Listen to four different people and you’ll hear four different opinions about Christian Ponder’s ability to play in the NFL. His arm strength has been described as “the area of most concern” and “really good.” His ability to read a defense has been described as a “legitimate concern” and “excellent.” I have watched enough Florida State games to form an opinion of my own about Ponder, and it’s positive.
The difference between healthy and injured Christian Ponder is very visible. Healthy Ponder is very accurate and able to dissect a defense with short passes with zip. He does not have a Jay Cutler, Byron Leftwich kind of arm, but his arm is plenty strong enough to make all the NFL throws.
Looking around the NFL, the ability to throw a ball 70 yards is not a prerequisite to be a Pro Bowl level quarterback. First and foremost, a quarterback needs to have the brain to comprehend the game around him and make the right decisions in a game. If the 2011 prospects were ranked in this regard, Ponder may be at the top of the list.
His ability to pick apart some of the nation’s most talented defenses is strong enough to warrant high interest from any team. So his accuracy is strong, his arm strength is strong enough and his ability to digest the game mentally is high. If there is anything that would concern me about drafting Ponder it’s his recent history of injuries.
In 2009, Ponder suffered a grade 3 separation in his throwing (right) shoulder. In 2010, he battled with an elbow injury that required two surgeries to repair. At the 2011 Senior Bowl in late January, Ponder said his arm was back to full health and he appeared to be right, winning the game’s MVP award. Whatever team drafts Ponder will be taking a risk that his arm is healthy and that it wont be a reoccurring problem during his professional career.
Effort is not something I’m worried about from Ponder. The play at the 2:58 mark on the first video below tells me all I need to know about Ponder’s competitiveness. His intelligence and work ethic off the field is worthy of admiration, as he earned a finance degree in two and a half years at Florida State with a GPA over 3.7.
The Jaguars are probably too high in the draft order to justify selecting him with their first round pick, but may be too late in the second round to have a chance at him. Trading down or trading up to get him is a move that I would be 100% behind, as I believe Ponder, if healthy, has as good a chance at becoming a franchise QB as any player in this year’s draft.