Why Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is a bad dynasty fantasy football pick

This is a response to our 2011 dynasty rookie quarterback rankings, where I was the odd man out when it came to Christian Ponder opinions.

We all have our own opinions. Mine: Ponder will be the bust of the 2011 NFL Draft. I wouldn’t pick Ponder for your fantasy team even if he bribed me with a six-pack of tasty Dogfish Head IPA.

Let me tell you why.

He played for Florida State University. It’s not very deep or insightful, but that is one school that has a terrible track record for developing quarterbacks that can perform in the NFL.

Check out these names, several you might recognize:

  • Bill Cappleman
  • Gary Huff
  • Danny McManus
  • Peter Tom Willis
  • Brad Johnson
  • Casey Weldon
  • Danny Kanell
  • Chris Weinke
  • Adrian McPherson

That’s a list of every FSU quarterback selected in the draft since 1960. Remember the success Weinke, Kanell and Weldon had in college? Those were the FSU dynasty years. Remember what they did in the pros?

You could argue that McPherson was never really a top-level prospect. But don’t forget Weinke won the Heisman, the Johnny Unitas and the Davey O’Brien. He was a legit pro prospect who still owns most of the school’s passing records. He started in the NFL as a rookie. The Seminoles’ other Heisman-winning quarterback, Charlie Ward, didn’t even attempt to play in the NFL, opting for the NBA instead.

Weldon was a Heisman runner-up to Desmond Howard. Kanell still owns the school record in career TD passes. (NOTE: I couldn’t find any career statistical leaders for FSU. This is patchwork info from Wikipedia, the Chicago Tribune and other resources.)

Willis was drafted at least 39 picks higher than Weinke, Weldon or Kanell.

The only FSU-to-NFL quarterback worth talking about in the last 51 years is Johnson. Nobody’s going to be talking about him a decade from now, but he was a complete surprise, picked 227th overall in the ninth round. There isn’t even a ninth round anymore.

Ponder is the only first-round pick of the bunch. But if you’re going to bring that argument I’ve got a few hundred Tim Couch, Akili Smith and Ryan Leaf rookie cards I’ll sell you at a huge discount.

What gives?

I don’t watch much Florida State or ACC football. I don’t know if the problem is their scheme. I don’t know if it’s the defenses they face. I don’t know if it’s the program itself. I do know the Seminoles have a track record for developing QB prospects that are NFL backups at best.

Bobby Bowden left after the 2009 season, but Ponder is still a product of the Bobby Bowden-led program. It will take a few years before we see non-Bowden players.

I hope Ponder ends the streak of poor FSU contributions to the NFL QB gene pool, but “hope” is not enough for me on fantasy football draft day.

I’d rather roll the dice on an extremely talented (Cam Newton) or cerebral (Blaine Gabbert) player if I’m picking early. Ponder is a Chad Pennington-armed, turnover-prone signal-caller from a school with a poor reputation for developing NFL quarterbacks.

A lot of people call Ponder the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft. That’s what everyone said about Jimmy Clausen in 2010.

Disagree? We have comments for that

What did I get right? What is wrong? Would the Vikings have drafted Ponder if they knew he was going to break up with his girlfriend? You’re not going to convince me to pick him — only Ponder’s play on the field will do that — but all opinions are valid and welcome.

8 Responses to “Why Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is a bad dynasty fantasy football pick”


  1. jim

    The article would have more of a statistical/factual and credible feel to it had ALL of those QB’s had the same QB coach at FSU. Ponder was the only QB coached by Jimbo Fisher. If you want to say Jimbo has a history of putting top notch QB’s in the NFL that become busts..cough cough Jamarcus Russel..cough..THAT would actually make more sense..What i’m gathering from your research (nutshell hypothesis)is that there is some mystical indian burial ground curse that follow FSU QB’s to the the NFL causing them to fail or not become top QB’s in the league….pretty weak…

  2. ep

    @jim,
    Good insight on the Jimbo-JaMarcus angle. I totally missed it. But I’m sticking with “mysticism.”

    When FSU produces a quarterback who succeeds in the NFL I will put aside my “mysticism.” Until then, I’m going to stay away from any quarterback from that program. Same goes for Notre Dame, where even famed NFL guru Charlie Weis couldn’t turn their college superstar QBs into real NFL prospects.

    What I do know:
    Weinke threw for 4,167 yards, 33 TDs and 11 picks in his senior season. He won every NCAA award a quarterback could want and was drafted in the fourth round.

    Ponder never threw for more than 2,717 yards (junior) and 20 TDs (senior) and amassed 30 INTs (to 49 TDs) in his four years at FSU.

    Weinke was a better quarterback prospect than Ponder.

  3. Sockonfl

    I will agree that Florida State coaching has set Christian Ponder back, but you need to say the reason why it has. I watched the 2009 FSU/Miami game with my Uncle from Florida. I remember saying to him that day that Ponder could be a good one since he was very accurate and making a lot of quality throws. His one downfall though was that he consistently looked down his number one target in the route tree instead of surveying the field. I watched him again in the 2010 FSU/Oklahoma game and came away with the same feeling. Constantly watching where you throw the ball will lead to a lot of interceptions at the NFL level. This is something that the NFL coaches will need to work out of his habits for him to progress as an NFL quarterback.

    His quarterbacks coach with the Vikings will be Craig Johnson who is coming over for 2011 from the Tennessee Titans. Say what you want about Vince Young, but VY was a winner with the Titans as his 30-17 record as a starter indicated. We will need to see if Johnson can make the necessary adjustments with Ponder to make him successful. The current NFL lockout situation is definitely holding back progress in this area.

    Let’s look at some of the FSU quarterbacks you mentioned a little deeper and see why they may have failed in the NFL.

    Chris Weinke was already 29 years old as a rookie in the NFL. That was why he was only a forth round pick despite winning all the awards you mentioned. He was on a team that had Richard Huntley as its maining running back threat. Richard who?? He did have a young Muhsin Muhammad and Wesley Walls at TE to throw to, but the lack of a running game made them too one dimentional and predictable. Weinke would only start 5 more games after his rookie season and wasn’t given the opportunity to grow from his rookie season.

    Danny Kanell was brought in to compete with Dave Brown for the starting quarterback job with the New York Giants. He was also victimized by a less than stellar supporting cast around him. Rodney Hampton was the running back at at the tail end of his 3.8 yards per carry career. The receivers the Giants had were Chris Calloway and Thomas Lewis. That’s right who even heard of those guys outside of true diehard Giants fans. Kanell was only given 2 partial seasons as the starter and his career was basically over.

    Casey Weldon was drafted by the Eagles in 1992 but never even made the roster. He caught on with Tampa Bay and was a backup to Trent Dilfer for most of his career. He was never given an opportunity to show what he could do as a starter.

    It’s hard to say Brad Johnson didn’t have a semi successful career. He does have one Super Bowl ring to show for his efforts. Plus he also remained in the league for many seasons as a starter for various teams with varied success. He will still be remembered ten years from now though. Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are never forgotten.

    Christian Ponder is going to an offensive team brimming with talent. Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in the league. Percy Harvin is a dynamic and versatile receiver. Visanthe Schiancoe and Kyle Rudolph will add their share of receptions at the tight end spot. As long as they bring back the deep threat in Sidney Rice(which looks likely), the team will be complete at the skill positions.

    Let us look at the talent level on the teams your first round busts you listed had.

    Tim Couch had Terry Kirby and Karim Abdul Jabbar(not the HOF basketball player) at running back. Kirby had a similar career to what Reggie Bush is having so he was a semi talent. His best wide receivers were Kevin Johnson and Darren Chiaverini. Who were those guys? No wonder he busted.

    Akili Smith probably had the most talent around him. Corey Dillon was a solid running back to have. Peter Warrick was the main receiving threat but he pretty much busted too. Tony McGee the tight end was the second best receiver. They only gave Akili one season as the starter though. After his first semi full season, he would only start two more NFL games. Perhaps Akili wasn’t given enough time to make the transition to the NFL.

    Ryan Leaf’s problems were some of his own, but the talent around him was weak. They did have Natrone Means at running back, but the leading receiver was Tight End Freddie Jones. That sounds eerily familiar to the situation one of the 2011 draftees will be in. Blaine Gabbert has MJD at running back and his leading receiver at this point would be Marcedes Lewis or a non exciting Mike Thomas.

    You also say you would pick Gabbert because he is more cerebral(i.e. scored higher on the wonderlic.) Wonderlic scores don’t always dictate success or not in the NFL. Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino all had wonderlics in the mid teens yet went on to have superb HOF careers. Plus Ponder scored a 35 on the Wonderlic himself so he is fairly cerebral as well.

    If he can get proper NFL coaching to avoid staring down his main receiving target and can stay healthy throughtout his career, Christian Ponder has just as good a shot as any of the 2011 quarterback draftees to succeed in the NFL.

  4. ep

    @Sockonfl,

    If Akili Smith was worth the trouble of giving him another year, some team somewhere would have put him on their practice squad. Same with Kanell after his two years. … Steve Smith was on the Panthers team in Weinke’s first year but was only given the chance to catch 10 passes. Muhsin Muhammad, a rookie in 1996, was Weinke’s age. The bottom line is that Weinke lost his job to Rodney Peete the following year and never won it back despite it being, y’know, Rodney Peete. Smith had 54-872 and Muhammad also had more than 800 yards with Peete as the starter. … And if Casey Weldon couldn’t beat out Trent Dilfer, well, you’re just making my argument stronger.

    I never said the Wonderlic is a test of a cerebral quarterback. You implied that. Forget the Wonderlic. Gabbert has a photographic memory. At Missouri he wowed coaches because he was able to remember exactly how plays were supposed to happen and what defenses did to stop them.

    That sounds Peyton Manning-esque to me. Was Ponder “smart” before he took the Wonderlic? I realize he was, but was anybody making a big deal out of it?

    You made a lot of excuses for the FSU quarterbacks based on poor supporting cast. But let’s not forget the great college QBs who could not take advantage of opportunities like Ponder’s. Great receiving tandems (Matt Leinart), the best running back in the game (Andre Ware) and the best wide receiver in the game (David Carr) all were wasted on great college quarterbacks before. It can happen again.

    Ponder wasn’t even a great college quarterback in the ACC. The only ACC quarterbacks to rise up in the NFL in the last decade (Philip Rivers, Mike Vick and Matt Ryan) posted absolutely absurd numbers during their college careers. Ponder’s numbers are boring at best, turnover-prone at their worst… And he worked primarily out of the shotgun… And his arm strength is average… And he had shoulder issues in college… And, as I’ve said before, he played at Florida State.

    I agree Ponder has a shot. I also agree that NFL coaching can help, but they can only do so much. Will it be enough?

    Ponder is a riskier pick than Newton, Gabbert and Locker. No amount of argument will change that opinion until I see Ponder succeed in the NFL.

  5. Jay-Mo

    As a Miami fan, I enjoy any indictment on Florida State. However, I don’t believe it’s viable here. Any flags on Ponder should be attributed to him and not where he went to school. Oklahoma hasn’t had a good track record of producing OBs (Josh Heupel, Jason White, Rhett Bomar), and it hasn’t hurt Sam Bradford’s progress. Even Troy Aikman transferred away to blossom.

    One thing is for certain, Ponder has not lived up to expectations. That might be the case in the NFL too. The thing I see as a major advantage for him is being drafted by a team stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. And Minnesota has Super Bowl talent, not just Pro Bowl talent in one area. He may be going into the best situation a rookie QB has ever gone into, even better than Aaron Rodgers. I believe that makes him an immediate fantasy player, a better play than any other rookie this year.

    And Ponder did not primarily play in the shotgun. It was more like 50-50, which is something I can’t say for Newtown, Gabbert and Locker … http://bit.ly/jTK73Q

  6. ep

    @Jay-Mo,
    Thanks for the comment.
    Thanks to everybody in the community for a great conversation.
    I’m still sticking with mysticism, but we just created a great resource for Chinstrap Ninjas readers.

    Until proven otherwise I have to be completely blown away by a college player to draft Florida State quarterbacks, Notre Dame quarterbacks (Clausen, Quinn, Mirer) or Penn State running backs. (For every Larry Johnson there are 10 Blair Thomases and Curtis Enises).

    If Ponder was a dominating force while at Florida State, maybe I’d only be calling him a risky pick and not a bad pick.

    The Ponder video was cool, but — understand where my bias lies here — it expands and illustrates my point.

    Most highlight videos are a collection of blown coverages and holes you could drive a dump truck through. This one is no different. Ponder takes advantage of so much bad coverage and runs through so many tackles/huge holes I wonder why his numbers look so pedestrian. You said he hasn’t met expectations and that fits perfectly. Underachievers do not survive in the NFL. (I was also wrong about the shotgun. You were right.)

    In the video, Ponder made several throws he will not be able to make as a pro. Lobbing deep into triple coverage when there’s a wide open receiver on the other side of the field (2:00) or underneath (about 6:00) works as a Florida State quarterback against ACC defenses. NFL defenses will make him pay.

    I keep saying it over and over. I truly hope Ponder breaks the trend. If he does, he becomes Florida State’s Sam Bradford. But, if anything, this discussion has convinced me even more about how risky Ponder is even if you don’t consider the Florida State connection a legitimate argument.

  7. August Holbrook

    Thanks again for the article post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

  8. Adyson Coffield

    Very good post.Much thanks again. Want more.