The 2011 Senior Bowl practices are wrapping up with walkthroughs today as the team's prepare for tomorrow's game (1pm pacific, NFL Network). We'll spend this weekend and next week breaking down a few more players, and I wanted to start this Friday off with another QB option for the San Francisco 49ers.
As the team prepares for the 2011 NFL Draft, they'll need to select a quarterback at some point. There are some arguably top of the line options like Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, and Jake Locker. After those guys the list takes a bit of a step down to the likes of Ryan Mallet, Andy Dalton, and Florida State's Christian Ponder. Each of these quarterbacks (and others) has something about them that draws in fans. I'd imagine each of them has their own little band of followers ready to defend them.
For today, I'd like to focus on Christian Ponder. I was tweeting with a friend of mine at New Era Scouting and he indicated word was out that the 49ers had spoken with Ponder at the Senior Bowl. The 49ers will speak with a lot of players in the coming three months, and a whole lot of them will be quarterbacks. Nonetheless it's interesting information to consider. In this post, feel free to discuss all the college QBs for comparison's sake, but I'd like to hear what people think about Ponder first and foremost.
Ponder is a guy with a lot of the tools needed to succeed in the NFL, but a clean bill of health is not one of them. While he may or may not be healthy at this point, there's no doubt he dealt with a variety of health issues at Florida State. The question is how much of his struggles at times were related to health, and how much was just a level of inconsistency that indicates he's simply not a particularly great quarterback. A lot of opinions seem to think it's a health thing. What do our college football fans think?
Ponder's week of practice has received a bit of a mixed reaction. He seemed to have solid mechanics and was hitting some deep balls fairly well, but people aren't wildly impressed with his arm. Of course, if the 49ers are looking for a QB who can operate some kind of west coast offense, can they get by with an average arm, as opposed to a big cannon?
I can't find the particular comment at this point, but somebody posted a couple links to Ponder articles I thought were worth sharing. They are articles by Doug Farrar, who I know of primarily from Football Outsiders, but he also does work for a variety of sites. Based on these two articles, it's safe to say he's a big fan of Ponder:
He declares Ponder to be the most polished and NFL-ready of the Senior Bowl QBs. He pointed to comments by Ponder that he might fit in best with a west coast offense of short to intermediate routes. In my limited research thus far it sounds like this fits right in his wheelhouse and overcomes his lack of a big arm:
Asked about the West Coast systems being set up in San Francisco and Seattle, Ponder didn't seem to find the prospect daunting at all. "A lot of people say that I'd fit best in a West Coast system - the short to intermediate routes. We'll see; I wouldn't mind going to San Francisco or wherever - whoever picks me, I'll be their number-one fan (laughs).
Ponder seems confident in himself, which is an important trait given his injury history and the concerns that have been raised because of this. At this point it seems like he's a mid-round pick at best. If he can convince teams that his health will not be a major issue then maybe he could climb a little, but I have to imagine the health red flag will remain firmly in place.
Is Ponder a guy you'd feel comfortable with the 49ers selecting? My biggest concern is the injury stuff. Would this be a situation where the 49ers would likely select a couple quarterbacks in middle/late rounds to beef up the competition at the position? Jim Harbaugh has said he thinks there are some talented second, third and later round QBs he could develop into a long-term answer, so he and Trent Baalke will not necessarily be feeling forced into a high pick at the position. Maybe Christian Ponder is that answer.