With the 2010 NFL season in the books, it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. Before the 2011 scouting combine begins on February 24, we'll be taking a closer look at the 40 draft-eligible players who may be the biggest difference-makers when all is said and done.
We continue our series with Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. The senior Seminole finished his collegiate career with 595 completions and 960 attempts with 6,866 passing yards, 49 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions in 34 games. He also ran for 480 yards and 10 touchdowns on 291 attempts.
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.
Conclusion: At the Senior Bowl, 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. A repeat performance on the field of Lucas Oil Stadium, where he'll be throwing the same routes as every other quarterback, could rocket him back into contention as one of 2011's top quarterback prospects. 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.
More Shutdown 40
#40 -- Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State | #39 - Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
| #38 - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor | #37 - Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas | #36 -- Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami | #35 -- Danny Watkins, OL, Baylor | #34 - Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State