Vikings first-round scouting report: QB Christian Ponder, Florida State

Posted April 29, 2011 @ 5:43 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

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.