Christian Ponder Profile
College: Florida State
Height, Weight: 6’2″, 230lbs.
40 Time: 4.65
Projected Round: 1-2
NFL Comparison: Colt McCoy
My Take: Every team that needs a quarterback is surely asking themselves one question: Is Christian Ponder the answer? Ponder was looked at as a potential first round pick coming into the year, but injuries set back his senior campaign and took his name off the radar. However, a post-season surge has put him in the position to possibly work his way into the back end of round one.
There is a reason that Ponder is not in the discussion to be the first quarterback off the board. He is not the 6’4″ prototype passer that scouts look for like Blaine Gabbert or Cam Newton. He’s just a different mold of quarterback, one with mobility and accuracy as opposed to size and a cannon arm. His arm strength is one of the concerns on his game. His arm just pales in comparison to the other QBs at the top of this class. That can be partially attributed to a separated throwing shoulder which he needed surgery on after his junior season and a right elbow injury which lingered throughout his senior year. While we’re talking about injuries, it should be mentioned that he also missed most of his team’s bowl game against South Carolina with a concussion. The point is that it’s risky to spend a high pick on a quarterback who has an injury history, especially one which has taken a toll on his throwing arm and shoulder.
One thing that is evident when watching Ponder play, though, is that he doesn’t need the biggest arm to play the way he does. He threw a lot of short timing passes and screens at FSU, which emphasize accuracy rather than arm strength. He didn’t throw it deep very frequently, but if he had a man open downfield he found him and got him the ball. Even when throwing it deep, he didn’t really throw the ball on a rope, the ball was placed as opposed to just zipping it in there. His deep completion to Leonard Hankerson in the Senior Bowl was really an underthrown ball which Hankerson made a great adjustment on. I don’t think he necessarily has as weak of an arm as Chad Pennington, but he certainly doesn’t have a strong arm, which some teams just cannot work around. He makes up for his sub-par arm with superior touch, though. A perfect example of this is the 4:10 mark of the first video below. He does a great job in putting the ball where only his receiver can get it. He also excels in accuracy between the numbers, where a ball tipped up in the air often ends up as an interception. Ponder is someone who is aware of his limitations and does a great job in playing to his strengths.
Speaking of strengths, Ponder also possesses very good mobility. He’s not the dynamic runner that Cam Newton is, but when given the chance he’s able to tuck the ball and pick up a few yards or buy some time to allow his receivers to get open downfield. Florida State ran at least a half dozen QB draws or reads per game, so obviously he is someone who is just as comfortable running with the ball as he is throwing it. Ponder ran a 4.67 40 at the Combine, which is above average speed for a quarterback. Ponder fits nicely into the trend of getting a quarterback who can scramble when asked to like Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger. ?
Ponder really helped himself by winning the Senior Bowl MVP. He needed to gain back some momentum after losing so much over the past year or so, and that game seemed to turn him back in the right direction. Not every team will be crazy about Ponder, but as a Bills fan I can see why he would be a good fit for them or teams who run a West Coast offense. Besides the traits previously mentioned, it is apparent from watching him that he has great anticipation on his throws and he also is a very bright kid (3.7 GPA). Despite his injuries, Ponder’s toughness shouldn’t be questioned and he has the leadership you want in you quarterback. He was being talked about as a mid-round pick entering the draft process, but now he will almost certainly hear his name called on day two, unless a team falls in love with him so much that they feel they have to trade back up into the first round to get him. Truthfully, Ponder is a more polished quarterback who would be more well-prepared to start in Week 1 than Newton, but he just doesn’t have the freakish potential and athletic ability that Cam does, that’s why Cam gets all the buzz and Ponder is lumped in with the second tier of QBs. If Ponder can stay healthy, and that appears to be a fairly big if, he could be a very successful QB in the right system.
Additional Game Film/Highlights: