Position Ranking: #5
Strengths: A technique sound passer, Ponder show very good mechanics in both his upper and lower body technique. Has a compact delivery and holds the ball high with a high release point. The ball comes off his hand quick. Gets himself set in his pass drop quickly from center and has light feet in the pocket. He strides into his throws and bends at the knees. Very good overall footwork both inside and outside the pocket on bootlegs and rollouts. Shows a very good deep touch pass with accurate ball placement- his best throw.
Very good accuracy and zip in the short and intermediate passing game and knows when to add the proper amount of touch on his flares and backfield passes. A good athlete for the position and can be counted on to run for extra yards when a play breaks down. Can get hot when asked to run a 3-step passing game; flashes elite intermediate accuracy. Will show a quick pump-fake to hold the safety on the slant and go route. Has played through pain. Showed the ability to go through a three read progression. A three year starter.
Needs Improvement: Has a slight frame and has fought injuries to his ribs, shoulder, and elbow throughout his career. His arm strength is only adequate in the deep passing game. When asked to go across the hashes towards the numbers or downfield past 35 yards his throws carry air-drag and hang, forcing receiver to double back or allowing the secondary to break up or intercept passes.
Needs to be able to stride into his throws to complete the deep out with consistency; technique has to be sharp to be consistent on deep throws. Tends to play a bit robotic or systematic at times, not taking enough chances when coverage allows it. Can become unraveled if you hit him early and often, losing mechanics and confidence (Oklahoma and Boston College) and locking onto primary receiver. Pocket instincts are only adequate when sensing the rush, and will tuck and run if he’s confused by coverage schemes or force throws prematurely.
Bottom Line: Christian Ponder will be a very intriguing prospect to some teams because of his ability to run a pro-style offense, his good overall athleticism, and his intelligence. I was very impressed with his mechanics and his overall decision making in most games, but did notice he can be taken out of his game if you’re physical with him early. At times it also looks like he lacks mental toughness and can get discouraged after bad plays; hanging his head.
His accuracy overall is very good, especially inside the numbers in the short and intermediate passing game. At times he flashes elite accuracy. Ponder’s arm strength is good enough to make all the NFL throws but he will need a clean pocket and sound technique to do so. Doesn’t have a rifle for an arm. He also tends to throw at spots at times and doesn’t always look off the coverage–can be very deliberate.
He shows the ability to go through a progression, but not always with consistency. He needs to take more chances at the next level or he may become too reliant on his checkdown. Overall I feel that Ponder has the physical and mental capability to be a productive starting quarterback with time. His health may or may not continue to be a concern but his slight frame may lend to continued injury. He’s a smart and technically sound quarterback that should impress during the interview and workout portions in the draft process.
Draft Projection: Mid 2nd to mid 3rd round.