Christian Ponder: Why the Jury Should Still Be out on Minnesota Vikings QB

Chris Schad@@crishadContributor IIISeptember 19, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 9: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings runs onto the field before the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 9, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

To be a young quarterback without a proven track record is an extremely difficult proposition in the National Football League. No matter how much a quarterback has accomplished during his collegiate career, it means nothing to their new employer or fans until he does it at the professional level.

This is the situation that Minnesota Vikings' highly-debated 2011 first-round pick, quarterback Christian Ponder, finds himself in as he enters year two of his NFL career.

The pressure on Ponder is more than warranted, and when "The Worm Burner" Donovan McNabb flopped like a fish, Ponder got his chance to start earlier than some expected.

As he finished his second game in the 2012 season, Viking fans are starting to question whether Ponder is the franchise quarterback that the team has been lacking since Fran Tarkenton retired.

There are several reasons why it's not fair to rush to a conclusion on Ponder's prospects as a franchise quarterback.

First, he has just 12 starts under his belt. Basically, Ponder is still learning on the job, one year after a promising-yet-frustrating 13-touchdown, 13-interception performance over 10 starts. As Ponder makes more starts, his skill set and decision making will begin to improve.

Yes, he was lauded as the most pro-ready quarterback when the Vikings selected him at 11th overall. However, Ponder needs to be on the field with his weapons to show what he can truly do.

That brings me to my second point: Ponder has not had a full supporting cast since taking over at starting quarterback. In 2011, Ponder's lone weapons were Percy Harvin and Adrian Peterson. After Peterson tore his ACL on Christmas Eve, Harvin was the last man standing.

With Peterson still recovering from his ACL injury, Ponder has had to hit Harvin early and often in quick routes that open Harvin up for yards-after-the-catch opportunities. So far, this strategy has given Ponder the highest completion percentage in the NFL at 75.8 percent. Still, seldom has he thrown a pass over twenty yards.

That's where the addition of OTA-superstar Jerome Simpson could make a huge difference not only for Ponder, but also the Vikings' offense as a whole.

Simpson's presence and his 4.3-speed could give the Vikings somebody to stretch the field and give Harvin and their two pass-catching tight ends, John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, room in the middle of the field to make more plays.

There is also the poise that Ponder has shown in 2012. In the first two games, Ponder has twice been able to lead the Vikings to clutch drives in the fourth quarter.

Whether it be the final regulation drive in the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1 or the game-tying touchdown drive against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2, Ponder has been able to get the Vikings in position to win games.

Once Ponder gets a field-stretching wide receiver—whether it be Simpson or not—and a full-strength Peterson, he could be the guy to lead the Vikings for years to come. It just may take a little extra time to see the results.