Ponder has great NFL Potential

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Christian Ponder has shown his intelligence and leadership. He's shown his arm strength, accuracy and footwork. He left Florida State as statistically one of the program's best quarterbacks.

Most NFL analysts feel that Ponder only improved his draft stock with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and FSU's Pro Day

The question many teams are asking is how does he project at the next level?

"I look at a guy like Aaron Rodgers, and I say that's a guy that Christian Ponder can be," former FSU quarterback and TV analyst Danny Kanell said "Ponder is a better runner I think he could have the potential to be that good

"I don't see(any) tremendous weaknesses The one thing that will knock him is the injury factor That's the one thing that will drop him I know he didn't have the senior year that he wanted to have Knowing how NFL scouts think, they overanalyze everything "

And it's likely the injuries -- shoulder in 2009 and elbow last year -- that concern NFL teams Or make that concerned, because Ponder says he's healthy and has thrown the past four months like a quarterback with no arm worries

And the more game footage they watch, the more workouts they view and the more interviews they conduct, the more taken NFL teams are with Ponder

He clearly impressed NFL coaches during interviews Ponder is a likable, confident guy who is as competitive as they come And NFL coaches can sense that he has intangibles that go beyond his athletic ability

"He has an air about him," Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said "He controls the room He can control the huddle, which is very important He has great leadership skills, he has a great personality He's outgoing And those things you can't coach That's definitely a positive on his side "

On film they will see a quarterback who completed 61 8 of his passes in his career As a frame of reference, Charlie Ward (62 3) and Kanell (62 2) lead all FSU passers

Ponder has plenty of arm strength to succeed at the next level, said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock But it's also his footwork that will set him apart

"He has an advantage over some of the spread quarterbacks because he has been under center and because he has been in the play-action game," Mayock said

The transition won't happen overnight But Ponder had a firm grasp on FSU coach Jimbo Fisher's playbook, and it's one that includes aspects of not one system or philosophy but a little bit of everything

"He is a great athlete and will be able to transition nicely to the next level," said Chris Weinke, who won a Heisman and a national championship at FSU before spending seven seasons in the NFL with Carolina and San Francisco "The key to success at the NFL level is being able to process information quickly and throw the ball on time

"He has the tools and intelligence to grasp the NFL playbook more quickly than most "

And there is a significant need for quarterbacks in the NFL Nearly half the league lacks an established starting quarterback Ponder had individual workouts with approximately 10 teams

Jacksonville scouted Ponder closely his senior year, often sending a representative over to Tallahassee to watch FSU's practices While Miami may have a greater need at running back, the Dolphins also have an unsettled quarterback situation

And the list goes on Teams like Buffalo, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Oakland, Washington, Minnesota, Arizona and San Francisco are taking a long look at quarterbacks

His name has lately been dropped as a potential first-round pick, but he will likely be taken early in the second round He will be the first FSU quarterback drafted since Weinke in 2001 and Ponder could be the first FSU quarterback ever taken in the first round

Kanell said he told Ponder to ignore everything he was told about where and when a team might draft him

"Don't listen to where everybody tells you that you are going to go," said Kanell, who played for six seasons in the NFL "And don't be surprised that a team that you've never talked to drafts you Out of nowhere the Giants drafted me

"You definitely feel like there are some teams that are courting you There are so many variables that happen on draft weekend "

The consensus opinion, whether it's former FSU quarterbacks or NFL analysts, is that Ponder is a good fit in just about any system And the team that picks Ponder will get quite a prospect

"A guy like Christian, I don't see a whole lot of risk," Kanell said "The upside potential is so great Whoever gets him is going to get a tremendous value The sky is the limit "

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