The biggest Day 1 surprise of the 2011 NFL draft stands out head and shoulders above the rest. It's a huge gamble. If it doesn't pay off, they will be stuck in a rut for quite a while. If it does, the Super Bowl is not out of the question.
He had a ceiling of high first, but realistically would go in the second round to a quarterback-needy team. So when Christian Ponder's name was read out by the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at No. 12 to the Minnesota Vikings, hands up if you thought Leslie Frazier and Rick Spielman were bonkers?
Given the fan's reactions on NFL.com and ESPN.com, quite a lot of you. The pick was awarded an average of 6.5 by NFL.com's fans and graded "F" by ESPN users. Despite this, coach Leslie Frazier may have made the gutsiest call in the draft, with the rewards potentially plentiful.
It's been said many times before. You can not win in this league without a quarterback. Though the '00 Ravens and the '02 Buccaneers may prove wrong, just look at the last five Super Bowl winning quarterbacks:
Aaron Rodgers. Elite.
Drew Brees. Elite.
Ben Roethlisberger. Elite.
Eli Manning. Elite.
Peyton Manning. Guess what? Elite.
All but one of these quarterbacks were drafted in the first round, with Brees being the one exception, who was drafted in the second.
Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to compare Christian Ponder to Peyton Manning, that would be cruel. However, what I am trying to say is that you need to have that franchise quarterback to lead you to a Super Bowl. The Vikings were far from having one, with Joe Webb as the projected starting quarterback for the 2011 season.
Fair play to Joe Webb, he has a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on his resume. He also has yet to throw a touchdown pass to rival his three interceptions. It is crystal clear that Webb is not a starting quarterback in the NFL.
So the Vikings got their quarterback, but is 12 too high for Christian Ponder? Yes. But when you love a guy like the Vikings loved Ponder, you don't take the chance of taking him any later. Take in mind, Jacksonville had just traded up to take Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker had been taken four picks ago, you can't risk missing out on your player.
If you think you can take a franchise quarterback, don't hesitate to pull the trigger. The Vikings made no bones about the fact they need a quarterback. And now they have one.
Lost in all of this confusion and surprise is the fact that Christian Ponder is a good football player. He was the MVP of the Senior Bowl, he was a three-year starter at FSU and is coming from a pro-style offence. He should be ready for the NFL and won't need the time to adjust as other quarterbacks might.
If the Vikings choose to go out and get a veteran signal caller, he can wait and learn. If not, he can step in Week 1 at San Diego.
Remember, this is a division with Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford. All three are first-round quarterbacks. All three have Pro Bowl potential. All three are young. That means they will be challenging for a long time. If the Vikings didn't get a franchise quarterback, they would be on a slippery slope which would not end nicely.
Finally, look at Christian Ponder's supporting cast at Minnesota. Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are all Pro Bowlers, and Visanthe Shiancoe isn't too shabby either.
Put in Bill Musgrave, a former quarterback coach and great developer, as the offensive co-ordinator in his new West Coast offence and you have yourself a good looking offence.
In what many believe to be the toughest division in football, all four teams now have franchise leaders and playoff potential. Without further ado, let battle commence.