Thu Apr 28 09:21pm EDT
Pros: Extremely intelligent player who has the potential to process multiple reads quickly and decisively, Ponder has a great command of all underneath routes and can throw any pass up to 20 yards in the air with consistent precision. Does not lose accuracy on the move - can roll out and keep the reads where they need to be. Throws slants and crosses and other timing routes with excellent anticipation; he can hit a receiver in stride repeatedly on any short to intermediate route, and this may be his best attribute.
Great ability to improvise under pressure and he really showed this during Senior Bowl week; even when the pocket collapsed around him, Ponder could juke his way out of trouble and make the quick completion. No problem with his mechanics - Ponder has a compact delivery and a quick release. Excellent accuracy on downfield throws when he hits the distance. Displays escapability and agility on the quick quarterback draw out of shotgun.
Cons: Injuries to his right (throwing) shoulder and elbow are cause for concern and have seen Ponder's stock descend from the top of draft prospect lists before the 2010 season to the middle of the pack. Though he can read defenses, Ponder may struggle early on in the NFL due to his tendency to telegraph his first read. He will gamble too much when leaving the pocket - he absorbs major hits when he should slide and he occasionally tries to fit stick throws where he shouldn't, leading to a high number of interceptions. Deep ball is evident but not consistent; in an offense requiring a lot of vertical throws, Ponder could leave his receivers hanging. At the combine, people will be watching his deep throws very carefully.
What does he bring?: At the Senior Bowl and Combine, Ponder checked out medically, was the most consistent quarterback in the practices, and won the game's MVP award with a two-touchdown performance. He proved a lot there about the two primary concerns facing him - his injury history and supposedly weak arm. He'll never be mistaken for a rifle-armed quarterback, but any team looking to lead a West Coast offense could do a lot worse in the long term.
Is it the right pick? Well, it's interesting. I see it as a reach, but for any team looking to run a pure West Coast offense, Ponder is the best choice. His command of the complexities of the position will make him an asset to the team — as long as he stays healthy. Interesting that with all their defensive line needs, the Vikings left Robert Quinn(notes) and Nick Fairley(notes) on the board.
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