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 Post subject: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Mon Jul 05, 2010 3:22 am 
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Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
June 28, 2010
By Rob Rang
NFLDraftScout.com

SEATTLE -- Washington quarterback Jake Locker is the early consensus No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, according to fans and the media, but scouts have given Florida State's Christian Ponder an identical grade as both players enter their senior seasons.

Florida State's Christian Ponder 'looks and carries himself like an NFL quarterback,' says one scout. (US Presswire)
Florida State's Christian Ponder 'looks and carries himself like an NFL quarterback,' says one scout. (US Presswire)
Scouts from many of the NFL's 32 teams convene in Florida each May to review the incoming senior class of prospects. National Football Scouting, an organization comprised of roughly half of the league's teams (including the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints) and the organizers of the annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, gave Locker and Ponder grades of 6.7 on a scale of 1.0-8.0. The late-first to early second-round grades are similar to ones given to last year's top-rated quarterbacks -- Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas' Colt McCoy.

Locker's high grade comes as no surprise after he chose to return to the Huskies for his senior season. Scouts of several teams in the top 10 of last April's draft told me he warranted that high of consideration. Locker, remaining healthy for the entire season for the first time in his career at Washington, completed a career-high 58.4 percent of his passes for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. Some league insiders believe the St. Louis Rams would have strongly entertained the idea of taking Locker over Sam Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick.

The 6-foot-3, 231-pound Locker offers a tantalizing combination of athleticism, a strong, accurate arm and grittiness rare for the position. It is a combination that has led to incredible hype for the soft-spoken Locker, even drawing comparisons to Hall of Famers John Elway and Steve Young -- though in three seasons as the Huskies' starting quarterback, Locker has yet to earn even honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors or lead UW to a bowl game. In 28 career starts, Locker has thrown for 36 touchdowns against 26 interceptions and holds a career completion percentage of only 53.4 percent.

However, as one front-office executive told me on the condition of anonymity, Locker can't be analyzed strictly on numbers.

"Locker is an exciting talent. Every year there is a running quarterback you have to consider because he has an arm," the executive said. "With Locker, he has the arm and the accuracy -- and his running ability is much different than a Tebow or Pat White. He can put his shoulder down like Tebow or make guys miss like White, but he can also run right by them. He's even faster on the field than he looks. And the gains he made last year as a thrower ... He stills misses too many throws for starting as many games as he has, that's true, but he showed in the USC and Notre Dame games [in 2009] the ability to make big-time throws in critical situations. That's why he's the higher rated guy on my board -- this kid played his best when the lights were brightest. He could be special."

With talent like Locker's, scouts from other sports were bound to notice. Locker has twice been drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, most recently signing a six-year deal with the baseball club after being selected in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft. He's technically considered a walk-on by UW, as the Angels (and not an athletic scholarship) are paying for his time with the Huskies. Locker has stated on numerous occasions that football is his priority -- he hasn't played organized baseball since 2008 -- but his dual interests are sure to make him a riskier proposition in the eyes of NFL scouts.

Ponder, 6-2, 220 pounds, isn't as big or athletic as Locker. And his rather pedestrian career numbers (28 touchdowns/20 interceptions in 22 career starts) hardly opens eyes, but he's considered the more polished passer. It doesn't hurt that he has taken his academics incredibly seriously. While Ponder's academics hardly compare to former teammate Myron Rolle's Rhodes Scholar award, Ponder has already finished his Master's Degree in finance and is taking classes toward his Doctorate this fall.

And, as another longtime NFL evaluator argued, Ponder's underrated combination of accuracy, athleticism and intelligence makes the FSU quarterback's high grade well deserved.

"I like Ponder," the scout said. "Obviously, he went down with the injury late in the year and that has to check out OK, but he's got legitimate talent."

Ponder's 2009 season ended prematurely when he suffered a Grade 3 separation of his throwing shoulder Nov. 7 against Clemson. The injury, which occurred when Ponder tackled safety DeAndre McDaniel following an interception, cut short a breakout campaign in which the Seminoles quarterback was leading the ACC in passing yards (301.9) and total offense per game (321.8) while completing 68.8 percent of his passes. He had thrown 14 touchdowns against seven interceptions.

Ponder provided evidence he has healed from the shoulder separation and subsequent surgery with his play this spring. He was named FSU's Most Valuable Offensive Player for the spring camp and completed 16 of 34 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for a 3-yard score in leading the Gold over the Garnett in the spring game.

Like Locker, who made significant gains as a passer and student of defenses under Steve Sarkisian in 2009, Ponder has made consistent strides working under Jimbo Fisher. Before taking over as head coach for the legendary Bobby Bowden this spring, Fisher had served as FSU's offensive coordinator. He previously held the same title at LSU, where he coached, among others, former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell.

In Ponder, Fisher says he has a talent capable of matching Russell's meteoric rise up draft boards.

"I'm not trying to put pressure on [Ponder]," Fisher said. "But he has the talent and ability to -- by far -- be better than anyone I've ever coached at the position."

The scout agrees.

"Ponder is more accurate than Locker. He's not the same athlete as Locker, of course, but he can hurt you with his legs, too. I'd personally rate him below Locker, at this point, but based on last year's tape, I'd give him a second-round grade. He looks and carries himself like an NFL quarterback. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him move into the first round."

Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 4:19 pm 
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"I'm not trying to put pressure on [Ponder]," Fisher said. "But he has the talent and ability to -- by far -- be better than anyone I've ever coached at the position."


Well step 1 would be to simply have the best passer efficiency rating in the ACC...that still belongs to Tyrod Taylor :D . Ponder's always been a coulda shoulda guy, we'll see...

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 5:35 pm 
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:lol:

You actually think Taylor is better NFL prospect than Ponder? Pitt's QB had a higher passer efficiency than Taylor did last year. And guess what that means? Absolutely nothing, when looked at the context of this article, which is their abilities projecting to the NFL level.

Based off what I saw last year, Ponder is the best QB in the nation period as far as NFL prospects go. Whether that remains to be the case after this upcoming season remains to be seen.

And you do realize that the differences between their passing efficiency are minimal:

Top ACC Quarterbacks
1. Taylor - 149.4
2. Russell Wilson - 147.8
3. Ponder - 147.7
4. Riley Skinner - 147.0
5. Jacory Harris - 140.1

And if you were to use the NFL QB Rating formula instead of the NCAA formula, Ponder would have a higher passer rating than Taylor by about 1.4 points.

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 3:14 pm 
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Ponder must be great b/c he's lead his team to so many ACC titles right? I don't get the projections when he only "looks" like he'd be a good pro prospect. Well he's "looked" like that for the past three years too. Reality is that he hasn't done anything to improve FSU, and his stats aren't any better than anyone else in the ACC. Don't get me wrong, I see what they see physically, but thats about it. I'll take a TT whose numbers are as good, but actually can win some serious games consistently. Too much projecting, not enough actual production.

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:35 pm 
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You're a bit biased in this one, because you're overvaluing college production as far as pro prospects/potential. Is Jake Locker a bad pro prospect because Washington has sucked mostly since he's been there?

Florida State isn't a good team, it's as simple as that. It's not Ponder's fault that they stink. He makes them better, but in college football the team with the most talent wins 90% of the time. It's comparable to Matt Ryan and BC.

Go ahead and take Taylor, and have to wait 3 years before he can be considered a starting candidate, a la Dennis Dixon. Most everyone else will take Ponder, who can potentially start right away.

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 4:50 pm 
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you're overvaluing college production as far as pro prospects/potential.


I'm just not putting as many eggs in that particular basket as you are. Seems to me that offseason analysis often times gets put through the ringer until its not the same as common sense anymore. Paralysis by overanalysis. Sometimes you've gotta pick a player like Ponder, and indeed project him, which projects well b/c he seems to be prototypical size and arm. Then you have a guy like TT who has the arm, but not the pocket statue size. Thats a basic NFL analysis when they project them, w/o going detailed.

But answer this, why does a Tebow get a pass on the same analysis? Cause he was a winner, cause its not 100% projecting. Don't get me wrong, I have "seen" what the scouts have seen since he was a freshman and tried to come in and bail out FSU from the terrible qb before him (name escapes me rt now?). He came in and got them under control and more effective than whoever he had replaced, as a freshman, it was impressive so I'm not knocking him personally what so ever.

But I think at the end of the day some of the "paper analysis" and "projecting" strays to far away from common sense. Ie...can the guy play ball, is he a leader and winner, did he make his team better, you know, real football. You don't get drafted at all if you don't have the tools, so the tools shouldn't be the end all be all is all I'm saying.

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 6:58 pm 
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Tim Tebow didn't get a pass except from Josh McDaniels. Even one of the Timmy's biggest "supporters" like myself if I qualify said he was a 4th round pick. About the same as I think Tyrod Taylor is. The problem with the pro-Tebow, anti-Tebow crowd is that many of his detractors assumed that if you didn't bash Tebow, meant you thought he was a franchise QB prospect. And I never saw so much "hate" and "venom" and general disagreement for a player that the vast majority of the public agreed was a limited prospect.

The thing about Tebow is how highly he graded on intangibles. And for all of those people that say intangibles are overrated, they must understand that the reason why character, leadership, work ethic, etc. are considered intangibles is because they can never be quantified. You can do that with arm strength, accuracy, speed, footwork, etc. But intangibles are such that when you think you've seen it all, the guy finds a way to dig deeper and pull more out of the hat.

That's what made Tim Tebow intriguing to a level that no other QB or player in recent memory had.

You're right that a ton of it is projecting. But if the NFL Draft was held tomorrow, and I needed a franchise QB to come in and be my Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, etc., then I think Ponder would shoot to the top of my list. We'll get another year to see how off my projection is. But based off what I saw from him in 2009, I think he's the most polished pro QB prospect in the country. Way ahead of Taylor. Well ahead of Locker, Luck, Mallett, etc. Now we have another year for the men to be sorted out from the boys. I've seen players that I thought were up and comers as juniors become also rans as seniors (Curtis Painter is a good example), and guys that I thought were the opposite.

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:15 am 
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The problem with the pro-Tebow, anti-Tebow crowd is that many of his detractors assumed that if you didn't bash Tebow, meant you thought he was a franchise QB prospect.


Never thought about it like that, but you're right.

W/ Ponder at the end of the day, he's gonna be a highly projected QB. Size, strength, smarts and experience. They may even boost him up b/c of the uneven nature of FSU the last 3+ years. So you'll be right in that he'll be there, but I will still have in the back of my mind the question of his intangibles, b/c the ones that matter most are winning games, finding a way to win games, and that whole O has been lost for years. It'll all shake out this year w/ a new coat of paint in Tallahassee I suppose.

Luck is the one thats caught my eye now. Dude looks like an athletic Flacco to me, legit, easily passes the eyeball test, just needs a good amount of polish.

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 Post subject: Re: Locker, Ponder bring plenty to the table for NFL scouts
PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:23 pm 
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http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/blog?nam ... id=5366410

With college teams still a month away from their first fall practices, Insider begins a regular series that will identify some of the top prospects in the 2011 NFL draft and look at what makes them of such great interest to NFL scouts and coaches.

When Insider requested an interview with Andrew Luck, Jim Young, Stanford's director of media relations, set about tracking down the potential first-round draft pick. A week went by and Young suggested a Plan B.

"He's usually good about getting back, but I'd say he's probably tired of hearing from me," Young said with a laugh. "Or maybe the kid just needs a summer vacation."

It's hard to blame Luck for either. Young has been bombarded by college football writers across the country calling to get the scoop on the 20-year-old, one of the most talked about third-year sophomore quarterbacks since a guy named Sam Bradford. Well, that and the "kid" does have quite a course load.

But the attention is well deserved: In his first and only season as the Cardinal starter, Luck threw for more than 2,500 yards and his efficiency rating (143.47) led the Pac-10. NFL scouts are already saying Luck has the skills to be the first player taken in the 2011 NFL draft -- if fellow Pac-10 slinger Jake Locker doesn't hear his name called first.

The debate will rage on up until the first team hands NFL commissioner Roger Goodell its pick. Ask one scout and he'll tell you if Locker proves a pure passer for Washington this season -- not just a strong arm with a good set of legs -- then he's a shoo-in for No. 1. Another will tell you that teams won't be able to pass on Luck's accuracy and poise. And don't forget the likes of Arkansas' Ryan Mallett or Florida State's Christian Ponder.

Of course, Luck's numbers are not nearly at Bradford's level -- more than 3,000 yards and a freshman-record 36 touchdown passes -- but the rub for NFL teams pouring over Luck's small body of work is the fact his numbers came with a little help from a Heisman runner-up in the backfield.

The amazing thing about Andrew Luck is how, within the Stanford system, he passed the eye test to an exceptional degree last year as a redshirt freshman. That's because while he has extremely solid fundamentals, good footwork and a strong arm, we got to see it all within Jim Harbaugh's pro-style offense. When you see a kid not just execute, but consistently make great decisions, go through his reads and check down at this stage in his career, it makes scouting really easy.

Luck's challenge now is to show growth in all these areas even as the offense shifts a bit and, presumably, with the absence of Toby Gerhart, more of the pressure falls on Luck's shoulders. But we should say this: For one, Harbaugh has greatly improved the talent level on that roster, so the subtraction of one great player isn't going to derail this team; and for another, the film shows Luck was already able to take on a bigger load last year. There was just no good reason to mess with the success the Cardinal was having on the ground.

Toby Gerhart rushed for a Stanford single-season record 1,871 yards and accounted for 28 touchdowns, giving analysts reason to believe he, not Luck, was the main reason the Cardinal made its first bowl game since 2001, a loss Luck had to miss because of an injury to his throwing hand.

Not only are scouts anxious to see the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Luck without what he often referred to as his human "safety blanket," so are Pac-10 defenders.

"The toughest thing about Luck was Toby Gerhart because he could fake the handoff and all your help was gone," said Arizona cornerback Trevin Wade, who had a career-high 11 tackles to match Luck's career-high 423 yards in a 43-38 win for the Wildcats. "But he's such a good decision-maker. Playing in the Pac-10, I've seen him and Locker -- Locker may have the arm strength, but you don't see Luck make bad throws very often."

With Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh telling reporters "it's fair to say we'll probably throw the ball more than we did last year," Wade's just one of more than a dozen corners on the West Coast who will be keying in on Luck's every eye movement. As well as those scouts craning to notice a chink in the armor. If Luck hadn't grown up with a pro quarterback for a father, he might actually be nervous.

"Andrew has certainly elevated his game at the college level," said his dad, Oliver, who was a star QB at West Virginia before backing up Warren Moon with the Houston Oilers in the 1980s. "I'm not sure I can tell you he's improved one particular part of his game. He's always been a pretty good decision-maker, but that's got to improve when you get to the next level."

The older Luck is actually more impressed with his son's decision-making off the field. Like the high school valedictorian's call to pick Stanford coming out of talent-rich Houston, Texas, knowing he'd be part of the new Harbaugh regime.

"I'll tell you one thing: He's got great coaching, and I have no reason to think they won't continue making him a better player," said Oliver, who was hired as athletic director at West Virginia in June. "That's why he chose Stanford: Not only because of it as an academic institution, but you can't get a much better coach for quarterbacks in college football than Jim Harbaugh."

Harbaugh, the 14-year NFL vet, gives the same praise to Luck. Even though every college QB will inevitably be compared somehow, someway to Tim Tebow in 2010, Harbaugh thought he had the best quarterback in the nation last season. And he hasn't been given any reason to change his mind.

"Well, since you are asking my opinion, I do think he is the best quarterback in the country," Harbaugh said following the Cardinal spring game.

The question then is why would he stay for a junior season? Perhaps because recent history isn't on the side of first-round underclassmen quarterbacks. In the past 11 drafts, 11 QBs have been taken early. Before 2009, when Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman went in the first 32 picks, 2005 was the only draft since 2000 to have two underclassman QBs (Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers) go in the first round.

Of the 11 early entrants -- Smith, Rodgers, Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman, JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young, Ben Roethlisberger, Rex Grossman, Michael Vick and Bradford -- only Young, Roethlisberger and Sanchez started more than seven games and were above .500 during their rookie seasons. Two are no longer starters (Grossman and Vick), one lost his spot for a season (Young) and Russell is out of the league.

Maybe Luck pulls a Locker, hearing whispers of "not Day 1-ready," and decides to stick around for more seasoning. Maybe he'll want to strengthen his legacy, cementing himself alongside Cardinal greats like John Elway, Jim Plunkett and Trent Edwards. Or maybe he falls short of a BCS bowl, failing to lead Stanford on its first run to the Roses in more than a decade.

Dad certainly wouldn't see any problem with the choice, especially considering those heightened NFL expectations.

"If you're a No. 1 or No. 2 or even a first-round pick, you're going to be expected to contribute right away," Oliver said. "That's much different than when I was drafted. There used to be this idea that a guy needs five years to develop."

Like the 11 preceding him, Luck obviously won't be given that large of a window if he leaves. So is he ready? Let's see him without his safety blanket first.

LaRue Cook is a reporter and researcher for ESPN The Magazine.

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