospects. However, you almost have to say if he is struggling he almost needs to stop playing to prevent further damage to his stock. Whilst some will appreciate the toughness of playing through the pain or not when 100%, this isn’t the kind of tape he wants scouts watching before the 2011 draft.
For the Seahawks to have a shot at drafting one of the ‘big two’ (although I have raised concerns with both Locker and Luck) without owning a top pick, they’ll need teams at the top of the draft to feel confident with alternatives. That could mean finding an answer via an existing veteran (trade of free agency) or settling for prospects in round two. Miami felt comfortable enough to pass on Matt Ryan in 2008 and take Jake Long first overall instead. They eventually drafted current starter Chad Henne in the second round and ran with Chad Pennington until he was ready to start. That year the second QB off the board was Joe Flacco who went 18th overall, despite a number of teams earlier in the draft having a prospective vacancy at quarterback.
So if you’re rooting for the Seahawks having a chance to draft Jake Locker or Andrew Luck next year, it might be worth hoping Christian Ponder, Ryan Mallett and Blaine Gabbert step up their performance.