Christian Ponder fits in Seattle

Christian Ponder could earn a first round grade this year

It’s safe to say the new regime in Seattle want their quarterbacks to move. That doesn’t mean they’re looking for the next Michael Vick, rather they want someone that can shift in the pocket. It’s not necessarily about first downs, rather avoiding pressure and being able to execute a solid bootleg or play action. When the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst earlier this year, this was Pete Carroll’s review of his new quarterback:

“The fact that he is such a good athlete, that he does run so well, that he’s got very good feet and just generally good speed for the quarterback position that we think enhances the style of play that we intend to put out there. We felt good enough about that evaluation.” – Pete Carroll

Seattle’s Head Coach has a vision for this team. Alongside offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, Carroll clearly sees mobility at the quarterback position as something to value. We’re learning quite quickly what kind of scheme fits to look at – whether it’s zone blocking specialists on the offensive line or guys who can fit at the LEO rushing position on defense. As we look ahead to the return of college football next month, it might be worth keeping an eye on quarterbacks who can move.

It may be necessary to qualify first of all the likelihood that the Seahawks would draft a quarterback next year. You have to assume Whitehurst will get his chance during the lifespan of his initial two-year contract. It’s impossible to predict at this stage how the current quarterback conundrum will play out. However – the Seahawks will know they have to find a long term solution at quarterback sooner rather than later. That could be Whitehurst, but whilst the question mark remains the team cannot leave any stone unturned. I certainly don’t think the bold move to bring him to Seattle will restrict the team from drafting a quarterback early next year, even if he starts (and wins) in 2010.

If we’re looking at mobile quarterbacks in the 2011 draft class, people will immediately think of Jake Locker. That much is obvious. However, there is an alternative option in Christian Ponder. At 6’2″ and 220lbs, the Seminoles signal caller doesn’t have the pure size that Locker owns. He’s not the same kind of athlete and he won’t break off the kind of run Locker managed against Arizona last season. Part of the appeal with Jake Locker is that he is capable of the impossible. He can beat you in so many ways and teams will love that he’s a play maker. We’ve all seen the comparisons to John Elway. That’s not what you’re getting with Ponder. He might be a more accurate and accomplished passer though.

I first saw Ponder last year in FSU’s opening game against Miami last year. He looked polished and ended with a decent stat line of 294 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns. He added another rushing score and a further 28 yards. I made a point of watching Florida State on two further occasions, mainly so I could keep an eye on the country’s best guard prospect (and ideal ZBS fit) Rodney Hudson. Ponder continued to stand out behind that offensive line.

If the Seahawks want a quarterback who can maintain his poise under pressure, move away from trouble and still get the pass off, then Ponder can do those things. His footwork is very good and he’s nimble on his feet. This is best emphasised on the quarterback draws Ponder occasionally runs, which obviously he won’t be doing at the next level. However, it flashes how well he moves around and whilst he might not be an explosive athlete, he’s above average for his position.

A lot of mobile quarterbacks suffer when it comes to accuracy. Ponder is maybe the exception here because for the most part in 2009 he was deadly accurate. Against Georgia Tech’s solid defense, he completed 72% of his passes for 359 yards and five touchdowns. The following week on the road against UNC’s much vaunted defense, Ponder managed 395 yards for three scores and completed 83% of his passes. For the year in general he was throwing a solid 69% completion average and threw only one interception in his first seven games. The numbers matched the viewing – Ponder is an accurate passer.

Technique wise there’s lots to like. The 22-year-old has a nice high release point and gets the ball out quickly to his receiver. He can thread passes into tight windows and perhaps most importantly, throws a catch-able ball. You’re not looking at a huge arm, but at the same time it isn’t going to hold him back. He won’t lay it out like Ryan Mallett, but neither will Jake Locker. Ponder appears to throw equally well off his front and back foot and generates a similar amount of velocity with each. If you want intangibles, Ponder has a master’s degree in just his junior year and boasts a level of intelligence and work rate others will struggle to match.

Of course, we’ll learn more about Ponder’s credentials when the new season starts. The Seminoles travel to Oklahoma in week two which will be a good test, as will the trip to Miami on the 9th October. If Ponder can lead his team to a strong year and continue his improved statistics, he has a great opportunity to earn a first round grade in 2011. In Rodney Hudson (OG) and Christian Ponder (QB), there are two prospects who just ‘fit’ with what the Seahawks are trying to build. Keep an eye on Florida State next year.


  1. Patrick

    I like Ponder a lot and I definitely agree with your analysis. I think it’s very important to focus on what type of player Seattle could be looking for. I’ve seen many mock drafts that have Seattle taking Ryan Mallett. Of course that could be a possibility, but it’s hard to imagine we would draft a QB that isn’t very mobile. With that said, aside from Ponder, do any other QBs stand out to you? I have been focusing on Jerrod Johnson a lot. Another he doesn’t possess Ponder’s accuracy, but he has mobility AND height which are both two of the big features Pete Carroll seemed to like in Whitehurst. Do you think Johnson would be a decent fit? At this point, he may be available in Round 2 which would also give us the possibility of perhaps adding someone like Rodney Hudson in the 1st round.

    • Rob

      Johnson impressed me against Texas last year, but his mechanics leave a lot to be desired upon further review. It takes a long time for him to get the ball out and it’s kind of slingy like Vince Young. He’s working on improving, but I suspect he’ll be available in the 3-4 round range unless he makes big improvements to his action.

  2. CFraychineaud

    Hey Rob, I remember reading an article a while back that had certain measurements that were used with college quarterbacks that showed if they were more likely to be successful at the NFL level. Something along the lines of completion % over 60, started 41 games or something, and something else maybe improvement each year. With one of the main points of the study being that completion percentage was often the biggest indicator of a successful transition to playing at the NFL level. The windows often get smaller, the corners disrupt the pass routes more, and you have far less time to throw the ball.

    Would be nice if you could find that, and compare all of the QB’s coming out to that and maybe keep a running total for during the season that we could access somewhere on the site.

    Actually that would be a cool feature in general, a spreadsheet type thing that would have the updated stats for the season for top prospects on our radar. So we could compare the top WR’s, the top QB’s, and other players.

    • Rob

      An excellent suggestion and one I will look to incoporate into the blog as soon as possible.

  3. Guilherme

    I was remembering the Packers’ plan: Rodgers waited until his fourth season to start a game for Green Bay. Schneider came from GB, so could you imagine another Rodgers-like project in Seattle? Let Whitehurst play about three more years (if he proves capable in 2010 or 2011), trade/cut him and then throw a more mature Locker/Ponder/Choose-your-QB?

    • Rob

      You need a plan for sure and ideally when you draft a young quarterback you’d prefer not to start him too soon. A lot of teams these days are in a position where they simply have to start their expensive rookie QB’s. The Seahawks missed a chance to develop a long term successor to Hasselbeck. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered this year – is it time to move on from Hasselbeck? Is Whitehurst the man to replace him? Do you invest in a young QB as a priority regardless of the situation with Whitehurst or do you give him that shot without the pressure of an expensive draft pick breathing down his neck?

      Ideally though as you say Guilherme, you want to do what Green Bay did. Let your young guy sit, learn the playbook and develop behind a proven starter. The Seahawks haven’t got the chance to ride Brett Favre like the Packers did, but giving a rookie the chance to learn the ropes is often crucial for their long term success, as we’ve seen with Rodgers.

  4. dennamin

    By the time we draft in 2011, Hasselbecks contract will be up. If we have a Ist round QB we are paying plus Whitehurst, Losman and Hasselbeck. It looks to me that Hasselbeck’s performance would have to be close to the 2005 level to keep him. At the risk of being a master of the obvious, someone’s got to go.

    • Rob

      You’re absolutely right. Hasselbeck has been a fantastic part of this franchise for a long time, but he will have to perform very well this year to earn a new contract. It’s not a stretch to suggest this is very likely to be Matt’s final year on the team, but he will be 35-year-old in September so it’s not a major revelation. As this team reloads it will need to find a long term solution at quarterback.

  5. CFraychineaud

    Rob- I tried to send an e-mail to you at and got a delivery status notification (failure), do you have another e-mail address that we can send you info/content and links to?

    • Rob

      There’s currently an issue with the server which hosts the email address, apologies for that. You can also contact me at

  6. G-Hawk

    This is DEFINITELY what the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS need!!!!!!! QB CHRISTIAN PONDER is “THE MAN”! He can Throw (and bombs I might add) with Accuracy, he is Tough-just watch the clips of him when he plays-he will also throw blocks for his players (he has on numerous occasions). This QB can Scramble extremely well-He runs with i like to call:Moxie. He is a Leader. He is a Winner. He is also Extremely Intelligent scoring high on the Wonderlic Test in the upper 30s and already has a Bachelors AND Master’s Degree under his belt and is currently going for another Masters which he will get by the end of the school year. Ontop of him kicking ass on the field and in the classroom he also has Quality Character-you won’t get problems from this guy off the field. You can’t ask for more really-this is somebody that can put asses in the seats at Qwest Field and ontop of that-he’s someone who people can believe in and he’ll bring entused hope to this football team. I hope Uncle Pete Carroll reads this post!!! 2011 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS select Quarterback CHRISTIAN PONDER-FLORIDA STATE !

    • Rob

      G-Hawk, thanks for your thoughts on Ponder – a very positive review. A lot of what you say is very true in that he’s a very intelligent quarterback with good mobility – things Seattle will value in their scheme and as they rebuild the roster.

      I don’t necessarily agree that Ponder throws bombs, I think his arm strength is OK. It’s not something you’d point out in a sales pitch for drafting the guy, but you wouldn’t use it in a case not to draft him either. It’s ample. In 2010 he needs to show he can play a full season and he needs to lead his team. He is the hope for FSU under the new coaching regime in year one. It’ll be interesting to see how he copes with the pressure and how he performs. I like Christian Ponder as a prospect for the Seahawks and he’s one to watch this year.

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