2011 NFL Draft: Is Christian Ponder a Better QB Prospect Than Jake Locker?
Plenty of NFL teams have quarterback questions to address and some are expected to do so in the draft. For all attention paid recently to Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton, there are other options that could very well turn into terrific pros.
Jake Locker has been near the top of most draft boards for almost two seasons now. Rightfully so with all of the attributes that he possesses. Christian isn't far behind by some considerations. Is Ponder perhaps a better draft prospect than Locker?
Here are five reasons why Ponder could be the better prospect and five reasons why he may not be. And of course, an answer to the question.
Ponder Is Better Than Locker In the Pocket
Ponder seems more confident than Locker in the pocket. He keeps his eyes down field and moves appropriately within his offensive line's shell.
In the NFL, it is much more difficult for quarterbacks to bail on a play and make a dash for it than it is in college. Comfort in the pocket is crucial to pro offenses.
Jake Locker Has Superior Arm Strength
Jake Locker was a standout baseball pitcher and his arm strength translated to football. He can make throws down the field to the hard-to-reach places on the field.
Ponder is reliable on shorter throws and does have a deep ball, but he's not on the same level as Locker. Few are. This is one area that NFL scouts seem to elevate about many others.
Ponder's Stats Show More Accuracy
Maybe it's partially by offensive design, but Christian Ponder has proven much more accurate as a college quarterback than Jake Locker.
Both have been full-time starters for nearly three seasons. Ponder sat his freshman year and Locker missed most of his sophomore year due to injury.
Ponder completed 62.1 percent of his passes in his three seasons and Locker completed 53.9 percent in his.
Locker Has Work With Less Talent
Locker played at Washington, which has undoubtedly less talent than Ponder's Florida State teams.
Despite playing for a school that hasn't attracted many top recruits in recent years, Locker was able to put up very good numbers and lead his teams to 16 wins. Seven of those came this season, including a bowl win over ranked Nebraska.
Ponder had plenty of success, but Florida State was considered disappointing in much of his time there.
Christian Ponder Is a Phenomenal Leader
Scouts and coaches rave about Ponder's leadership and love of football. Locker receives much of the same praise, but Ponder developed into a terrific general of the troops this season.
Leadership is a trait that turns talented athletes into championship players. Ponder possesses the confidence and wherewithal to be a leader. His growth in that area this season is encouraging.
Jake Locker Is Better Overall Athlete
Locker went to Washington as a dual-threat quarterback. He's spent his career transitioning into a pass-first quarterback with the ability to run when needed.
Locker's athleticism is beyond most quarterbacks in the 2011 draft class, including Ponder. Ponder has plenty of mobility himself, but Locker's speed and elusiveness outside of the pocket is rare.
Ponder Is More Prepared for Pro Offenses
While Locker has spent much of his career at Washington taking designed running plays in addition to passing plays, Ponder has been primarily a passer.
Ponder hasn't been asked to run the option or anything like it and has been used much more like a pro offense is designed to use a quarterback. Because of that, the transition for Ponder may be easier than that of Locker.
Locker Invites Challenges and Perseveres
Locker was the fourth rated dual-threat quarterback in the country coming out of high school and had plenty of scholarship offers from successful programs.
But Locker tasked himself with turning around a struggling Washington program. It's come with mixed results, but Locker is leaving Washington better off than how he found it.
That invitation of challenge and commitment to accomplishing his goals is a good omen for the challenge of becoming a successful pro quarterback for a possibly struggling team.
Ponder Improved Each Season While Locker Leveled Off
Ponder met some difficult times as a sophomore, throwing 14 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. As a junior, his touchdown-to-interception ratio improve to 2:1. In 2010, he threw 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
While Locker didn't regress dramatically in his senior year, his yards, completion percentage and touchdown passes were all down.
Ponder's improvement could be a sign of more potential growth.
Locker Is Very Coachable
Christian Ponder has shown no reason to believe that he isn't coachable; it's just that Locker has been provided with rare opportunities show his willingness to learn.
Locker has spent the last two seasons under a new offense than he spent his first three seasons (including his redshirt year). Washington changed to a pro style offense and Locker made the switch admirably.
Locker Is Still the Better Pro Prospect
Jake Locker is still the better prospect between he and Christian Ponder. He may be more of a raw talent, but his potential is sky-high.
Ponder is a very solid prospect, but Locker is widely considered to be elite. He may have been the first player taken in last year's draft had he forgone his final year of eligibility.
He won't go that high a year later, but he will be one of the first three or four quarterbacks drafted.