As I’ve said every year, the NFL draft is not a huge fascination for me because I don’t follow college football. I don’t know enough about any of the players, and after you’ve read two or three mock drafts, you know even less. Once the draft is over, you still won’t know whether your team was a big winner or a big loser in the draft . . . it really does take a few years to put perspective on it.
This year, the Vikings had the 12th pick in the draft and an immediate need for a quarterback, which meant they took Christian Ponder of Florida State. Joe Webb, who was a late-round draft choice last year got the chance to start a couple of games late in the season after Brett Favre was injured. He did fairly well, but he’s not widely considered ready to be a regular starter yet. Ponder will have a good chance to show what he can do in training camp (assuming that the labour situation is resolved fairly soon after the draft).
Here’s Judd Zulgad’s take on the Vikings’ draft choice:
Vikings executive Rick Spielman, coach Leslie Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave were among the members of the Vikings brass who spent a day-and-a-half with Christian Ponder last month in Tallahassee, Fla., putting the Florida State quarterback through various drills and evaluating his football smarts during a private workout.
“I thought the whole interview went great, the whole process,” Ponder said. “I was impressed by Musgrave and what he was doing on offense [and] Coach Frazier. I’m not sure how interested they were going to be, but I thought the whole process went well.”
[. . .]
While the Vikings could attempt to sign a veteran free agent to play in front of Ponder for a season, there also is the chance he will step in as the team’s starter. Frazier attempted to frame it as if Ponder will be competing with Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar for the job, but that’s a bit hard to believe considering the commitment the Vikings have made.
“I want it to still be an open competition with the guys that are on our roster,” Frazier said. “It will be those three. What happens with free agency? Who knows? We’ll eventually get to that point. But right now it’s a competition between those three and we’ll line up with the best guy when we get ready to line up against the Chargers [on Sept. 11 in the regular-season opener].”
In addition to a quarterback, the team has lots of other needs that could not be addressed in free agency, including both offensive and defensive linemen, linebacker, corner, safety, wide receiver, and tight end.
Update: Jim Souhan thinks that the jeering fans at the Winter Park draft party should give Spielman and Frazier a break:
The inebriated might wind up being right. Ponder might prove too fragile for the NFL and might become one of the many first-round quarterback busts in recent league history.
But this is one of those moments when it might be best to invest a little hope in the Vikings’ brain trust, because there is no greater thrill for the modern-day sports fan than to watch the development of a good, young quarterback, and there is no better template for winning than a coach and a young quarterback growing into their jobs together.
Let’s skip the usual draft-day analysis. It doesn’t matter whether the draft experts think the Vikings reached. Or think there were better quarterbacks available than Ponder. Or think there were better players at other positions available at No. 12.
Draft experts and NFL teams alike are often wrong, not because of a lack of due diligence but because projecting young quarterbacks is an inherently risky business.
[. . .]
What we know is this: Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was desperate to draft a quarterback who could lead his team, and he seemed very happy at the lectern late Thursday night.
Why not? This is a day for hope, and Ponder gives Vikings fans reason to do so.
The consensus: He’s smart, diligent and tough. His injuries gave his detractors reason to question him; the Vikings say they liked his toughness in trying to overcome them.
What we know for sure is that Frazier has tied his future to Ponder. So has personnel boss Spielman.
If Ponder develops into a star, Frazier and Spielman will be here a while. If he proves to be a bust, Zygi Wilf probably will be hiring a new personnel guru and coach within three years.