Showcases good anticipation, accuracy and touch on all levels of the field. Spins a really clean football and consistently is able to throw to open receivers both down the seam and outside the numbers. Exhibits a real rhythm in the short passing game as well, quickly setting his feet both from under center and from the gun, striding toward his target and accurately picking defenses apart. However, really struggled at times as a senior with his ability to find secondary targets and go through his progressions. Has taken his fair share of shots and seemed to get gun shy, causing him to drop his eye level quickly or stick on his initial read and force throws into coverage. Lacked great arm strength when asked to zip the football outside the numbers this year and when he is late with a throw, passes hang on him and he gives defensive backs plenty of time to jump his throws.
Showed good rhythm and anticipation skills as a junior, which allowed him to make all the throws, but wasn't nearly as impressive as a senior keeping his eyes down the field and working his progressions and struggled fitting the ball in tight areas. Displays a good understanding of the pass game and does a nice job quickly recognizing coverages and working his way one side of the field to another. However, needs to do a better job looking off safeties when attempting bucket throws down the field. His football has a tendency to hang on him a bit down the field, giving rangy defensive backs a chance to make a play on the throw. Also, when working his way back across the field on his progressions, he will occasionally throw blind into coverage. Nevertheless, the guy has come a long way since 2008 and he knows how to handle adversity, work through it and come out on the other side better because of it.
Impression: I had big expectations for him as a senior but his play has fallen off significantly as a senior. He suffered numerous injuries this past year which really took away from his arm strength and ability to make all the throws. However, did a nice job during the post season spinning the football, as his arm strength finally seemed all the way back from 2009. Is a guy who has battled through adversity his entire career and is someone I would not want to bet against."
Arm Strength: Doesn't own a Matthew Stafford-type howitzer, but has plenty of arm strength to make every NFL throw. Good zip on underneath routes; showcasing enough drive to push the ball through tight windows for the quick slant. Good timing and accuracy make up for a lack of a dominant arm for the deep-out. Effective deep-ball thrower; able to launch the ball 50-plus yards with velocity and trajectory.
Setup/Release: Quick setup and a compact, over-the-top delivery. Good footwork. Willing to take a hit to set his feet and step into his throw. Experienced under center and operating out of the shotgun. Passes have a tight spiral, making his throws easy for his wideouts to track and catch easily.
Reading Defenses: Some legitimate concerns in this area. Has to do a better job of looking off the defender, as he has a tendency to stare-down his primary target. Doesn't always feel the pressure coming when he makes his progressions, especially if his primary target is unexpectedly covered up. Made some critical mistakes late in games throughout his career, including several times in 2010.
On the Move: Mobile quarterback with the vision, agility and straight-line speed to escape the pocket and scramble for positive yardage. Can be too aggressive and leave himself vulnerable to absorbing big hits by electing not to slide. Has a good sense in the pocket. Willing to step up into the pocket or scramble wide, allowing defenders to rush by as he keeps his eyes downfield. Good body control to throw on the move, making him an effective dual threat out of the bootleg. Squares his shoulder and has plenty of arm-strength to drive the ball into mid-range openings in the defense. Can freeze the defender with an effective pump-fake. Knows where the first down marker is and fights hard for the required yardage, showing determination and better than expected leg-drive. Not afraid to get his jersey dirty as a runner or even as a blocker/tackler.
Intangibles: Carries himself like an NFL quarterback. Highly respected team captain who takes his role as a leader seriously. Comfortable leading vocally or by setting the example on and off the field. Earned his Master's Degree in finance and is working on his doctorate. Durability concern. Missed the final three games of the 2009 season with a grade-3 separation of his throwing shoulder and suffered more injuries to this throwing arm (including undergoing two surgeries on his elbow) in 2010. Father, David, played linebacker at Florida State from 1980-83. "
Arm strength:This is the area of most concern for Ponder. While watching the film his throws had a tendency to float to the target. It was evident on the 10-12 yard outs and hitch patterns because defensive backs routinely were in a position to make a play on the football. The ball just appears to take a long time to get to the target with little zip. There were also several deep balls that were under thrown; he may struggle to hit speedy wide receivers on streak patterns. All these observations were in 2010 games but when I put on a 2009 game I noticed a lot more zip on his throws. This season he battled an elbow injury that could have impacted the power he was able to generate. Overall, after looking at the tape I feel that Ponder has an average arm but can make NFL throws.
Decision making: Ponder possesses an excellent feel for the quarterback position. He has a lot of savvy in his game especially when executing screen plays. His ability to effectively decoy on screens allows for his target to pick up an extra couple yards. Ponder was calm and collected as he made his pre snap reads and showed he could identify potential blitzes. I was pleased to see that Ponder was comfortable going through his progressions. He routinely set and reset his feet while going across the field looking to his secondary targets. While a lot of quarterbacks tend to lock on to their primary target, Ponder is able to influence the defense with his head and eyes.
Field vision: Ponder does a good job diagnosing what the defense is trying to throw at him. He has the presence to identify pre snap alignments and potential blitzers. After the snap he is comfortable going across the field with his progressions. He doesn’t panic when his first read is covered and quickly looks to his secondary reads. The most important skill Ponder possesses is the way he anticipates his throws. He gets the ball quickly out of his hands and before his target makes their break. He trusts that his wide receivers will run the correct route. His anticipation is going to be the key to his NFL success because of his limited arm strength. While he does a nice job reading the defense this is still an area he could improve. In the past, he has shown that he will make poor decisions and force a ball or two. Overall he does a nice job processing post snap information.
Mechanics: Florida State’s offensive system allowed Ponder to get comfortable taking snaps from under center. On his drop back, Ponder takes solid balanced steps while keeping his head on a swivel. He holds the ball tight to his frame and above his breast plate which avoids wasted motions and results in a quick release. Ponder does a great job setting his feet and body towards his target which allows him to deliver an accurate football. The one word that describes Ponder is consistency as he regularly has sound technique.
Pocket awareness: Ponder is calm and unflappable under pressure. He feels the rush and can move around the pocket while remaining focused down the field. Ponder does a good job resetting his feet and body after he is forced to navigate the pocket. Defensive coordinators also need to be concerned with Ponder’s ability to use his feet to pick up yardage. He has the athletic ability to escape the pocket and pick up big chunks.
Games Viewed: Maryland, Miami, UNC, Miami ’09, UNC ‘09
Final word:I really like Christian Ponder as an NFL quarterback prospect. He doesn’t have the physical attributes like others in this draft but he has a better feel for the game. The things that will really hold him back are his arm strength and injury history. But overall he has the accuracy, fundamentals, and anticipation to succeed as an NFL quarterback. At this point I would only select Ryan Mallett and Blaine Gabbert ahead of Ponder and that is due to their upside. Ponder is a 2nd or 3rd round talent that is more polished but possessing less potential. However, he has the tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL."
Ponder's smarts and accuracy will get him drafted.
Ponder has enough talent to make it at the next level, but simply doesn’t blow scouts away. He’ll need a good showing at the 2011 NFL Combine to raise his stock, as he is somewhat limited physically.
Ponder is an under-rated prospect, as he is a great leader and competitor, while possessing solid all-round tools and intangibles. Is more athletic than he looks and has solid mobility. Obviously not a freak athlete, but can do a little damage on the run. Is very accurate on short and intermediate passes. Stays in the pocket and is very decisive with great timing when well protected. Has faced and played well against tough competition throughout his career. Has experience working under center, unlike many other quarterback prospects. Is adept at reading defenses and going through progressions. Not just a checkdown quarterback. Has shown he can make just about all the throws. Has very good throwing mechanics and a nice, quick release.
Like most quarterback prospects that see their draft stock fall, Ponder has only average arm strength. In addition, his deep balls can often sag or wobble, leading to incompletions or even interceptions. When pass protection breaks down, he can seem lost and will even panic. Tends to force throws when he shouldn’t, especially with pressure on him. Had two major injuries in the past two seasons, missing time with a separated shoulder and elbow injury, making durability a concern.
Ponder is a very accurate and smart passer. He’s ready for the pros in terms of reading defenses, making most of the throws, and leading a team. However, his arm strength and erratic behavior when facing pressure drops him down a few spots. A good combine showing could change his stock, but he’s likely looking at a selection in the third round.
NFL Player Comparison: Chad Pennington (More Athletic)"
Positive: Smart, poised pocket passer with terrific awareness. Patient, displays a sense of timing, and hits receivers as they leave their breaks. Stands strong in the pocket, throws a catchable ball, and puts touch on passes when necessary. Has adequate arm strength and throws the out patterns well. Senses pressure, steps up to avoid it, and knows where his receivers are on the field. Looks away from cover targets and goes to secondary receivers. Terrific job commanding and controlling the offense. Flashes the ability to place passes where only his receiver has a chance at the ball. Mobile and can get outside the pocket to make throws on the move.
Negative: Off the mark when he tries to get extra speed on throws. Cannot drive the deep pass. Long throws tend to float and hang. Struggled with injuries two consecutive seasons.
Analysis: Ponder is a thinking man's quarterback with terrific intangibles and leadership skills. His physical ability is adequate for the next level, but the injuries that have mounted the past two years and his lack of durability makes him a risk. Ponder watched his draft stock drop 2010 but he will get a chance to make an impact at the next level because of his physical and mental attributes."
Negatives: Has a tendency to float balls to the sideline, will struggle throwing intermediate and deep routes at the next level... Despite being asked to throw the ball consistently, hasn't put up big numbers... Doesn't play up to competition and feasts off inferior opponents... Seems to have regressed this year after a breakout junior season... Doesn't get great rotation on his throws, causes some of his intermediate and deep throws to drift away from the receiver... Questionable decision maker, throws a lot of balls into double coverage and trusts his receivers too much... Stares at his number one receiver too long, has to go through his progression quicker... Has some injury concerns, missed his last four games in 2009 due to a separated shoulder."
Weaknesses: One of the first things you notice about Ponder is a "lazy release." He doesn't step into his throws well enough at times, and he sometimes relies too much on his arm alone to cover the distance. That became a real problem in 2010, when his arm was obviously not back yet to what it had been prior to the shoulder surgery. Needs to do a better job of planting his feet before he throws, as he's often times caught throwing off his heels. Sometimes thinks he can do more than he should. Will occasionally telegraph plays (see the B.C. game in 2010) and get picked. Deep ball floated in 2010. Shoulder must be checked out. May be maxed out. Safe pick with a low ceiling and high floor.
Projection: If he checks out fine medically and exhibits improving arm strength in the post-season, he could go as high as the 2nd round, but is more likely a 3-4th rounder at this stage."
Ponder's success in 2009 led to higher expectations in 2010. While the numbers are not anything mind boggling, through nine games Florida State is 6-3 and eyeing a trip Atlantic Coast Conference Championship game and Ponder's efficient and consistent play has certainly led the way.
Ponder will not have the strongest arm or quickest feet of any quarterback in this class, but he has decent size at 6-3 and 227 pounds and may be the most complete quarterback in this class if Andrew Luck opts to remain at Stanford. If that is the case and Ponder continues to win while Jake Locker continues to have a bad season and Ryan Mallett remains inconsistent, Ponder could find his stock shooting through the roof."
While Ponder may never be able to drop to one knee and throw the ball 60 yards down the field like some prospects have, the FSU signal caller has the type of game instincts and leadership skills that very few quarterbacks bring to the table. In every sense of the word he is a quarterback. His teammates follow his lead, he’s a player that makes those around him better with his words and by example, and he has an infectious love of the game that cannot be taught. Whether it’s in the huddle, along the sideline, in the weight room, or organizing team activities in the off-season, there is no doubt about who the field general is. At 6’3” and 227 pounds the athletic Ponder is blessed with above average physical skills when it comes to his size, weight, strength, and scrambling ability. In 2009 the Seminole improved on his touchdown down to interception ratio (14-7) after struggling to protect the ball in 2008 (14-13) and did so while becoming a more explosive passer down the field (8.2 yards per attempt in 2009, 6.3 in 2008). He was also a far more accurate passer as a junior, improving his completion percentage by over 13 percent, from 55.7 as a sophomore to 68.6 percent. Had he remained healthy for his entire junior campaign many believed Ponder could have left school early for the NFL. Right now the biggest hurdle the man under center must overcome is the question surrounding his durability and arm strength—the Florida State product suffered a serious shoulder injury in 2009. He could go anywhere from the first round—some teams have him rated ahead of our number two overall prospect for 2011, Washington’s Jake Locker—to day three of the NFL Draft (fourth round or later).
Our View: Ponder’s performance versus North Carolina was one Seminole fans won’t soon forget. He put the offense on his back and led his team on a come-from-behind victory in which he unleashed some magnificent and well-placed throws, giving credence to the fact that his arm strength has indeed improved this season. In fact, throughout the game, Ponder not only threw a catchable deep ball, but also completed tough passes in the red zone by launching darts in tight windows. What’s more, the 6’3” field general is an intelligent leader who won’t often get caught staring down his targets or telegraphing his passes. In addition, the rising junior has earned the right to check down at the line of scrimmage and change plays. One could only imagine how much better Ponder would be with a better supporting cast, but he does a great job with the current lot of receivers he has by effectively spreading the ball around. As a runner, Ponder may not be as fast as Jake Locker, but he’s plenty elusive and fearless particularly near the goal line. A couple of things he can work on are avoiding to overthrow his receivers in the face of pressure and he can also focus on putting a little more mustard on his throws to the outside.
FSU head coach Bobby Bowden recently had high words of praise for his quarterback Christian Ponder, and also compared him to some of his past signal callers. Said Bowden: “On where Ponder ranks amongst FSU quarterbacks regarding leadership abilities: Oh, I would think he would rank up there with any of them. They are all different. They all have different styles. They all have different demeanors. Charlie [Ward] is not like [Chris] Weinke. Weinke is not like Charlie. Neither one of them are like Ponder. Ponder is nearly as quiet as Charlie, but not as quiet as Charlie. Ponder nearly speaks out as much as Weinke, but nearly as much as Weinke. They are all different, but with their different styles and demeanors, they are all winners. Ponder is the heart and soul of this football team. There is no doubt about it. I don't think there is a quarterback in the country that plays better than him right now. I mean you talk about your Heisman Trophy guys, they are playing pretty good but he is playing better than all of them.”
When I look at how these Scouts and Analysts regard a QuarterBack, I don't give a rat's ass about how far he can throw it on a wire, or how fast he runs the 40: Anyone who thinks that those Skills are the most critical ones in assessing a QuarterBack's ability to lead a team to a Championship have overlooked the last 90 years of History.
When I look at how these Scouts and Analysts regard a QuarterBack, 90% of my evaluation derives from comments on his Processing Speed, his Decision Making, his Field Vision, his Pocket Presence, and his Mechanics.
Christian Ponder is a good looking Field General. He had a rough Senior year, but when he's healthy ~ and he is ~ he commands excellent Processing Speed + Diagnostic Skills and solid Pocket Presence. And he can make all the throws.
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