The Vikings surprised many by taking Florida State QB Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the first round, much to the dismay of many area fans who were expecting a sexier choice. But note that Ponder might have the maturity, intelligence and skill set to be a Week One starter in Bill Musgrave's offense. Stress on the might, though — the team still could acquire a veteran to bridge the gap until Ponder is ready. For now, check out what PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki wrote about Ponder in his 2011 Draft Preview book:
Notes: Father, David, was an FSU defensive lineman (1980-83). Redshirted in 2006 (Jimbo Fisher took over as FSU's offensive coordinator following the season). Debuted in '07, seeing action in just one game (Virginia Tech) and completing 8-of-18 pass attempts (44.4 percent) for 105 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Took over in '08 when he started all 13 games and was the team's offensive MVP after passing 177-318-2,006-14-13 (55.7) with 119 rushes for 423 yards (3.6-yard average) and four touchdowns. Made nine starts in '09, tossing 227-330-2,717-14-7 (68.8) before suffering a Grade-3 separation of his right (throwing) shoulder against Clemson and undergoing season-ending surgery. Started all 12 games played in '10 and managed 184-299-2,044-20-8 (61.5) despite incurring a triceps contusion against Oklahoma and aggravating it against BYU; suffering a ruptured right bursa sac against Boston College (drained after Florida and underwent two procedures in December); and sustaining a concussion in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Two-time elected team captain. Earned his undergraduate degree in 2½ years. Named Senior Bowl MVP. Had a 22-13 career starting record. Earned MBA degree in Spring '10.
Positives: Extremely tough-minded and intelligent with terrific intangibles. Strong drive and determination. Will battle through injuries and play through pain. Sells play-action hard. Gets rid of the ball quickly with good timing. Moves well outside the pocket and can extend plays with his feet. Has a gamer mentality with the moxie and grit to command a huddle and win respect in the locker room. Shrugs off adversity, responds well in pressure situations and performed well at the Senior Bowl. Has a confident, composed on-field temperament and can rally a team from behind. Very natural leader.
Negatives: Throwing elbow must be evaluated carefully - arm strength was limited prior to the injury, and accuracy wanes down the field. Average decision maker - takes unnecessary risks trying to make plays and lacks the velocity to squeeze the ball into coverage. Makes some bad reads and head-scratching decisions. Puts a lot of arc on the ball and often underthrows deep receivers - cannot cut it loose through the wind. Struggles gauging his own arm and touch. Regressed following the promotion of Jimbo Fisher to head coach (and is best with a technical position coach). Could not finish the season the last two years because of durability issues.
Summary: An athletic, dink-and-dunk, West Coast passer who has been snake-bitten by injuries, Ponder has everything teams could want intangibly in a quarterback - intelligence, toughness, competitiveness and leadership qualities. However, his physical limitations will always leave teams wanting more and invite injury. Has the poise and confidence desired in a backup with potential to eventually become a good, not great, starter.
NFL projection: Top-50 pick.