Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder came into this season on the hot seat. Year three is a make-or-break year for any starting quarterback, especially for a team coming off a playoff berth, and Ponder went into camp knowing this was the year he needed to break out or potentially lose his starting job.
Well, after just one game, it’s looking more and more like that was the last season-opening start Ponder will make for the Vikes, meaning the team is inching closer to selecting their next franchise QB in 2014 NFL Draft.
How bad was Ponder? He was 18-of-28 for 236 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a lost fumble, good for a 20.4 QBR. Even worse, he was 2-for 10 on third downs. Granted, one of the interceptions was tipped.
But here’s where it really gets interesting. Everyone knows the Vikings have the best running back and one of the greatest of all time in Adrian Peterson. What do defenses do to stop him? They have to put eight men in the box, of course. What does this mean? It means there’s passing lanes galore. Having a running back like Peterson can do wonders for a QB — unless you’re Ponder.
Ponder, who faced more than five times as many eight-man fronts than any other QB in Week 1, not only threw two picks against that D, but had a QBR of 0.5. Are you kidding me? Against an 8 man front, which he faced on more than 22 percent of his dropbacks, Ponder had a 0.5 QBR? When the league average is 51.1? Only Ponder could be this awful.
Are we finished? Nah. Was Ponder facing an elite secondary like the Seattle Seahawks? One that is flush with All-Pro cornerbacks like Richard Sherman? Nope. He went against an incredibly average Chris Houston and a rookie in Darius Slay. A mediocre quarterback with Peterson in the backfield should torch those corners. Not Ponder, though.
Also, in the offseason, Cordarrelle Patterson was selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to be a weapon for Ponder. He was outstanding in camp and lightly drew comparisons to another big and fast no. 84: Randy Moss. You’d think Ponder would use this new weapon, no? Well, he chose not to, targeting Patterson just once in four quarters of play.
I know this is only one game. And no, I didn’t forget how well he played down the stretch last year. But there’s no doubt even to Ponder fans that he came into this year on the hot seat, and he’s only fanned the flames.
Meanwhile, the 2014 NFL Draft is very, very deep with intriguing quarterback prospects, especially at the top end. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) is nearly a lock for the top-two, so the Vikes probably won’t have a chance to snag him unless they sell the farm. Tajh Boyd (Clemson) is more than likely looking at a top-10 selection, which looks like a reasonable place for MN to be picking after seeing one game.
A.J. McCarron (Alabama) is floating throughout the first round right now and his stock seems to slightly fluctuate day-to-day. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) is a lightning rod both on and off the field, though considering how strongly the Vikes have been trying to clean up the locker room, he may be a long shot.
Both ended last season looking more like athletes than anything else, but thus far in the 2013 season, both are looking like bona fide first-rounder passers. Stephen Morris (Miami), David Fales (San Jose State), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Derek Carr (Fresno State, brother of former no. 1 overall pick David) all are hovering in the first to third round categories.
The bottom line is that this is a super deep quarterback class, with 10 guys who could be called in the top three rounds. If that first game against Detroit was a glimpse of days to come, Minnesota isn’t going to want or need Ponder after this year, and the Vikings will start over with a new franchise quarterback. Again.