I have thought of Christian Ponder and Jake Locker as top 3 QB’s in this upcoming draft class for a long time, even when assuming that Mallett would come out. However, I have been monitoring their progress so far this season and watching them when I can, and honestly I haven’t been too impressed. When I have seen of Ponder so far this year he has not played up to my expectations. Perhaps they were too high, and that he really is just a fringe 1st rounder, but I have to say I was disappointed. Last season he looked like a great leader and I thought he was going to take off this year and show everyone what kind of potential I knew he had after watching him last season. Because before his junior year… I thought his ceiling in the NFL was as a back-up, and there was no reason to think otherwise. Perhaps I was guilty of a knee-jerk reaction after his great season last year. I still have two or three games I have to watch (along with the remainder of his season), but I would be surprised if they led me to a different conclusion than what I have come to now that FSU has played six games this year. His stats don’t actually look that bad, except that his completion percentage has dropped from 68.8% a year ago to 60% this year, his yards per attempt has dropped from 8.23 a year ago to 6.78 this year, and his far and away best game came against Samford, which accounted for four of the ten touchdowns he has thrown this season.
I am waiting for Ponder to step up and take control of the offense. FSU’s running game has been much more productive this season thanks to the emergence of Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson (who combined for 270 total yards of offense against Miami along with four total touchdowns) which has taken the pressure off of Ponder. But I haven’t seen him enough to determine if he is still making key plays in crucial situations, but I do know that he had a horrendous statistical game against Oklahoma that I am re-watching right now. In that game FSU’s rushing attack was slowed to only 3.8 yards per carry and Ponder struggled mightily, completing only 39.3% of his passes for 113 yards and two interceptions. There is going to be a game this year where it all comes down to how Ponder plays and he has to put the team on his shoulders and win it for them like he did against North Carolina, and his draft stock will be defined by that game. Will he step up to the challenge and show his potential to be a solid/good starting QB in the NFL? Or will he collapse under the pressure and lend credence to those who think he is no more than a game manager. I tend to believe he will step up to the pressure, but it’s hard to support that after his up and down season so far. But when it comes to ranking him the #2 QB in this draft class (excluding Luck since I don’t think he will declare) then yes, I do think I overrated him.
As for Locker, I think we all overrated him. That’s not to say that I don’t think he is worth a 1st round pick, because I do think he is worth that high of a selection, but the media compared him to John Elway, he was talked up as a potential #1 overall pick last year but he has simply not delivered yet this year. Part of that has to do with his relatively poor play this year, which can be attributed to the lack of talent on Washington’s team right now as Steve Sarkisian continues to improve the program and part of that can be attributed to Locker simply playing poorly. However, the expectations for him were so astronomically high that I expected that he would disappoint regardless of how well he played, and that seems to have been the case thus far. Many still have him going in the top five in mock drafts right now, but I have to say that I would be surprised if he got drafted that high at this point in the season. There is obviously a lot of time left, but I think he is a fringe top ten pick at this point. Yes, he has tons of potential and with another year of coaching I think he could definitely be a good or maybe even great QB in the NFL, but he is not there yet in my opinion. Obviously I still have a lot of tape to watch of him considering the fact that the season has not yet concluded, but he has underwhelmed me and most everyone else, and I my expectations weren’t even as unrealistic as some people’s were. Hopefully he plays better for the rest of the season (I have to say I was impressed at how well he seemed to bounce back from his awful game against Nebraska when he played USC and won), but at this point I think a lot of people, including myself, overrated Jake Locker. I had him ranked as my #3 QB after Ponder, and excluding Andrew Luck I do think Locker is the #2 in this class, but that only means that I believe Mallett is the only one with top 5 potential, Locker is more of a top 10-15 QB and Ponder is a late first round/early second round QB at this point.
However, the beauty of college football and the NFL Draft is that so much can change so quickly, and there is plenty of time for plenty of change to happen. So let’s just sit back and enjoy it and I will do my best to break it down and explain it right here for all of you to read.
Thanks for reading, I will have some updated rankings coming up soon!