Many NFL pundits felt like the Minnesota Vikings reached significantly when they made quarterback Christian Ponder the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, but at least the team looked to have a future plan in place at the most important position on the field after years of relying on veterans that had seen their better days and younger quarterbacks that couldn’t cut it.
The most recent of the previously mentioned veterans, Donovan McNabb, very quickly showed signs he was done as an NFL player and that opened up the opportunity for Ponder to start 10 games as a rookie. His results were mixed, as could be expected, and his effectiveness was limited by injuries (concussion, hip) late in the season.
A full, normal offseason to get comfortable in offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offense stood to benefit Ponder greatly, and reports out of the Vikings’ offseason workouts have confirmed that. He has also reportedly added 20 pounds to his frame to help ease durability questions that followed him out of college, and the Vikings have upgraded their offensive line by using their first round pick this year on offensive tackle Matt Kalil.
Minnesota also added to their wide receiver group by signing Jerome Simpson in free agency and drafting Arkansas teammates Greg Childs and Julius Wright in April. Simpson will be suspended for the first four games of the season for a violation of the league’s drug policy, but he should add a vertical threat the Minnesota passing game has lacked in recent years. Tight end John Carlson was also signed in free agency after missing all of 2011 with the Seattle Seahawks with a shoulder injury, so Ponder seems to have more pass-catching options available to him for 2012 if everyone remains healthy.
The Vikings may be without running back Adrian Peterson to start the season as he recovers from his knee injury from late last season, and he is almost certain to be eased back into action if he is healthy enough to play Week 1. Toby Gerhart, while not the explosive runner Peterson is when healthy, proved capable of handling a significant workload in Peterson’s place late last season and there may not be a ton of drop-off production wise as Peterson works his way back to 100 percent early in the season.
From a fantasy football perspective, Ponder’s value is greatest in keeper leagues as he enters his first full season as the starter. But he is not without value in re-draft leagues, and offers potential to be a QB2 with upside if he can stay healthy and improve in terms of moving through his progressions and finding secondary pass targets. He also has the athleticism, as long as the weight he added this offseason does not change that, to offer some potential for rushing yards and a stray touchdown or two to further enhance his fantasy potential.