Tag Archive: Christian Ponder


NFL Weekly Picks: Week 3

Hey guys, sorry I didn’t have time to get my weekly picks post up last week. I just moved back to Minnesota so now that I am settling in hopefully I will be able to get into a groove with all of these weekly posts that I want to do. So, without further ado, here are my NFL Weekly Picks!

Eagles over Chiefs- I think the Eagles’ offense will be too much for the Chiefs to slow down, but it may come down to whether or not the Eagles defense can stop anyone. Thus far the answer to that question is no. Still, I’m going with Chip Kelly and the home team Eagles in this match-up, especially since the Chiefs have Dunta Robinson on their roster.

Packers over Bengals- The Bengals got a solid win against the Steelers last week but the Packers offense looked borderline unstoppable last week against the Redskins. The Bengals defense is a significantly better unit, but I think the Packers will be able to put up enough points to win this one. If Andy Dalton plays well he could make things interesting though, and I’m not sold on the Packers defense yet. Still, it’s tough to bet against Aaron Rodgers in this match-up even on the road.

Rams over Cowboys- This might surprise some people, but the Rams are a good football team and they gave my Falcons a run for their money last week. The Cowboys couldn’t quite figure out the Kansas City Chiefs, and while the ‘Boys have a lot of talent on offense the Rams are a talented defensive football team that I think has a chance to match-up with the Cowboys on offense. Of course, if Dez Bryant goes off for 180 yards and a touchdown like Julio Jones did last week then I would be completely wrong on that. Still, I have a feeling the Rams will play well in this game and I think they can beat Tony Romo and the Cowboys on the road.

Chargers over Titans- I’m realizing I’m picking a lot of road teams here so far, but I think the Chargers are the better football team in this match-up and it’s tough not to go with Philip Rivers over Jake Locker here. If Locker can pass accurately and use his legs effectively they could give the Chargers defense some problems, but most of us know the likelihood of both of those things happening consistently for four quarters is not likely.

Vikings over Browns- This would have been a more interesting game prior to the Trent Richardson trade, and there is something funny about the Browns making this trade with the Colts just days before they travel up to Minnesota to play the Vikings given that the Vikings are the team that traded down with Cleveland to allow them to move up to number three overall and select Richardson in the first place. The Browns offense has been struggling even with Richardson in the lineup, and it’s hard to imagine them being better without him even with Josh Gordon returning from suspension. The Browns do have a good defense though, so I expect both teams to score less than 20 points. The Vikings have the offensive advantage in this match-up though thanks to Adrian Peterson and a solid game from Christian Ponder, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson should be enough to win this one for the purple. However, it is worth mentioning that this is the kind of game the Vikings traditionally find a way to inexplicably lose.

Patriots over Buccaneers- The Buccaneers aren’t in great shape right now and while the Patriots have barely managed to defeat two rookie quarterbacks in consecutive weeks I don’t think Tom Brady and that offense are going to stay out of synch for more than a couple weeks. That should play to the Bucs advantage this week, but I don’t think it will be enough to get them a victory.

Saints over Cardinals- Originally I had the Cardinals winning this game, but it’s tough to travel into the Superdome and get a victory, particularly since the Saints defense looks significantly better through two weeks than it ever did last season. Carson Palmer has reinvigorated the Cardinals offense, and their defense is still respectable despite the loss of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, but I don’t think it will be enough to go into the Saints’ house and beat Drew Brees on his home turf.

Redskins over Lions- The Lions have shown plenty of flashes through the first two weeks, but I think they are going to come up short against a Redskins team that will likely be very motivated and focused after starting 0-2. It remains to be seen if the ‘Skins defense can get on track, but going up against the Eagles and the Packers in the first two weeks isn’t exactly a fair barometer for a defense, especially since they were essentially the NFL’s guinea pigs against Chip Kelly and his up-tempo offensive scheme. I think the Redskins will be motivated and hungry this week, so I’m giving them the edge over the Lions.

Giants over Panthers- I definitely didn’t expect the Giants to start the season out 0-2, but if Eli Manning can’t stop throwing interceptions they may be in for a long year. However, I am well aware that not all of those turnovers are his fault and I expect he and the Giants to get back on track against the Panthers. It would be really nice if David Wilson would get his act together and stop fumbling the ball, but the addition of Brandon Jacobs back into the fold should help provide at least a little stability in the running game. Maybe Cam Newton and the Panthers will surprise me, but I think the Giants are going to be motivated after starting 0-2 just like the Redskins are. I’m not sure if I can say the same thing about the Panthers yet or not.

Texans over Ravens- The Ravens offense has been ineffective thus far this season and I don’t anticipate them getting back on track against the talented Texans defense. If Andre Johnson can play the Ravens will get to see the Texans explosive combination of Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson AND DeAndre Hopkins who was one of my favorite wide receivers in last year’s loaded draft class. He caught the game-winning touchdown last week against the Titans, so I think the Texans are ready to beat the Ravens on the road this week.

Dolphins over Falcons- It pains me to do this, but the Falcons got way too banged up last week to go on the road and beat the Dolphins in my opinion. I think Ryan Tannehill is about to go off, and Lamar Miller may have a big day as well. Not only that, but Brent Grimes is a sure bet to pick off Matt Ryan in this game and I just don’t think the Falcons will be able to overcome Roddy White not being at 100%, Steven Jackson being out (though Jason Snelling will hopefully get a lot of touches), Kroy Biermann being out for the year, Bradie Ewing being out for the year, AND Sean Weatherspoon being out until Week 11. That’s a lot to replace and account for in one week, and while I think they will be able to survive those set-backs long term I’m not sure they can get away with it this week, so I give the advantage to the Dolphins at home.

Bills over Jets- In the battle of rookie quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Geno Smith I’ve got to give Manuel and the Bills the edge in this one. The Jets defense is still a quality unit despite the departure of Darrelle Revis, but Geno Smith made some questionable decisions and poorly executed throws in the elements against New England last week, and I have been shocked by how well EJ Manuel has been playing thus far. The Bills coaching staff has done a great job managing him thus far, and I trust Nathaniel Hackett to gameplan well more than I trust Marty Mornhinweg to do the same, so I am going with the Bills in this one. May the best rookie QB win. I must say, I was shocked and critical of the Manuel pick at 16 overall, but defeating Geno Smith (who I expected to come off the board first of all the quarterbacks) would be a pretty big vindication for EJ Manuel and the entire Bills organization. It would also make me look stupid, so that’s probably why it will happen.

49ers over Colts- This is an interesting one and it will be worth monitoring just how involved Trent Richardson will be in this game given that he is unfamiliar with the system and has no chemistry with the team at all, but the 49ers are the better squad and are likely very pissed off after the way they lost that game to division rival and offseason Cold War opponent Seattle on Sunday Night. The 49ers should come out firing and it will take a terrific performance from Andrew Luck to leave Candlestick with a victory.

Seahawks over Jaguars- #BecauseJaguars and #AllRussellWilsonEverything

Bears over Steelers- I thought Marc Trestman might give the Bears offense a tune-up and he appears to have done just that, and it makes me happy to see Jay Cutler playing well. The Steelers offense is completely devoid of playmaking at this point and I don’t anticipate they will be able to take advantage of the Bears defense enough to come away with a victory even at home.

Broncos over Raiders- The Broncos are playing some terrific football right now and they are looking especially sharp on the offensive side of the ball so far. They simply have more talent than the Raiders do at this point, though I think Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden may give the Broncos defense a few headaches. It would be a truly fantastic upset if the Raiders were able to come away with a victory against the Broncos on the road, I just don’t see it happening.

Thanks for reading, hopefully I do better this week than I did during the openers. Enjoy the games this weekend!

–Tom

Current 2013 Pick Record: 9-6

NFL Quick Hits

This is a feature I’m going to try every week where I post some hopefully brief thoughts on the past weekend of NFL games. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do the same with College Football games, but I will post them if I have time to write them all up. Hopefully you guys enjoy this segment.

1- The Falcons Are Who We Thought They Were- I’m sure most of you guys know I’m a Falcons fan by now, and that loss to the Saints was tough. The Falcons scored on their opening drives in both halves, but otherwise were very inconsistent on offense. I’m wondering why they ran the ball so infrequently despite Steven Jackson having solid success on the ground, and I’m also wondering how they managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints to 23 points despite a lackluster pass rush. I’m not too worried about the offensive line yet, I think they will gel and become a stronger unit, but the amount of pressure in Matt Ryan’s face and the inexplicable avoidance of the run game and quick-hitting pass game to try to counter the pressure was frustrating. Brees was on point as always and I was impressed with the Saints dramatic improvement on defense. Rob Ryan has done a great job with them up to this point, and the pressure they got on Ryan and the looks they were showing him pre-snap stuck out to me. The Falcons will be fine, but I don’t think they are a 13-3 team like they were a year ago. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think they are in the 10-6/11-5 area. We shall see.

2- Peyton Manning Needs To Stop Playing On Rookie- The way Manning was playing on Thursday night it is evident to me he was just playing Madden on a rookie setting, and a veteran with his resume should be playing on All-Madden at least, and preferably with a number of the sliders raised manually beyond that. Manning was obviously masterful, and that was despite having no running backs with a yard per carry average over 3.8 and only gaining 65 total yards on the ground. Joe Flacco came down to Earth after his fantastic playoff performances and it’s clear to me that he is missing Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta right now. Torrey Smith is a stud, but he can only do so much without a significant threat to take some pressure off of him. Dallas Clark surprised me with 7 catches for 87 yards, and if he can keep that up the loss of Pitta shouldn’t be quite as significant. I am a huge Demaryius Thomas fan and had a top 20 grade on him out of Georgia Tech and he has completely lived up to my expectations for him. I definitely expected Decker to be the #2 guy and Welker to be the 3rd option, but if the first week is any indication then Welker is going to get a lot of love from Manning this year. I don’t think 2 catches for 32 yards will be a typical week for Decker by any means, but I think I definitely underrated Welker’s potential impact coming into the year. I was also blown away by how well Duke Ihenacho and Shaun Phillips played. I liked Ihenacho out of San Jose State but realized some of his athletic limitations, however he had 12 tackles (including ELEVEN solo stops), 1 tackle for loss and 3 pass deflections as well as some pretty nice hits in this game. Phillips had 2.5 sacks and 3 QB hits on the night and definitely helped make up for the absence of Von Miller for at least one night. The Broncos looked like they were in mid-season form, but I don’t think the Ravens are going to have that much trouble on offense or defense for the entire season. They have lots of new faces on their roster and they need time to gel, and Manning took full advantage. Don’t hit the panic button yet Ravens fans.

3- EJ Manuel Is Making Me Look Stupid- I was pretty clear that I was not a fan of EJ Manuel at FSU and while it is still very early in his career my analysis of him is looking quite foolish right now. I have been very impressed with how Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have managed Manuel starting from his first pre-season snaps. They haven’t asked him to go out there and be Tom Brady, but much like Cam Newton his rookie season they will likely open up the playbook and let him attack more as he becomes more comfortable. I was happy to see Robert Woods get his first NFL catch and his first NFL touchdown, but Manuel got to see first hand that there’s almost nobody better than Tom Brady when the game is on the line. He may not have had a great day statistically, but when it counted he took the Pats down the field and got them in position to win the game. Danny Amendola predictably had a good game, I loved what Shane Vereen did and I was very sad to see that he is going to miss significant time due to a broken wrist (which he apparently suffered on the first play of the game!). I am hoping that Spiller was given limited touches because of his lost fumble, and not because he is inexplicably being mismanaged again in 2013. Regardless, Bills fans should be very encouraged by the early returns on EJ Manuel.

4- “Same Old Bungles”- That is for my good friend Ryan Koons who is now an active duty marine. He is a die hard Bengals fan and whenever they manage to lose a game like this that is what he would always say. I have to say I really thought those days were behind Cincinnati because on paper I thought they were ready to win the AFC North. However, Andy Dalton continues to make me wonder about just how far the Bengals can go with him as a quarterback even in spite of the absolutely fantastic play of AJ Green. The Bengals have tons of talent on defense, they’ve got weapons on offense, but if they are going to win close games and go deep in the playoffs they need Dalton to play better and limit his turnovers. The run game deserves some ire as well as the Bengals only averaged 3 yards per touch and totaled 63 yards on the ground. On the other side I thought Jay Cutler, overall, had a good game and Brandon Marshall was fantastic. The Bears running game was sluggish as well, and hopefully that offensive line will slowly gel and improve over the course of the season. I know that probably makes Bears fans nervous because they’ve been waiting for that offensive front to improve for years, but I’m hoping this is the year for their sake.

5- Reggie Bush Is Dangerous, Christian Ponder Is Not- The Lions put up 38 points on the Vikings defense and a lot of that is due to Reggie Bush totaling 90 yards on the ground (4.3 ypc) and 101 yards and one touchdown as a receiver (with a long of 77). That’s very impressive production, and it comes despite only hauling in four of his eight targets on the day. Matt Stafford had another high attempt, high yardage day and while it wasn’t the most efficient performance it certainly got the job done. I wouldn’t expect too many four catch, 37 yard days for Calvin Johnson, but Bush, Nate Burleson and Joique Bell took the pressure off of him this week. On the other side Christian Ponder continues to prove his doubters right as he threw 3 interceptions, got sacked three times and lost a fumble on the day. He also spoiled a fantastic game for Jerome Simpson who had 7 catches and 140 yards which I certainly didn’t expect from him. Adrian Peterson had a 78 yard touchdown run on his first carry but gained only 15 additional yards on his next 17 carries, but still managed 93 yards and two touchdowns rushing as well as 18 yards and another touchdown receiving. I will be the first to admit that I liked Ponder out of FSU (clearly I’m 0/2 on scouting Florida State quarterbacks right now) but he doesn’t have the same velocity he had prior to the injuries he sustained his senior year, he isn’t making good decisions and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matt Cassel start at some point this season for the Vikings. That’s not a good sign, and it likely means the Vikings will be looking to draft a quarterback early in the 2014 NFL Draft. I have been patient with Ponder and he occasionally shows signs of life, but unfortunately now that he’s in his 3rd year these kinds of struggles won’t be tolerated anymore. He’s got to step up his game and quick.

6- Pryor Makes Oakland Offense Almost Competent- I really feel like I am ruining any credibility I have as a quarterback scout but I liked Tyler Wilson a lot out of Arkansas and I didn’t like Terrelle Pryor out of Ohio State, but I am glad the Raiders elected to start Pryor over Matt Flynn. Pryor’s legs gave the Raiders life in this game and while I don’t think it will get them to the playoffs it should make them more competitive than they would have been with Flynn at the helm. I didn’t get to see as much of this game as I wanted to because the feed went out for it multiple times at the bar I was watching the games at (for some reason it was streaming online, not sure why), so outside of Pryor impressing me as a runner and Andrew Luck being a stud I don’t have too many thoughts on this game. Sorry guys.

7- Nolan Nawrocki Your Crow Is Ready- I know it’s early, and I know it’s only his first start, but it was fun to see Geno Smith rally the Jets to an unlikely win against Tampa Bay week one. I’m not going to say he made some unbelievable plays on that final drive to steal victory from the jaws of defeat, but if Sanchez was the QB on that final drive I don’t think the Jets would have won that game. Smith isn’t known for his scrambling, but his athleticism was obvious at the NFL combine and he gave the Jets a chance to get lucky thanks to his skill set. He wasn’t mind-blowingly efficient by any means, but it was definitely a solid first start based on what I was able to see. Unfortunately for Bucs fans Josh Freeman struggled (though the Jets do still have a good, well-coached defense) and despite 154 yards from Vincent Jackson he only managed 210 yards on 31 attempts, was sacked three times and threw one touchdown and one interception. I wasn’t a Freeman fan coming out and his first season it really looked like he might make me eat my words, but he seemed to plateau after that rookie season and hasn’t quite been the same since.

8- Kaepernick Is The Truth- I wasn’t wild about Kaepernick’s throwing motion or accuracy coming out of Nevada, but Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job with him and that offense is now tailor made for him. It certainly helps having weapons like Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis (even though Davis had a drop or two that he shouldn’t have) while Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are injured, but his athleticism, pure arm strength and seemingly improving accuracy really stood out to me against the Packers. Green Bay had absolutely no answer for the Kaepernick-Boldin connection and while they managed to keep him bottled up as a runner he shredded them for 412 yards and three touchdowns as a passer. The Packers will have to go back to the drawing board now to try to figure out how to slow Kaepernick down if they meet again in the playoffs. I thought Aaron Rodgers was great as usual even if he did come up just short, I still love Randall Cobb, and I was happy Jermichael Finley bounced back from that drop that led to Rodgers only interception with some solid catches, good yards after the catch and that impressive touchdown. The Packers should be fine and I think they will be a playoff team, but I’m sure they and their fans are annoyed that another referee controversy led to a do-over for the 49ers that led to an Anquan Boldin touchdown. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think the NFL downgrading Bill Leavy for that mistake is ridiculous. Leavy is a veteran official and while he made a mistake this just reeks of an overreaction to me.

9- RGIII Was Rusty, The Eagles Offense Wasn’t- The Eagles defense made this interesting in the second half as RGIII and the Redskins started to knock some of the rust off, but in the first half RGIII had a lot of issues fading away from throws and not stepping into his passes. He still did some of that in the 2nd half, but he was definitely much more crisp and effective once his receivers stopped dropping passes and Kyle Shanahan adjusted to get him into a rhythm with quicker, easier throws. Michael Vick was impressive, though he’s still the same Michael Vick that will hold onto the ball too long and take unnecessary risks with his body at times. LeSean McCoy looks like an ideal fit for Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme and he should have a huge year. I was also happy to see that one of my favorites from a couple years ago Mychal Kendricks looked much better (based on what I saw live) and was pressuring RGIII pretty consistently. I’m not sure he’s great in coverage, but it was fun to see him rushing some of Griffin’s throws. Additionally, that interception Cary Williams made on that out route that Griffin threw was nothing short of fantastic. What a terrific play.

10- Oh Philip Rivers, You Poor Bastard- Rivers was absolutely fantastic in the 1st half and he started off the 2nd half in the same fashion. He had the Chargers up 28-7 and seemed poised for a statement victory in week one of the 2013 season. Unfortunately, much like he and the Bolts have in the past, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rivers and the offense began to sputter, the Texans woke up on offense, and the rally was complete once Brian Cushing read Rivers’ eyes beautifully and made a diving interception that he then returned for a game-tying touchdown. The Texans would go on to move the ball down the field and position Randy Bullock for a game winning 41 yard field goal. Andre Johnson continued to show why he is one of the best in the game with a 12 reception, 146 yard performance, Owen Daniels chipped in 67 yards and two touchdowns, and Deandre Hopkins added five receptions and 66 yards. I thought Arian Foster seemed determined to make a big play all game and didn’t seem focused on doing the little things. He was palming the ball and holding it away from his body, he dropped multiple catchable balls, and almost seemed to be showing off and looking to make someone look foolish. Maybe that’s just me over-extrapolating, but he seemed off tonight. I’d be surprised if Gary Kubiak doesn’t talk to him about how he’s holding the ball after he and the other coaches watch film.

Alright, so that was a LOT less brief than I expected it to be. I guess I had more to say than I anticipated, though I shouldn’t really be surprised since I am so long winded anyway. Sorry that was such a long post, hopefully you enjoyed it anyway!

Thanks for reading,

–Tom

I will readily admit that I was opposed to playing Christian Ponder this week against the Packers. I tend to be more conservative when it comes to quarterback development, and if you commit to sitting a QB and letting him learn I believe that you should stick to that and not rush him into the starting role before he is ready. The Vikings don’t exactly have a beautiful track record when it comes to developing quarterbacks (the last one they developed that amounted to anything was Daunte Culpepper if I remember correctly, unless you’re one of the few Tarvaris Jackson fans left) so it’s hard for me to trust their judgement on playing Ponder this early in his rookie season. I had my reasons, and I thought they were legitimate. Why play your rookie quarterback in his first start of his career against the defending Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packers, especially when they love to apply pressure off the edge with interesting blitz packages?

Shows what I know.

Ponder didn’t have an insane stat sheet at the end of the game, completing only 13/32 passes for 219 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He had a QB rating of 59.2, and threw a couple of passes that could have been potential turnovers. The Vikings couldn’t complete the comeback against the Packers, and the Vikings limped to a 1-6 record on the season.

But somehow, that all doesn’t seem to matter.

I haven’t watched every single Vikings game this season, but it’s safe to say they looked like a different team than they did previously. They fought throughout the entire game, they didn’t look like absolute garbage in the second half (though they did struggle in the 3rd quarter as Green Bay adjusted to take away Ponder’s roll-out plays that accounted for so much of their success in the first half) and Ponder gave the Vikings a significant spark on offense. It will be interesting to see what happens the rest of the year, but I have to give the Vikings credit: They were in the right when they chose to start Ponder today.

Had McNabb started the offense would have had no confidence, it would have been the same vanilla play-calling, and McNabb’s seemingly disinterested attitude would have continued to permeate through the offense and the rest of the team. Instead, Ponder’s excitement and up-tempo attitude became contagious and the team seemed to be fighting harder than they did in other weeks. I was very impressed by this, and it was actually fun to watch the Vikings on offense today. That’s not something that I’ve said often when watching them in previous weeks.

Adrian Peterson had a great game against a very good rushing defense, and while you have to give credit to the Vikings offensive line and blocking schemes, it’s hard not to argue that a lot of it had to do with Ponder. McNabb struggled to stretch the field vertically and I have seen him get sacked so many times off of play-action I’m not sure he even expected to throw the ball after he turned around to scan the field anymore. Ponder was only sacked twice tonight, which says a lot about the game-plan the Vikings had (AKA, get the ball out early and let Ponder use his mobility to extend plays outside of the pocket) but it also speaks to Ponder’s ability to process information and how ready he was to play this game.

Now, this wasn’t just about Ponder. Ultimately, Ponder and the Vikings lost and that had everything to do with Aaron Rodgers. It has been said time and time again, but he is without a doubt the best quarterback in the NFL right now. The things he is doing right now are just out of this world. At one point Rodgers had thrown three incompletions in the first half. Two of them were a result of dropped passes that should have been caught, and the other was a spike. He was unbelievable in this game and it was really something amazing to watch. He hasn’t had a QB rating under 100 yet this year and he had one of his best games of the season against the Vikings. You have to feel for the Vikings because their defense was just not up to the task of slowing him down, especially in the secondary.

Overall I was obviously incredibly impressed with Rodgers, but Ponder really impressed me because the Vikings offense just looked totally different. It looked like he was unleashing some of their potential whereas McNabb was holding them back in previous starts. Again, I didn’t think Ponder should play in this game because I like to be conservative with QB development, but it is clear that he was ready to start. The Vikings absolutely made the right decision playing him in this game. It will be interesting to see how he does the rest of the year, particularly when teams make a concerted effort to take away so much of his passing outside of the pocket (especially on designed roll-outs).

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Albert Haynesworth to the Patriots for a 5th rounder- Clearly the Redskins are cutting their dead weight, and Haynesworth was just an overpaid problem for the Redskins at this point. This is such a typical Patriots move, and it’s just amazing the saavy that they have as an organization. As a fan of the NFL Draft and as someone who is very critical of free agency moves and trades, it’s rare that I ever disagree completely with something the Patriots do (I did not like the Nate Solder pick in round 1 however, but those instances are few and far between). This is just another case of me considering them to be brilliant. They got him for a 2013 5th, virtually nothing, and none of his salary for the next two years is guaranteed because the Redskins had to take the cap hit for him. The Pats can restructure his deal to give him some guaranteed money if they want, but they definitely don’t have to. Plus, the Pats have the clubhouse leadership and stable locker room to absorb someone like Haynesworth and keep him in line, which a lot of teams don’t have. The Patriots know how it’s done, and they continue to impress me as an organization. It doesn’t get any better than that Pats and the Packers when it comes to the draft and offseason manueverings.

Reggie Bush to Miami, agrees to a 2 year contract with the team after trade- Not sure what the trade is for, but I heard it might be a 6th rounder… Can’t confirm any of that though. It will be interesting to see what the ultimate compensation is for him. Either way, Miami gets him on the cheap and they get a very explosive back who should complement Daniel Thomas well, even though I still maintain that he is more of a finesse back in a power-back’s body. Regardless, still a pretty low risk/high reward pick-up.

James Jones still available, Minnesota in pursuit- This would not surprise me in the least, this is a typical Vikings move. Picking up McNabb for a 6th in 2012 and a 6th in 2013 was a Patriots-esque move, but now they are back to the Vikings moves of old by panicking after losing Sidney Rice and pursuing a WR who is overrated because of his performance on a very good team. They’ll sign him for a lot of money, more than he’s worth, and act like he is ready to be a #1 (similar to what they did with Berrian…) and he won’t end up working. The Vikings are still the Vikings I guess. No way does this end well for them. Let me know when I can take over the Vikings and start fixing this team.

Jason Babin signs a 5 year, $28 million contract with Philadelphia- This is a great get for Philly and if you read my article on Babin you might understand the potential upside of this move. I was right in that he didn’t ask for ridiculous money, he took a reasonable deal of just under $6 million which is a steal for a DE coming off a career year with over 10 sacks, and he is reunited with his former DL coach who helped him blow up last year, and now that same coach is working with a lot of DL talent on the Eagles. On paper at least, they should have a very scary pass rush, and Washburn should help make sure that talent on paper translates to the field. Great pick-up by the Eagles, another well-run team.

Sidney Rice signs a 5 year, $41 million contract with $18.5 million guaranteed- Rice is following T-Jack to Seattle, which makes little sense to me, though Seattle has had an underrated offseason. He doesn’t have a QB to throw him the ball yet, though in future seasons they could have a quality player. But this year, his value is not very high in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how this pans out, but if I was Sidney I would much rather have stayed in Minnesota with McNabb on the way, Ponder in the wings and AP on that same side of the ball. That’s just me though.

Kevin Kolb still rumored to be going to AZ- Will update this when the deal goes through, I would be surprised if this didn’t happen today or tomorrow. Hearing they might get DRC and a 2nd or something similar for him. Would be a fantastic deal.

Will keep updating this as more stuff happens. There was a flurry of activity that I had to update you guys on, I’ll try to keep up today.

–Tom

It sounds like McNabb may be sporting Vikings colors soon after NFL teams are able to trade their players, and for only a 6th round pick.

Donovan McNabb appears to be on the move, finally being freed from the doghouse in Washington. According to NFL Network and Jay Glazeer, McNabb will be dealt to the Vikings for only a 6th round pick. This reported deal is conditional on the Vikings agreeing to a restructured contract with McNabb, but that shouldn’t be a monumental issue considering the Vikings would likely want to have him for more than just one season (and probably don’t want to pay him $12.5 million for that one year either).

I regularly give the Vikings grief for stupid signings, trades and overall poor management, but this is a suave move that is not typical of their organization. They pick up McNabb for a cheap price and fill a significant need with the acquisition, and should be able to get him for a reasonable cap number once they restructure his deal.

I will update this once this is confirmed in the coming days, but right now it sounds like this deal is promising and should go through once contract negotiations are completed. This is a great trade for the Vikings, and Christian Ponder and the rest of the organization should be excited for this move to go through.

**Update** According to Pro Football Talk and Jay Glazer the deal is for a 2012 6th round pick and a conditional 2013 6th round pick. I will keep this post updated as more details (such as contract info, confirmations) become available.

–Tom

E.J. Manuel's performance this year will either be the reason Florida State climbs back to the top of the ACC or the reason they have a mediocre season. If he plays well, the old FSU could be back. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

6. Florida State- Florida State lost quarterback Christian Ponder but outside of that they return a LOT of starters, key starters too. Jermaine Thomas at RB will be huge for them, they have talent at receiver, and they return a quality offensive line (especially their tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders). They also have one of the best pass rushers in the country in Brandon Jenkins, who should draw considerable attention this year as he attempts to mimic his incredible success from last year. Florida State’s saving grace will be E.J. Manuel’s considerable playing experience considering he was the back-up to Ponder all this time, but because of Ponder’s injuries he not only has regular season experience but bowl game experience. While he wasn’t dominant or spectacular in all of his playing time, he definitely showcased ability and should play well enough to give Florida State a good shot at an ACC title. If he plays really well then they may have a shot at a great bowl game or even a chance to win the National Championship.

7. South Carolina- South Carolina is returning a lot of talent and has a great recruiting class coming in. They have a number of players ready to emerge, and if Stephen Garcia can finally get his act together (and keep it together, which is usually the tricky part) South Carolina should have a great season. Garcia, Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey will make the offense viable provided the offensive line helps them out, and South Carolina should have a fierce pass rush if Devin Taylor emerges like I expect him to. South Carolina definitely has a lot of talent, and this may be the ole ball coach’s best chance to win a SEC title in a long time, with Alabama, Auburn and Florida all in a significant transition stage.

Trent Richardson has incredible upside and should help carry the Crimson Tide offense while A.J. McCarron adjusts to his new role as the starter. (AP Photo/ Butch Dill)

8. Alabama- It’s tough to ever count Alabama out of the top 5 or 10, but if there was a year to do it this would probably be the year. They lost a quarterback who is apparently allergic to losing in Greg McElroy, a Heisman winner and future NFL stud in Mark Ingram, a dynamic wide receiver in Julio Jones, multiple offensive linemen (most notably James Carpenter, who I might have had an interview with had I not projected him to go in the 3rd round) and Marcell Dareus, just to name a few. Losing four first round draft picks plus a quarterback who lost less times in his college career than I do when I play a full NCAA Football on Xbox is about as bad as it gets for a college program, but Alabama is an elite program now and like USC used to do they aren’t going to rebuild, they are going to reload. The problem with that is, while they can reload at most positions and they return a LOT of talent on defense, QB is going to be a question mark. A.J. McCarron is expected to be the starter, but he has little playing experience and will only be a redshirt sophomore. The QB position is incredibly important, especially for a possible national title run, and while I expect ‘Bama to be formidable because of their defense and a very dynamic running back in Trent Richardson and a receiver I am high on in Marquis Maze, if McCarron doesn’t step up in a big way they will lose at least a couple games even with a favorable schedule for a SEC school.

9. Oklahoma State- Oklahoma State had a fantastic season last year and they return some key starters this year, specifically Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, two of the key cogs in what may have been the most explosive offense in the country last year. They lost Kendall Hunter though, a very effective RB who really was the final piece to their explosive offense puzzle, so replacing him with another effective player will be critical if they want to have similar success on offense again this year. On defense they have some talent, but it will be a question mark until they step up in my opinion. They haven’t had much on that side of the ball in a while but it has been overshadowed by their high octane offenses. If their defense can step up then Oklahoma State has a chance to give Oklahoma a run for their money.

Russell Wilson may not have played for Wisconsin last year, but this year he could be the key to unlocking the potential of multiple players on offense, most notably wide receiver Nick Toon.

10. Wisconsin- Wisconsin is returning a lot of quality players, such as Montee Ball, James White, Nick Toon, Ricky Wagner, Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler, Louis Nzegwu, Chris Borland (coming back from injury), Antonio Fenelus, Devin Smith and Aaron Henry, to name a few. They will still have a very good offensive line as they return three good starters and already have a replacement for Carimi in place at LT in Wagner. RT will be an area of concern, as well as the DE spot opposite Nzegwu, previously occupied by the #11 overall draft pick J.J. Watt. They do have a significant upgrade on the way at QB though, and Russell Wilson’s transfer to Wisconsin makes them a favorite to win the Big-10 this year. Their pass defense is concerning to me though, because they lost two established starters in J.J. Watt and Niles Brinkley and while they might have solid replacements for them Wisconsin’s pass defense was an issue before they even lost them (see Rose Bowl game against TCU). If they can generate a quality pass rush and play better pass defense then Wisconsin could go a long way, but that back end is concerning to me.

Thanks for reading my most recent installment of my Preseason Top 25 Rankings! The top five teams will be unveiled tomorrow!

–Tom

First Round Draft Grades

1st– Carolina- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn:
Grade: C
Analysis: I don’t think Cam Newton is the best player in the draft and I think they made this pick because they felt like they had to. They could have gotten Marcel Dareus, a better player in my opinion, and filled a huge need at the same time. I don’t think Cam Newton will live up to his immense potential that has more to do with his physical ability than his accuracy and intangibles. I don’t think Cam will be a great quarterback in the NFL and that makes it hard to like this pick.

2nd– Denver- Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M:
Grade: B-
Analysis: If Denver was running a 3-4 I would give this pick an A+. Miller is a perfect 3-4 OLB and he would have formed a great tandem at OLB with Elvis Dumervil if he came back healthy. However, they are moving to a 4-3 defense and Miller will still have to be a strong-side linebacker in that defense. I think he can play this position which speaks to his athleticism, but it isn’t going to maximize his potential as a pass rushing linebacker which really is too bad. So I give this pick a B- because they got a good player, but they are limiting his potential by moving to a 4-3.

3rd– Buffalo- Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama:
Grade: A+
Analysis: Dareus is one of the best players in the draft and the Bills got him at #3. The Bills like to use 3-4 and 4-3 looks and Dareus is versatile enough to play 3-4 DE like he did at Alabama or play 4-3 DT which he did at times in Alabama’s nickel packages. I think he is going to be a very good player for Buffalo and that is why I gave them a great grade.

4th– Cincinnati- A.J. Green, WR, Georgia:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Bengals had a huge need at WR with TO likely leaving and Chad Johnson getting older. Jordan Shipley has ability as a slot receiver but they needed a future #1 and A.J. Green is absolutely that guy. He is the best receiver I have scouted since Calvin Johnson without a doubt and he should be a very good receiver in the NFL. He is as well rounded as any player at any position in this draft and he was the #1 player on my draft board for that reason. This is a great pick for the Bengals and they must have really liked him because reportedly they turned down a lot of picks from Atlanta to get him.

5th– Arizona- Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU:
Grade: A
Analysis: Patrick Peterson is one of the best players in the draft and the Cardinals stood pat and let him fall to them. They had a great shot at getting one of Dareus, Miller, Peterson or Gabbert and they had their choice and I think they made the right one. Peterson will provide them a potentially elite corner to pair with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a guy who had a bit of a down year last year. He fills a need and provides a lot of talent to a secondary that really needs a playmaker.

6th– Atlanta- Julio Jones, WR, Alabama:
Grade: B-
Analysis: The pick looks really good because Julio has a lot of talent and could form a very formidable duo with Roddy White in Atlanta, however the price that the Falcons paid to move up to #6 and get Julio Jones was extremely high. It also feels to me like the Falcons tried to move up to #4 to get A.J. Green and then “settled” for Julio at #6. I personally wouldn’t have made that move, but it is a gamble and I’m glad that the Falcons identified the guy they wanted and made an aggressive move to get him. I just wish they hadn’t given up so much to do it. Regardless, I like the player and I think that Roddy will be able to mentor him effectively and help him improve his concentration which is something Roddy struggled with early in his career. I hope Julio pans out because otherwise this could be a very problematic for the Falcons in the future.

7th– San Francisco- Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri:
Grade: B-
Analysis: I love the player, I am very high on Aldon Smith and I think I had him #6 on my big board, but I don’t think he is a very good fit in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker. He has impressive speed and burst off the edge but I don’t think he is a fluid enough athlete to drop into coverage and I thought he was best with his hand in the dirt. It will be interesting to see if he is still effective in the 3-4, but I thought he had the most upside as a defensive end in a 4-3 which is why I gave the pick a lower grade.

8th– Tennessee- Jake Locker, QB, Washington:
Grade: B-
Analysis: When I watched Jake Locker he didn’t strike me as a franchise QB, and I thought that while he has a lot of potential and great intangibles he won’t be a great QB in the NFL. If he can be brought along slowly for a year or two I think he could be a pretty good QB in the NFL and it’s hard to doubt a kid with his work ethic and leadership capability, but I don’t know how good he will be in the NFL. I like him, but I liked him more as a pick in the 20’s than I do #8. It will be interesting to see how he develops, but I don’t think I would have picked him here.

9th– Dallas- Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal:
Grade: B
Analysis: Smith is a solid pick here. Not the best value, but they needed a LT and Smith will fit that bill for them. I don’t think he will be able to start at LT right away for them because while he has a ton of potential he needs coaching up on his technique in my opinion. I think he might be able to play later on in his rookie year but I think he would be best starting as a back-up, developing and then playing when he is ready. Hopefully he isn’t forced in early.

10th– Jacksonville- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri:
Grade: B+
Analysis: Gabbert is a good pick here and I think he is going into a good situation for him. He needs a year or two to develop without being pressured into the starting position and with Garrard still playing pretty effective football at QB for the Jags Gabbert should be able to learn from him and get coached up. This is a good situation for him and I obviously like him a lot as a QB as he was my #1 ranked QB in the draft.

11th– Houston- J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin:
Grade: A
Analysis: Watt is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense that the Texans are switching to and he might be able to play significantly as a rookie. Watt really gives the Texans some talent at a position of need and he helps bolster a front seven that was in need of a talent upgrade. I am a big fan of Watt and I think this is going to end up being a great pick. Watt loves the game, has an incredible passion for it and I think he will work extremely hard to continue to improve.

12th– Minnesota- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State:
Grade: C
Analysis: This fills a position of need obviously but I think that it was a significant reach. I like Ponder, but his injury concerns and his down year this year would have given me pause if I was thinking about pulling the trigger here. Personally I would have drafted Nick Fairley at 12, improved my defensive line and then traded back into round one if Ponder was my guy. Just no value with this pick, and it felt like a desperation move because they couldn’t find a team to trade down with.

13th– Detroit- Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn:
Grade: A
Analysis: I caught a little flak for saying that Fairley would slide to #12 in my final mock draft and not only did he last that long he made it to #13 which I was very surprised about. Fairley has a ton of potential and teaming him with Suh on their interior defensive line is borderline terrifying. Obviously he has work to do and he needs to keep working, but if he keeps improving and developing the Lions could have a terrifying pair of defensive tackles for the next 5-10 years. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses because he has a ton of ability but there is some boom/bust potential with him. But at this point he is definitely worth the risk.

14th– St. Louis- Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina:
Grade: B+
Analysis: The Rams needed some pass rush help here as Leonard Little is getting older and Quinn has the potential to be a very effective pass rusher. There is boom/bust potential with this pick as well because there isn’t much tape on Quinn since he was suspended during his junior season. It is interesting to note how his season long suspension was not deemed as significant as Dez Bryant’s suspension over seemingly less wrong-doing, but that is just my personal opinion. Quinn has a lot of potential so it will be interesting to see how he develops over the next three years.

15th– Miami- Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida:
Grade: D+
Analysis: This is a very bad pick in my opinion. He might end up being a pretty good guard in the NFL, but I don’t think he is worth this high of a selection at all. I personally think he is very overrated and a lot of that has to do with his brother Maurkice being a pro-bowler at center for the Steelers as a rookie. The mind-boggling thing is that I haven’t heard one person say that they think Mike is going to be a better NFL player than Maurkice, and yet he was drafted two picks higher than Maurkice was! That is absolutely mind-boggling to me. Pouncey has the potential to be a pretty good guard in the NFL, but I think he is overrated and I don’t think he will live up to such a high selection for a guard.

16th– Washington- Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue:
Grade: C+
Analysis: I like Kerrigan a lot as a player but I thought his best fit was as a LE in a 4-3 defense, not as a 3-4 OLB. I never thought he looked like a fluid enough athlete to play that position, so I was pretty surprised when the Redskins, a new 3-4 team, drafted him to play 3-4 OLB. Very surprising. I love his motor and work ethic so I think he will get the most out of his ability, I just don’t think he is a good fit for this scheme.

17th– New England- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado:
Grade: C-
Analysis: I know it seems like I am giving a lot of bad grades, but some guys that I am not high on were going higher than I thought they should have. Solder is a guy that I would have picked in round 2 but I am not high on him. He has a lot of athletic ability and has good potential to play LT, but I think he is overrated as a LT prospect. The Patriots have a great drafting track record so it will be interesting to see if they prove to be right, but I definitely don’t like this pick.

18th– San Diego- Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I like Liuget as a prospect. He will be a pretty good fit at 3-4 DE for the Chargers and he should have a good impact against the run and should be able to penetrate upfield and disrupt plays in the backfield. I’m pretty high on Liuget so I liked this pick for the Chargers.

19th– New York Giants- Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraksa:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Giants needed help at corner and I think they had to be surprised that Amukamara slid this far, so I think this is a very good value pick here. Amukamara has some technique work to do but going to a Giants team that has a thriving pass rush and some veteran experience at corner so hopefully he won’t be forced into playing time too early.

20th– Tampa Bay- Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa:
Grade: B-
Analysis: I am not a big Clayborn fan and I am wary of him because of his down year this past season when he seemed to be throttling it down. I think he has the potential to prove me wrong, but he was a risk that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking without being able to evaluate his personality to see if he was as hard of a worker as everyone seemed to make him out to be. So I am not sold on him at 20, but he could very well prove me wrong.

21st– Cleveland: Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor:
Grade: B-
Analysis: This is a pretty good pick and I would probably give it a B+ or A- if the Browns were still running a 3-4 but they are running a 4-3 and having Rubin and Taylor inside will mean they will be getting almost no interior pass rush from their starters. They will need to bolster their interior line depth with some more athletic pass rushers to ever get a pass rush. However, their run defense should be formidable and I like Phil Taylor as a prospect so they still get a pretty good grade.

22nd– Indianapolis- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College:
Grade: A
Analysis: I thought Castonzo was a top 20 lock so this is good value for him here, plus he was my #1 ranked offensive tackle when it was all said and done, over Tyron Smith. I think he will be a good LT for the Colts for a very long time and I think Castonzo is an underrated prospect when it comes to playing the LT position. The Colts are a savvy team when it comes to the draft and I think they made a very good pick here, I’m a big Castonzo fan.

23rd– Philadelphia- Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor:
Grade: B+
Analysis: Watkins is a player I like but he is older than the average draft pick at 26 years old which limits his upside but I think he will be able to contribute early in his career which makes up for it to a degree. He should be a big help at guard for the Eagles who generally target offensive and defensive linemen in the first round of the draft.

24th– New Orleans- Cameron Jordan, DE, California:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I don’t think Jordan is a great fit as a 4-3 DE but I think he will be pretty good there. I think he would have been better in a 3-4 system though. Regardless, he is a very fundamentally sound player and he should be able to contribute early on in his career as a Saint and I definitely like him a lot as a prospect, plus they got a good value for him here. If he was a better scheme fit, in my opinion, he would have gotten an A or A+ from me here.

25th– Seattle- James Carpenter, OT, Alabama:
Grade: B
Analysis: I think they could have gotten him a bit later but clearly they were high on him and I understand why. He isn’t a flashy guy but I think he is going to have a long, successful NFL career at right tackle in the NFL. I don’t think he will be a guard, I think he will be a very good right tackle. So while they didn’t get great value they did get a good player at 25.

26th– Kansas City- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh:
Grade: C+
Analysis: I wouldn’t have picked Baldwin this high and I have questions about his fundamentals (such as route running, short area quickness) and I also have questions about his character. He has a ton of potential because of his size and freakish athletic ability but I am just not sold on him living up to that immense potential. It will be interesting to see how he develops because if he learns how to run better routes he could very well live up to his potential because he has great athletic ability, attacks jump balls well and adjusts to the ball in the air as well as any receiver in this draft.

27th– Baltimore- Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado:
Grade: B+
Analysis: I’m not a huge Jimmy Smith fan but he is a good fit for the Ravens scheme and he will be able to play a lot of man coverage on an island for them. He needs to work on some things, particularly his foot work, but he has a lot of potential as a man coverage corner even if I don’t think he has very good ball skills.

28th– New Orleans- Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama:
Grade: A+
Analysis: Ingram is going to turn out to be one of the best players from this draft class but because he isn’t a flashy running back he fell this far, that and because of a lack of need for RB’s early and often in the first round. However, Ingram is going to prove to be a great addition to the Saints and trust me I hate saying that as a Falcons fan. If his knee holds up he will put up 1,000+ yards and 8+ TD’s consistently for the next eight years.

29th– Chicago- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin:
Grade: A+
Analysis: I think Carimi is EXACTLY what the Bears needed. They needed an offensive lineman who can run block effectively which he can and a guy who can pass block well which he can. He won’t be able to stick at LT in the NFL but he has the potential to be a pro-bowl right tackle and the Bears have to be doing back-flips because he lasted this long. This was a huge step in the right direction for the Bears offensive line.

30th– New York Jets- Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple:
Grade: B
Analysis: Wilkerson is a solid value and he has a lot of potential so I like the pick, I just don’t love it as much as some others. I think he will fit in well in their 3-4 scheme so I think this is a good pick as far as need but they also got a talented player.

31st– Pittsburgh- Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State:
Grade: A+
Analysis: I love this pick, absolutely love it. I am a huge Heyward fan and I think he is going to be one of the biggest steals in this draft when it is all said and done. He won’t ever be a big sack guy in the NFL but he is going to be an impact player against the run and he should be an anchor on this Pittsburgh defensive line for the next ten years. This is one of the best picks of the draft in my opinion.

32nd– Green Bay- Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State:
Grade: A
Analysis: The Packers made a great pick to finish the first round with Sherrod. I wrote in my scouting report that I thought his best fit might be in a zone blocking scheme because of his good first step and his ability to wall off defenders in the run game. He struggles as a drive blocker so his max value would be in a zone blocking scheme because he wouldn’t be asked to drive block as often, and that is why I love this pick so much. Sherrod won’t be asked to drive block as much as he would in a man scheme which makes him more valuable, plus he should be able to play LT for the Packers allowing Bulaga to remain at RT where I think he is a better fit.

That’s all I have for the first round of the draft. I’ll try and get grades out for day two tomorrow or Sunday! Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Top 32 Big Board

Here is my top 32 Big Board for the 2011 NFL Draft. These, in my opinion, are the top 32 prospects in the NFL Draft. Many of them are hot-linked so that you can read my scouting reports on them. Enjoy!

1-      A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

2-      Marcel Dareus, DT, Alabama

3-    Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

4-    Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

5-     Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

6-     Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M

7-      Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

8-      Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn

9-      J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

10-   Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

11-   Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

12-   Cameron Jordan, DE, California

13-   Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

14-   Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

15-   Tyron Smith, OT, Southern Cal

16-   Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

17-  Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

18-  Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina

19-   Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

20-  Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

21-   Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

22-   Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

23- Justin Houston, DE, Georgia

24-   Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky

25-   Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech

26-   Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

27-  Jake Locker, QB, Washington

28-  Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois

29-   Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

30-   Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

31- Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple

32- Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State

Thanks for reading!

–Tom

Scouting Report:

Ponder has question marks because of his injury history, but I believe he can be a quality NFL QB if he can stay healthy. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

Positives: Ponder has solid size, above average arm strength and good accuracy. He has impressive mobility and very impressive short area quickness for a quarterback. He is an intelligent player, he is very competitive and he has shown the ability to win games for his team late (most notably the UNC comeback his Junior year). He has played hurt and he regularly takes hits to deliver throws which speaks to his toughness. Ponder might not have a rocket for an arm, but he has good zip on throws that are within ten or fifteen yards of the line of scrimmage. He displays a good sense of timing routes and he knows when the ball has to come out and makes routine throws easily. He has good accuracy and places the ball well within fifteen yards very easily. He flashes the ability to throw well on the run and can obviously pick up good yardage with his legs. He also extends plays well and flashes pocket poise to step up and avoid the rush in the pocket. He also flashes the ability to hold defenders with his eyes and with pump fakes which I like to see. He will occasionally throw his man open and isn’t afraid to throw the ball into tight windows because he is accurate enough to do so. He also has a good feel for where he should place the ball and won’t lead his receivers into big hits over the middle, rather he will slow them down with a throw away from the defender.

Negatives: The most critical thing with Ponder is his injury history. He suffered a shoulder injury at the end of his junior season and he dealt with elbow injuries throughout his senior season as well as a mild concussion that knocked him out of a game. He actually tried to play through the concussion but was pulled after it was obvious something was wrong on the next play. Ponder regressed a bit this season and at times was careless with the ball, his arm strength and zip on his passes was not the same as it was the previous season and he didn’t seem like the same player he was the previous year. He also seemed more willing to drop his eyes and scramble rather than step up, buy time and keep his eyes downfield at times and that worries me. He also didn’t seem to have a good feel for when he should step up because there were a number of times where he just stood where he finished his drop and ended up getting sacked and occasionally fumbling because he didn’t feel the rush and step up in the pocket to buy himself more time. Even when his arm is 100% Ponder doesn’t throw a very good deep ball. The throws have a lot of air under them and they aren’t often placed well. He does well when he can throw the ball deep without safety help over the top because he can just float the ball down the field and let his receiver run under it but have no safety help over the top is not an overwhelmingly frequent occurrence in the NFL and even when he floats the ball he can’t throw it more than 45 or 50 yards downfield. At times he will get flustered by pressure in his face and it will hurt his throws but other times he will throw fine in the face of pressure, so that inconsistency is a little hard to get a handle on. He also tends to stare down receivers a lot, which can be a problem. I think he can learn to not do this as much, especially since he flashes the ability to use his eyes well, but it’s a pretty big concern since he really telegraphed some throws with his eyes this year.

Overall: When it comes down to grading Ponder it comes down to his injuries. If Ponder’s shoulder and elbow get back to 100% after the injuries then he can be a quality quarterback in the NFL. He won’t ever be a Pro-Bowler in my opinion but he can be an effective starter that, if surrounded by a quality supporting cast, can win his team a Superbowl. However, if his arm strength and zip on his throws is never the same then he will be more of a marginal starter and probably a career back-up and spot-starter. I tend to believe that his arm strength and zip on his passes will be better in the future than it was this season given his elbow problems that he played through, so I think his arm strength will be better than it was at times this year. I also think the injury hurt his accuracy at times this year, so I think some of his junior tape is more indicative of what he can do as far as zip on his throws and how accurate he can be. However, Ponder is a risk because of his injury history and there is no guarantee he will get back to what he once was. However, he has above average arm strength, good accuracy, impressive mobility and he is smart even if he made some bad decisions this year. He will get the most of his ability and he was in complete command of the Florida State offense, so he shouldn’t have any problems with a NFL playbook especially since he has experience dropping back from center and making reads from under center. I think Ponder will be a quality quarterback in the NFL if he can stay healthy, but if he can’t (especially if he re-injures his shoulder or elbow again) then he will be a career back-up that isn’t worth a pick in the first four or five rounds.

Projection: 2nd round. I think Ponder is one of the better quarterbacks in this class. He could slip until the late 2nd round because Gabbert, Newton, Locker and Mallett all figure to go before him, but if you are a team in the 2nd round that needs a quarterback (Minnesota comes to mind) then Ponder could be your guy. He won’t turn water into wine as a QB like Favre did at times but he won’t make as many mistakes either.

SKILLS 1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

Arm Strength: 3.0 (2.5 with injuries)
Accuracy: 3.5
Mobility: 3.5
Decision Making: 3.5
Mechanics: 3.5
Pocket Awareness: 2.0
Intangibles: 3.5

Thanks for reading! Dareus is still on the way, and expect reports on Stanzi, Kaepernick, Devlin and Enderle soon!

–Tom

Player Name – College – Height(Feet,inches,/8′s) – Weight

Quarterbacks

Andy Dalton – TCU – 6020 – 213
Colin Kaepernick – Nevada – 6045 – 225
Jake Locker – Washington – 6022 – 228
Greg McElroy – Alabama – 6016 – 222
Christian Ponder – Florida State – 6021 – 222
Ricky Stanzi – Iowa – 6041 – 221

Running Backs

Anthony Allen – Georgia Tech – 5116 – 223
Noel Devine – West Virginia – 5070 – 160
Charles Clay – Tulsa – 6031 – 239
Roy Helu Jr. – Nebraska – 5113 – 216
Kendall Hunter – Oklahoma St. – 5072 – 199
Derrick Locke – Kentucky – 5081 – 186
Owen Marecic– Stanford – 6003 – 246
DeMarco Murray – Oklahoma – 6000 – 214
Bilal Powell – Louisville – 5103 – 204
Da’Rel Scott – Maryland – 5107 – 205

Wide Receivers

Vincent Brown – San Diego St. – 5110 – 184
Edmund Gates – Abilene Christian – 5115 – 189
Leonard Hankerson – Miami – 6015 – 205
Dwayne Harris – ECU – 5097 – 200
Ronald Johnson – USC – 5111 – 186
Jeremy Kerley – TCU – 5092 – 188
Niles Paul – Nebraska – 6007 – 225
Austin Pettis – Boise State – 6024 – 205
Greg Salas – Hawaii – 6011 – 206
Courtney Smith – South Alabama – 6040 – 220
Titus Young – Boise State – 5112 – 174

Tight Ends

Preston Dial – Alabama – 6021 – 238
Lance Kendricks – Wisconsin – 6031 – 240
Mike McNeill – Nebraska – 6036 – 232
Lee Smith – Marshall – 6057 – 269
Luke Stocker – Tennessee – 6047 – 255
D.J. Williams – Arkansas – 6017 – 236

Offensive Tackles

Clint Boling – Georgia – 6047 – 310
James Brewer – Indiana – 6062 – 323
Gabe Carimi – Wisconsin – 6071 – 315
James Carpenter – Alabama – 6046 – 313
Anthony Castanzo – Boston College – 6071 – 305
Marcus Gilbert – Florida – 6064 – 329
DeMarcus Love – Arkansas – 6045 – 318
Derek Sherrod – Miss. St. – 6055 – 312
Nate Solder – Colorado – 6082 – 314
Lee Ziemba – Auburn – 6060 – 317

Guards/Centers

Brandon Fusco – Slippery Rock – 6041 – 302
Rodney Hudson – Florida State – 6022 – 291
Jake Kirkpatrick – TCU – 6022 – 301
Kevin Kowalski – Toledo – 6031 – 300
John Moffitt – Wisconsin – 6040 – 314
Kris O’Dowd – USC – 6042 – 303
Jason Pinkston – Pittsburgh – 6033 – 313
Stephen Schilling – Michigan – 6042 – 302
Danny Watkins – Baylor – 6034 – 312

Defensive Ends

Sam Acho – Texas – 6016 – 257
Pierre Allen – Nebraska – 6037 – 273
Allen Bailey – Miami – 6032 – 278
Christian Ballard – Iowa – 6041 –  288
Jeremy Beal – Oklahoma – 6023 – 268
Cameron Jordan – California – 6041 – 287
Ryan Kerrigan – Purdue – 6037 – 255
Pernell McPhee – Miss. St. – 6027 – 274
Brooks Reed – Arizona – 6024 – 257

Defensive Tackles

Sione Fua – Stanford – 6016 – 307
Jarvis Jenkins – Clemson – 6037 – 309
Chris Neild – West Virginia – 6017 – 313
Stephen Paea – Oregon St. – 6011 – 295
Phil Taylor – Baylor – 6034 – 337
Cedrick Thornton – Southern Arkansas – 6035 – 299
Ian Williams – Notre Dame – 6013 – 311

Linebackers

Josh Bynes – Auburn – 6013 – 239
Mason Foster – Washington – 6011 – 241
Mark Herzlich – Boston College – 6035 – 250
Ross Homan – Ohio State – 6003 – 229
Nate Irving – NC State – 6012 – 242
Greg Jones – Michigan State – 5117 – 240
Casey Matthews – Oregon – 6006 – 232
Colin McCarthy – Miami – 6012 – 235
Von Miller – Texas A&M – 6025 – 237
Kelvin Shepperd – LSU – 6021 – 250
Chris White – Miss. St. – 6027 – 244
Lawrence Wilson – Connecticut – 6006 – 225
K.J. Wright – Miss. St. – 6031 – 246

Defensive Backs

Ahmad Black – Florida – 5093 – 183
Curtis Brown – Texas – 5115 – 180
Jalil Brown – Colorado – 6002 – 202
Kendric Burney – North Carolina – 5090 – 181
Rashad Carmichael – Virgina Tech – 5095 – 185
Quinton Carter – Oklahoma – 6005 – 211
Zac Etheridge – Auburn – 5114 – 201
Marcus Gilchrist – Clemson – 5097 – 193
Jaiquawn Jarrett – Temple – 5117 – 196
Joseph Lefeged – Rutgers – 5112 – 208
Curtis Marsh – Utah State – 6001 – 194
DeAndre McDaniel – Clemson – 6001 – 213
Johnny Patrick – Louisville – 5104 – 185
Da’Norris Searcy – North Carolina – 5105 – 216
Richard Sherman – Stanford –
DeMarcus Van Dyke – Miami – 6006 – 168
Shareece Wright – USC – 5110 – 182

Long Snappers

Danny Aiken – Virginia – 6044 – 246
Christian Yount – UCLA – 6000 – 241

Kickers/Punters

Kai Forbath – UCLA – 5105 – 191
Ale Henery – Nebraska – 6011 – 178
Chas Henry – Florida – 6033 – 220
Josh Jasper – LSU – 5100 – 173

Information courtesy of http://www.sidelinescouting.com/

Some interesting stuff in here. But as we all know there is a lot more to a player than their size. It will be very fun to see how some of these guys do this week. I am particularly interested in how Lance Kendricks, Allen Bailey and of course all the QB’s do. Especially Ponder and Locker because of their relatively disappointing seasons this year. Hopefully Ponder is healthy enough to throw, but if he’s not he should just drop out and get healthy.

Can’t wait to see how this week turns out. I won’t be there unfortunately but I hope (and plan) to go next year. I will definitely watch the game and post notes on it after I re-watch it. I am working on transcribing my interviews from my week at the East-West Shrine game and also on a “Winners and Losers” post reviewing the game and the week overall. That should be up in the next day or two hopefully. The interviews will take a while though.

Thanks for reading and happy Senior Bowl week!

–Tom