This is not an indictment on Christian Ponder's ability or potential. He could have a great career, I hope he does. Ponder is the quarterback the Vikings selected with the 12th pick in Thursday's first round of the NFL draft. The Florida State product was selected much higher than anyone had projected, and made nearly all Vikings fans question the decision. Ponder himself didn't even think he would be taken in the first round, that's why he wasn't among the 25 prospects at Radio City Music Hall Thursday night to greet the commissioner.
While the Vikings certainly needed a quarterback, this was a reach. A big one. Minnesota doesn't have the kind of track record, based on the past two year's first-round picks, to make such a move. Certainly not when it comes to drafting quarterbacks. Rick Spielman, Vikings VP of Player Personnel, has overseen the last four drafts for the Vikings. Last year's draft was very questionable and let's not even go into fired-coach Brad Childress' draft-pick QB projects Tarvaris Jackson in 2006 and last year's Joe Webb. Now, more of the same with their number one pick in 2011. The ghost of Brad Childress in the Minnesota draft war room lives on.
Last year, instead of using their 30th pick, they traded it to the Lions, who immediately scooped up RB Jahvid Best. The rookie from Cal started 15 games for Detroit and contributed over 1,000 total yards and 6 TDs. The Vikings then used their two second-round picks on Chris Cook, a defensive back who didn't contribute anything, and Toby Gerhart, a running back. Gerhart compiled about 500 total yards and lost three fumbles. If they wanted a running back, why not take a much better one available when they had the chance?
Leslie Frazier, the Vikings head coach involved with his first draft at the helm, certainly hopes Ponder is going to pan out. The Vikings are desperate to move on from the Brett Favre Era, which turned so ugly near the end even the Metrodome didn't want to be part of it. They'll want to make Ponder the "long-term" solution to a Vikings' quarterback problem which has seen free agents and journeymen back-ups used as a patchwork solution. Ponder will be up against it if asked to start immediately, but may need to if Minnesota can't land Donovan McNabb. If so, prepare for a very long season, Viking fans. The offensive line was so porous last year "Ironman" Favre couldn't even stay healthy.
The Vikings also have a shortage of picks this year thanks to last year's move to re-acquire Randy Moss. With only two draft choices in the first three rounds, Minnesota must get value out of each pick. Something that isn't such a risk. The man to take was Nick Fairley, a defensive tackle from Auburn. Rated very highly by all scouts and experts, and could have filled a need on an aging, declining Minnesota defensive line. Of course, the Lions used the next pick to grab Fairley, who will now most likely pair with Ndamukong Suh and Northwest Iowa native Kyle Vanden Bosch to wreak havoc on the Vikings twice a year. Ponder better brace himself when those guys come for him. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz should address thank you cards to the Minnesota front office ASAP.
The Vikings have once again put themselves out there with a very "iffy" move during the first round of the draft. Questionable war room moves seem to be the norm in Minnesota but maybe the front office and coaches know more than everybody else. Recent history suggests otherwise.