Ponder has justified Minnesota taking him with the 12th overall pick.
As it stands right now, the Minnesota Vikings have the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. With four weeks of football left, it's hard to imagine the Vikings picking outside the top five.
The 2010 season showed that the Vikings had some glaring holes all over the place.
The 2011 season has shown the Vikings need help almost everywhere.
See the trend here?
With the offensive line performing poorly and the secondary becoming invisible over the course of the season, it is clear that these two issues need to be fixed quickly. There's always free agency, but the Vikings do not have a lot of room to work with.
They could kiss Steve Hutchinson goodbye after a mediocre year and relieve themselves of close to $8 million against the cap. They could also release struggling cornerback Cedric Griffin who is due approximately $5.5 million in 2012.
The Vikings will also watch Donovan McNabb's $7 million, E.J. Henderson's $7 million, Anthony Herrera's $3 million, Jim Kleinsasser's $3 million, and Greg Camarillo's $2 million among other come off their books. That's roughly $22 million for those players alone.
In other words, the Vikings will have some money to spend in free agency, but not a lot if Hutchinson and Griffin stay with the team.
That leaves the draft for the Vikings to improve their roster. Let's examine some ways they can improve with their first round selection.
(Salary numbers courtesy of www.spotrac.com)
There are going to be a lot of teams that will be looking for a quarterback in 2012. Miami, Washington, Seattle, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and maybe even Cleveland and Arizona all need quarterbacks. The Vikings could use this to their advantage to gain a few more picks to rebuild.
There are four quarterbacks who appear to be locks in the first round if they all declare. They are Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, and Landry Jones. Teams could be willing to give up a lot to acquire the quarterback they like.
The Vikings could move down just a few spots or all the way down into the second half of the first round.
We'll look at who the Vikings could draft if they stay where they are at right now as well as if they trade back.
Kalil is still undecided to whether or not he will enter the 2012 draft.
Is Kalil entering the draft or not? That is the question that the Vikings are surely trying to get answered quick.
Kalil is by far the best left tackle prospect. He has the size, speed, and agility that NFL teams love in their franchise left tackles. The only question is whether or not the Rams will take him just before the Vikings select. This is assuming that the Vikings end up with the No. 3 overall pick.
It's no secret that the Vikings need a new offensive line. Charlie Johnson has been less than average at left tackle and Phil Loadholt doesn't seem to be progressing at right tackle. The only decent offensive lineman the has had over the last few weeks has been center John Sullivan who was easily the weakest link going into the season.
After watching how NFL teams continuously beat up their franchise quarterback on a weekly basis, the Vikings need to protect their investment. It also wouldn't hurt to keep your $100 million running back healthy.
If Kalil is the pick, he is a franchise guy for years to come.
Risk Factor: VERY LOW
Can this guy really fix the Minnesota secondary?
The numbers are in and boy are they ugly. The Vikings only have six interceptions all season long. In the past seven games, they have zero. In those seven games, they have also allowed 1,808 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nearly 73% completions to opposing quarterbacks.
In one word, OUCH!
The more I think about it, the more I love this pick. The Vikings need a secondary and it's far easier to rebuild your offensive line in free agency than it is your secondary.
Morris Claiborne has been the definition of a shutdown cornerback. In his last two seasons, he has 83 tackles and 11 interceptions. Those are numbers that can really help a pass defense that is probably the worst in the NFL right now.
His is a tall cornerback who will add muscle to his 6'1" and 185 pound frame before next season. The Vikings would be silly to let his guy go by.
The Vikings need a cornerback badly. Out of the top 13 cornerbacks leading the league in interceptions before last week, only two were not first round picks. They were Ronde Barber (third round) and Kyle Arrington (undrafted). That's a crazy stat that clearly indicates something needs to be done early.
If Chris Cook can avoid legal troubles and manage to stay on the team, the Vikings could have a solid rotation of cornerbacks next season.
Risk Factor: LOW
Could Blackmon be the outside threat the Vikings need to succeed in the passing game?
Justin Blackmon is a physical freak.
The guy is touted as one of the best receiving prospects since Calvin Johnson. For the season, he has 113 receptions for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Outside of Percy Harvin, the Vikings don't really have a wide receiving threat.
Michael Jenkins proved to be reliable, but not really intimidating. Free agent pickup Devin Aromashodu has shown flashes of brilliance, but still does not scare defenses. The other receivers are merely placeholders at this point.
The free agent market for receivers is going to be rich this offseason, so the Vikings may choose to go that route.
Picking a wide receiver at No. 3 would be a stretch, but I think it would be a welcome addition to Ponder and Peterson.
Blackmon looks to be a sure-thing as long as he goes to a team that can utilize his skill set.
Risk Factor: LOW to MODERATE
The Vikings have the No. 3 pick right now, but they could draft down a few spots and still pick up some quality players. By a few spots, I mean falling no further than 10.
Trading down in this region would net the Vikings an additional second round pick or first round pick in next year's draft. If not, this is a wasted trade in my opinion.
The Vikings need the picks and getting an additional early second round pick can go a long ways in the rebuilding process.
In this situation, I see the Redskins (currently No. 6), Philadelphia (No. 9), or Dolphins (No. 10) moving up to grab a quarterback or wide receiver (Philadelphia) over other teams, but of course any team can make a trade to move up.
The NFL draft is a crazy game that is nearly impossible to predict, but his could really lead to an advantage for the Vikings.
In this group, I'm assuming the three previous players are already drafted.
Martin is another guy who could be a franchise left tackle for years.
Again, the Vikings need help on the offensive line. Having the guy that helped Andrew Luck stay on his feet and Toby Gerhart work his way to a Heisman nomination on your team can only be good news.
At 6'6" and 305 pounds, Martin definitely has the size to play the position. He is a little slower on his feet than Kalil, but is still a great player. He may be drafted already if this pick is further than No. 8, but Martin is a great prospect who will likely see a few Pro Bowls by the time he's ready to hang up his cleats.
He is also versatile enough to play right tackle, but I wouldn't put him inside. He is much more valuable as a tackle than a guard.
Risk Factor: LOW
Reiff may fall outside of the top 10, but there is a huge gap between Reiff and the next best tackle prospect. If the Vikings really want an upgrade at tackle first, they would be foolish to pass on all three of the tackles listed.
Reiff is a little older than Kalil or Martin, and some project him to be more of a right tackle than left tackle, but he is still a heck of a player.
The South Dakota native would be yet another solid pickup. While he may not be among the elite as his position, it would be difficult for him to be a complete bust.
Reiff is a smart and athletic lineman who is definitely more of a pass protector than a run-blocker, but Ponder needs all the help he can get at this point.
Risk Factor: MODERATE
This scenario is where the Vikings drop below the 10th pick, but no more than the 21st pick. If they drop too low, that could mean their 2012 season is going to be as bad as 2011.
The talent level of this draft is extremely top heavy. There are a lot of great players that will be drafted in the top 15, but after that, there is a consensus that the level starts to drop much more than other years.
In this scenario, the Vikings would get anywhere from an additional second and third round pick to a first in the 2013 draft and a second round pick in 2012 at minimum. Either way, the Vikings should get a lot in return here.
Teams like the Seahawks, Cardinals, or Raiders could make the plunge here.
A guy like Riley Reiff could be found in the early teens, but like I said before, I wouldn't risk it if the Vikings are serious about acquiring one of the top three tackles.
Is Jeffery really worth a first round pick?
To be honest, I'm a little confused by people who say Jeffery should go before Blackmon in this draft. Jeffery has more size at 6'4" and 225 pounds and definitely has the better hands, but the production is just not there this season.
You can make the argument that he doesn't have a great quarterback throwing to him, but other receivers still manage, don't they?
Jeffery has great leaping ability and is tough to play one-on-one, but can be taken out of games by the better defenses.
Still, Jeffery is going to be a first round pick and rightfully so. He makes every catch thrown his way and is great in the redzone. He is a downfield target that the Vikings need, especially after Sidney Rice left last offseason.
An accurate arm like Christian Ponder's can really help Jeffery thrive in the NFL.
Risk Factor: HIGH
Floyd is a guy who would probably be a top-10 pick had it not been for his off-field issues.
The guy has an amazing 95 catches on the year to go with 8 touchdowns.
He has reportedly ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash and his size make him a valuable weapon on offense. His 6'3" and 225 pound frame make him deadly against smaller cornerbacks.
Floyd is a guy that has impressed scouts all season long, but has turned many away with his apparent "attitude issues."
Regardless, the Vikings have done great in recent years taking guys who had questionable attitudes. A veteran locker room could be what Floyd needs.
His production speaks for itself. He would be a great threat to have opposite of Harvin.
Risk Factor: MODERATE
Playing on the same offensive line as Jonathan Martin has certainly helped, or is it the other way around?
The Vikings have watched as Hutchinson's ability has dwindled to mediocre and Anthony Herrera's injuries keep mounting. Sooner or later, the Vikings need to make a move on the inside.
DeCastro is the highest rated interior lineman going into the draft. At 6'5" and 315 pounds, he has more than enough size to compete against the great Detroit defensive line as well as the powerful 3-4 lineman the Packers throw at you.
DeCastro is definitely a road-grater who will open up some massive holes for Peterson, as long as Sullivan continues to improve that is.
DeCastro excels at pulling and has great lateral agility.
Risk Factor: LOW
Widely regarded as the second best cornerback, Kirkpatrick also fits the bill of a shutdown cornerback.
Standing at 6'3", he may struggle to play against the smaller, faster NFL receivers. However, he would fit up nicely against Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson.
Kirkpatick does not have the interception numbers you would normally like. He has zero on the season. However, if teams threw at him more, those numbers may increase a bit.
What Kirkpatrick does do well is strip the ball. He is a decent tackler who loves to swat at the ball, something Charles Woodson has made a career of.
Kirkpatrick has good speed and good strength, but his downfall may be inability to catch the ball.
Risk Factor: MODERATE
Dennard missed the first few games of the season with a leg injury, but that hasn't stopped him from becoming a physical force.
Dennard is not a real big cornerback, much like Antoine Winfield. However, Dennard is great in bump coverage and isn't afraid to make a tackle. I know the Vikings need a bigger cornerback, but Dennard is just too good to pass up at this point, especially with the secondary Minnesota has right now.
He has been shutting receivers down all season long and would be a steal if he makes it any further than the 18th overall pick.
If Dennard hadn't missed the first three games, he might have been a top ten pick. The guy is really good and someone who I wouldn't mind grabbing if the Vikings can get some value for their No. 3 pick to get him.
Risk Factor: MODERATE