When discussing voids that need to be filled by the Minnesota Vikings heading into the 2011 season, the first and most obvious one that comes to mind is a starting quarterback. With their top pick in the NFL draft, the Vikings looked to fill that need by selecting with the 12th pick in the first round, Christian Ponder, a 6'2" quarterback out of Florida State.
Easily their most critical and controversial selection, Ponder was a pick that was both bashed and praised by critics when chosen by Minnesota. Some experts believe the Vikings reached very early for someone that was considered second-round talent when they selected Ponder, while others, including head coach Leslie Frazier, fully supported the decision by the Minnesota Vikings. Frazier even went as far as comparing Ponder to some of the recent rookie quarterback greats quoted saying, "We've got our Matt Ryan, we've got our Flacco, we've got our Sanchez right here."
With the only other potential starter at quarterback currently on the Vikings depth chart being inexperienced second-year quarterback Joe Webb, there is a great chance that Ponder will get the starting nod, unless of course the Vikings look to free agency for a veteran quarterback to fill the void for time being.
So what are the pros and cons of Ponder and how will he fit in with the Vikings?
In college, Ponder was a player who was known for his accurate arm, footwork and agility with ability to scramble in the pocket or run for the first down marker if necessary. However, Ponder's legs sometimes got him in trouble when he became too aggressive, making himself vulnerable to injuries. In fact, Ponder's injuries, which included a separated shoulder, an elbow injury and a concussion, were one of the biggest knocks on him entering the draft.
Originally considered first-round talent, Ponder's draft stock dropped during his senior season due to an elbow injury that plagued him most of the year, followed by a concussion suffered while scrambling in the second quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which benched him for the remainder of the game.
Despite the tumultuous year, Ponder was invited to the Senior Bowl and flourished, taking home MVP honors. Following the Senior Bowl, Ponder continued to shine at the NFL Combine, where he displayed his impressive athleticism and accurate arm, and passed all MRI tests.
With fellow quarterbacks Cam Newton, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert already off the board, Ponder's pre-draft showing was enough to convince the Vikings' organization that he was their guy.
Having played in a pro-style system at FSU and highly praised for his intelligence and good football IQ, Minnesota hopes that Ponder's learning curve is a quick one. Known for being a hard worker and a great leader while at Florida State, Ponder has continued to display these assets since being drafted to Minnesota, organizing workouts for Viking teammates while the lockout is in effect. Only time will tell if he is the fundamental piece Minnesota needs to begin rebuilding the organization with.