Florida State Senior
40: 4.65 (estimated)
Has a good arm that shows good zip on the shorter throws. Shows ability to lead receivers and fit tight windows, particularly when throwing down the seam. Is athletic and capable of making plays with his legs. Shows toughness as a runner, but also shifty that can make defenders miss in space. Generally makes good decisions with the ball, able to make the check down and occasionally showing ability to go to his second progression. Allowed to make pre-snap adjustments at the line. Has good footwork as a dropback passer.
Struggled with injuries to his throwing shoulder and elbow the past two years which probably hurt his zip and arm strength. Will hang up some of his deeper throws. Needs to do a better job anticipating the blitz and making better reads. Doesn't get rid of the ball soon enough and has a tendency to try and tuck it and run. Doesn't always play with great anticipation as a passer, staring down receivers and waiting for guys to get open. Needs to do a better job keeping his eyes downfield when extending the play, at times being too quick to tuck it and run. Needs to do a better job moving and sliding within the pocket in the face of pressure to find throwing lanes. Accuracy and decision making dips quite a bit when pressured. Can get visibly frustrated at times with teammates and penalties.
Ponder looked like a promising prospect before a separated shoulder (his throwing shoulder) sidelined him for the latter part of his junior year. In 9 starts, led FSU to 4-5 record, completing 68.8% of his 330 pass attempts for 2717 yards, 14 TDs, and 7 INTs. Also rushed for 179 yards and 2 scores. Apparently at the beginning of the season there were still some lingering effects from the surgery, but that was compounded by an elbow injury (bursitis) he played most of his senior year with, that required two late season operations, one to drain the elbow, and the other to remove scar tissue which was preventing it from healing. He got knocked out of the bowl game after the first quarter due to a concussion. Finished year with a 9-3 record as a starter, completing 61.5% of 299 attempts for 2044 yards, 20 TDs, 8 INTs, as well as rushing for 180 yards and 4 touchdowns. As a sophomore, his first year as a starter held 9-4 record, 55.7% of 318 attempts, 2006 yards, 14 TDs, 13 INTs, 423 rushing yards, and 4 rushing TDs.
I don't know how much the injuries are a concern. And more so than many other prospects, he'll have to undergo thorough medical checks, but it's positive that he wasn't limited at all during the Senior Bowl practices. The major concern is whether he'll be more susceptible to throwing arm injuries in the future and whether there is an issue of durability going forward. Chad Pennington had some major shoulder injuries early in his career, which limited his fairly mediocre arm strength. Ponder doesn't have a big arm, a good arm, but nothing that will wow you. And if he continues to have injuries there, he could potentially be limited like Pennington as far as schemes/offenses go. Ponder is a guy that I don't think should be asked to start right away. While I do think he's fairly NFL ready compared to many of the other top prospects due largely to his experience in a pro-style offense, asking him to bear the load as a starting NFL quarterback too early I don't think would be beneficial for him. I don't doubt his intangibles, because he seems like a smart, heady player that is confident. But I think he'll be so much better if he's allowed to grow into a leadership role rather than having one thrust upon him. I think in that way he's probably comparable to Trent Edwards if he was asked to be a rookie starter, in that he would handle it, but I'm not sure he would show great progression going forward. I think he fits well into a West Coast style offense that will focus more on the shorter and intermediate throws rather than stretching the defense, and one that will allow him to use his considerably good legs. His problem I think is that he's going to be a guy that is going to take a ton of sacks and he doesn't deal too well with pressure, which is something Edwards dealt with in Buffalo too. I think if you give him 2-3 years to sit like Pennington did or Aaron Rodgers did and let him grow and develop in one system, he has a chance to be a very good NFL starter. I like his upside, but I don't think he'll be an elite QB, but a guy that can lead a team to the playoffs and with the right supporting cast might be able to take them deep within it. But I don't think he'll ever be an elite QB, and I think throwing him to the wolves too early will stagnate his growth. I think potentially he can develop into a Matt Schaub-like efficient game manager that can be very productive, but doesn't possess the elite-level intangibles to make you think he gives you an advantage against opponents who also have premier passers.
Ponder would be a good backup because he could fit very well in the Falcons ball-control oriented offense, and be potential trade bait down the road. He would probably beat out Wilson right away, and probably be able to move into the No. 2 role by his third year at the latest.
Ponder flashes first round caliber skills at time, but because I don't think he has top-level upside, he's probably a good pick in the second round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Arm Strength: 3.0 (potentially 3.5 dependent on the elbow)
Decision Making: 3.0
Pocket Awareness: 2.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.