Dec 30, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) scrambles and finds an open running back in the end zone for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter at the Metrodome. The Vikings win 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Rankings: No. 26

Every two days, Rishi Pochiraju will reveal a quarterback on his grand list of quarterback rankings. Each quarterback will receive a grade out of 50 – 10 points for each category. Up next: number 26.

#26. Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings

Christian Ponder led the Vikings to the playoffs last season. So why is he still not considered a starting-caliber quarterback by some? Yes, I know about Adrian Peterson – but Ponder did enough to help Minnesota succeed last year. Some fear that Ponder may not do enough this season.

Ponder needs to prove himself to be more than just a game manager who always comes second to AP in Minnesota’s offense. He’s flashed some in his first two seasons, but it was mainly Peterson who carried the load in 2012 coming off the knee injury.

Physical traits and athleticism

The athleticism and speed Ponder possesses actually exceeds that of most quarterbacks. His size is somewhere between average below average  at 6-2 – this “small” size for a quarterback has resulted in several injuries in college and in the NFL, but most of what led to the injuries are mental errors. Ponder ran a 4.65 40 yard dash coming out of Florida State, and often uses that speed to get out of the pocket and make a throw, or take off from time to time and pick up a first down. Grade: 6.5/10

Arm talent

Ponder doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world. His inconsistent accuracy is not because of the lack of talent in the arm – he can make any short to intermediate throw – the inaccuracy is the result of mental errors and bad anticipation. Towards the end of last season, I saw progression with Ponder’s arm. He was making significant strides and stretched the ball down the field, feeling more confident with his arm, and often delivered the ball on target. It’s hard to showcase Ponder’s arm with the MVP in the backfield, though. Grade: 5.5/10

Mechanics

Ponder has somewhat flawed mechanics inside the pocket and it doesn’t get better outside of the pocket when throwing on the run. This is partly why his accuracy on throws is so inconsistent: he fails to set his feet often especially when he is inside the pocket, floats a sidearm pass, and it sails. The flawed mechanics lead to turnovers (as well as mental errors), not the lack of natural arm talent. Grade: 5/10

Mental make-up

I’ve often seen Ponder struggle reading defenses, which results in a number of excessive and unnecessary hits. When defenses disguise blitzes, he fails to recognize it and takes sacks. Also, I’ve seen Ponder hand the rock off to Peterson even if he sees just one deep safety in an ideal passing situation (the defense is obviously playing the run, so a pass play would be ideal). In situations like those, Ponder needs to take command of the team at the line of scrimmage to give his team the best opportunity to succeed on that certain play. Grade: 5/10

Intangibles

Ponder comes across as a hard-working guy with a tremendous amount of commitment. As a matter of fact, Ponder was the third chair trumpet player at his high school in Texas under a band director, who, coincidentally, is the band director at the high school I currently go to. That shows that Ponder is a committed person and is willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. The question just becomes if what he’s currently doing is enough. Grade: 6.5/10

Overall impression

Christian Ponder is the best quarterback currently on the Vikings roster, but this season he needs to prove his worth as a first-round pick. This could be Ponder’s make-or-break year. Overall grade: 28.5/50

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