Christian Ponder, QB, FSU – Shortnotes
I was curious about Florida State Quarterback Christian Ponder, so I put in 2.5 games of him (the BYU file I have only has about half the plays) over the weekend and checked him out.
Ponder has solid NFL size, with decent height (6’2-6’3) and solid bulk. He’s an above-average athlete who is capable of picking up first downs, and FSU even calls a few running plays for him every game. He’s quite comfortable running and can change directions well enough to escape tackles. He doesn’t often miss on his short passes, and his intermediate accuracy is (small sample size alert) outstanding. He is capable of making tough touch passes like an NFL QB. Ponder carries the ball very high when passing and has a very quick release. Willing to take a hit to complete a pass and play through pain, so toughness does not appear to be an issue. Excellent student on and off the field who understands the game well for a collegiate QB.
Ponder’s chances of becoming a good NFL QB hinge on whether or not his arm is strong enough. Ponder has a weak arm, but given his positive traits he might be able to overcome it. Deep balls have acceptable accuracy but Ponder’s tendency to float the deep pass allow defenders to make plays on the ball. Has to improve the speed of his progressions and his timing – too often he eyeballs his target (even if it’s his 2nd target) and waits for him to get open, tipping off the defense. Slow dropback is a little puzzling for such a good athlete, but he’s ahead of many prospects who work exclusively out of the shotgun. Needs to show a willingness to throw more passes away, especially on screens, as he will throw that pass no matter the coverage (Ponder didn’t throw too many dumb passes, but almost all of them came on screens that were obviously covered).
In the end, Ponder has the skillset of a WCO QB. The key for him will be demonstrating that he has enough of an arm to complete passes in smaller NFL windows. The Oklahoma game shows Ponder against a very athletic defense with lots of NFL talent, and the results were not pretty. His short passes were batted down more frequently and the risky screen passes that were batted down against WF were picked off against OU. If Ponder cannot muster enough zip on the ball to beat the defender, he will have a hard time adjusting to the NFL. Also showed a tendency to do too much against OU after the Sooners built a big lead – while valiant, Ponder just doesn’t have the arm to be making high-risk passes. Extensive injury history that has caused Ponder to miss games despite his evident toughness.
Tentative Grade: 3rd rounder, which due to his position probably means 2nd rounder.