Breaking Down Christian Ponder and the Rest of the Minnesota Vikings 2011 Draft Class

I love the NFL Draft.

Actually, I love the thought of the NFL Draft.

For some reason, I spend three months every year trying to find the perfect scenario for the Vikings when it comes to the last weekend in April, only to sit and stare at the screen when everything falls apart. It’s just another thing to add to the list of things that make me hate sports.

For some reason though, I come back every year, and this year was no different.

The Vikings are entering a season with a new head coach and a lot of questions. What better way to get a head start on everything than with a great draft right? Well, I wouldn’t call this year’s draft a great one, but I wouldn’t call it a terrible one either. I’m not one to assign or even look at draft grades. I’d rather assess the picks by need and caliber, which we are about to do.

christian-ponder-vikingsRound 1
Christian Ponder, QB – Florida State

This pick came as a shock to pretty much everyone and was named the surprise of Round 1. It shouldn’t have been. The pick makes complete sense based on what the Vikings are trying to accomplish.

Head Coach Leslie Frazier made it very obvious that the Vikings were going to target a quarterback early in the draft. Frazier didn’t want a quarterback; he NEEDED one.

Do I think Ponder is the guy they wanted? Probably not, but he was what was available at the 12 spot. Minnesota didn’t have a third round pick due to their mid-season trade with New England, which landed them Randy Moss (I would prefer not to talk about this), making it very difficult to move up the board to grab a guy like Locker or Gabbert.

I initially described the Ponder pick as a panic move by the Vikings organization, which it kind of was. Minnesota desperately wanted to trade down and accumulate more draft picks, but when that wasn’t going to happen and with the rate of QBs flying off the board early on, they didn’t feel confident enough to wait it out and see what was waiting for them at pick 43 in the second round. So Ponder was really their only option.

Ponder is not a bad quarterback. He’s a guy who threw for almost 70% as a junior at Florida State, and he put up somewhat decent stats last year even though he was battling an injury in his throwing arm. Ponder was viewed at a Round 1-type talent coming into the year, and was only downgraded because of injury concerns. He was able to get himself healthy and stood out in all of his pre-draft workouts, including a strong showing at the Senior Bowl in which he took home the MVP trophy.

I’m not going to be fully convinced on the Ponder selection until I get to watch him play or watch some tape on him. With guys like Prince Amukamura and Nick Fairley still on the board, it would have been nice to see them in purple as well, but a team in the NFL cannot win without a quarterback, and the Vikings hope they have found theirs in Christian Ponder.

Round 2
Kyle Rudolph, TE – Notre Dame

I did not like this pick. At all. I think I may be the only one.

Granted Minnesota has three tight ends on their roster — Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser (North Dakota Native), and Jeff Dugan —  who are 30 or older and have contracts that expire after the 2011 season. And Rudolph was far and away the highest rated TE in the entire 2011 Draft class and will hopefully give Christian Ponder a nice target for multiple years to come.

That said, the Vikings had higher needs coming into the draft than tight end, especially in the second round, and even more importantly when they wouldn’t pick again until the middle of the fourth round. With guys like Rahim Moore, Marvin Austin, Da’Quan Bowers, and Brandon Harris on the board, who all would have filled bigger needs, I felt those would have been better options. Alas, I’m not the one making the decisions, so again, like Ponder, we’ll just have to wait and see how everything pans out.

Round 4
Christian Ballard, DL – Iowa

I don’t know a lot about Ballard. What I do know is he is another classic case of a guy with a lot of talent who graded out high with a lot of scouts, but he has too many character issues to be drafted where he should have been. First round talent, fourth round character.

Minnesota is no stranger to taking players like him, but when a guy openly admits to smoking pot during the NFL Combine when he knows he’s going to get tested, you have to question his decision making. Unfortunately, Minnesota might not have a lot of time to wait for him to mature and shape up with a Kevin Williams suspension looming and the possible departure of Ray Edwards.

Round 5
Brandon Burton, DB – Utah

Sounds like another high value guy who slipped in the draft. Nice pickup for Minnesota who have found a lot of holes in their secondary over the last few years due to injury, age, and flat out bad play.

Round 6
Demarcus Love, OL – Arkansas
Mistral Raymond, DB – South Florida
Brandon Fusco, OL – Slippery Rock
Ross Homan, LB – Ohio State

Am I happy that the Vikings waited until the sixth round to finally draft an offensive lineman? Absolutely not. Am I excited to see what a guy who attended a college named Slippery Rock can do? Absolutely yes. That might be the best college name I have ever heard. I want to know everything about that school now.

Ross Homan could end up being a great pick. In the little bit of footage I’ve seen of him, he’s got great footwork and is extremely quick for a guy his size. He was the captain of the Ohio State defense last year, which is definitely not something to take lightly. Homan looks to be a hard working guy who will fit great on special teams early and can hopefully find a solid role in the LB corps in the years to come.

Round 7
D’Aundre Reed, DL – Arizona
Stephen Burton, WR –West Texas A&M

I know absolutely nothing about these players. I can only hope they find their role on the team and can contribute anyway they can. It’s tough to expect a lot out of seventh round guys, can only hope they stick around and be productive.

About the Author

Drew Lange

Drew is a student at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND. He is a life long Vikings fan and distracts himself from their futility by watching a lot of TV and listening to a lot of music, even though his parents don't understand the appeal. Follow on twitter (@drewlange) or send an email to d.lange9@gmail.com