So, you like Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder? You’re not alone.
After a disappointing senior season that was marred by injuries, the fast-rising Ponder was named the Senior Bowl MVP and he’s followed with strong performances at the NFL Combine and FSU’s pro day.
In this article, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports quotes an unnamed NFL coach as saying he prefers Ponder to Auburn’s Cam Newton. Ponder’s stock is rising as he’s put to rest questions regarding lingering arm issues. In addition, he presumably impressed teams in one-on-one meetings at the combine with his Xs-and-Os smarts.
Ponder routinely made at-the-line adjustments in Florida State’s pro-style offense and his on-the-field intelligence is a trait he stressed more than once during his media session at the combine.
“We ran multiple formations at Florida State, and had tons of different pass protections. I did a lot of checking at the line,” Ponder said. “Just talking to scouts already I’ve learned a lot of stuff they do we’ve already been doing at Florida State. I think it’s a huge advantage for me. There is different terminology but we ran some of the same concepts, with the run checks. A lot of it really transfers over and I was surprised by that fact.”
CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang views Ponder as a prototypical West Coast Offense quarterback based, in part, on his accuracy. Ponder was mentioned as a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate after he completed 68.8 percent of his passes as a junior in 2009, including 71.3 during his final seven games.
Prisco is clearly a believer, “It would be a mistake if a quarterback-needy team in the middle of the first round didn’t take Ponder,” he writes. “He just might end up being the best quarterback in this class.”
• Let’s pretend the 49ers really want Ponder. How, exactly, do they get him?
Assuming they draft for defense with the No. 7 overall pick, a reasonable assumption, they won’t pick again until the second round where they have the No. 45 overall pick.
In his mailbag, ESPN’s John Clayton can envision a scenario in which the Niners trade that second-round selection to move up and grab a quarterback such as Ponder or TCU’s Andy Dalton.
So what would it take to move up, say, 13 spots (to the final pick of the first round)? According to this ESPN trade calculator, San Francisco’s second-rounder (No. 45) and its two fourth-round picks (Nos. 108 and 115) sounds about right.
• Jim Harbaugh, Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur and Carolina’s Ron Rivera are first-year NFL head coaches who weren’t with the team they’re currently coaching in 2010.
When he’s been asked about the problems a prolonged lockout could present a rookie coach, Harbaugh has offered an all-obstacles-can-and-must-be-overcome response.
In this column by Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh relays a conversation during last week’s owners’ meeting in New Orleans during which Lions coach Jim Schwartz told Jim Harbaugh just how daunting some of those obstacles could be.
“It’s going to be pretty tough,” he said. “We were having dinner the other night and (Lions coach) Jim Schwartz told him basically there’s no way you’re going to be able to get it done (if the lockout lasts into the summer). He told him there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish in 2 weeks if this thing lasts a while.
“Jim just kind of bit his tongue, which is what you’ve got to do in this situation. Because there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to try to get your team ready to play.”
• You can officially exhale. Patrick Willis has vanquished the Seahawks’ 12th Man and advanced to the “Sweet 16” in his quest to be on the “Madden NFL 12” cover. In fan voting, Willis won with 54 percent of the votes.
Willis, a No. 7 seed, will take on Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward, a No. 2 seed, in the second round. If Willis beats Ward, third-seeded Michael Vick could be up next. Vick was on the Madden cover in 2004 and, of course, promptly broke his leg in the preseason.
• Yes, it’s true. I wrote a long newspaper story on a practice-squad placekicker (insert your punchline here). Actually, it was a lot of fun to write about Fabrizio Scaccia, whose ridiculously long field goals and lack of college experience give him a certain Forrest Gump quality.
Scaccia got a break when Doug Bercu, a successful Atlanta-area businessman and a former USFL kicker, became interested in his story and helped finance the early stages of Scaccia’s unlikely journey to the NFL. Bercu, whose dad died when he was young, said he received help and guidance from strangers when he was growing up. He wanted to do the same for Scaccia.