Sid Hartman: Ponder was NFL's best in red zone

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 8, 2012 - 1:15 AM

Rick Spielman sees good things in the future for his 2011 Vikings draft class, led by their first-round selection.

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Christian Ponder had some ups and downs in his first season in the NFL, but Rick Spielman is high on the Vikings’ top pick in last year’s draft — as well as the entire 2011 draft class, which saw many players gain experience due to starters’ injuries.

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For those critics who found fault with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, new Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said he is a believer in statistical analysis and that the 2011 first-round draft pick put forward some great stats among QBs this past season.

"I'm a very big stat guy. You look at [Ponder's] overall quarterback rating [70.1], but it may not show how he performed in pressure situations in a game," Spielman said.

"He was No. 1 in the league in red-zone efficiency. I think he was [also] 14th or 15th in third-down efficiency, in quarterback rating. Those are the things that you see in this kid; he does perform in pressure situations. The rest of the game will eventually come to him the more reps and the more development he gets."

Spielman said that he is very excited about where Ponder is, "as far as his development and where he's going to be as we go forward and how he ranks with some of the great quarterbacks in their early years."

He added, "I think when you sit there and you analyze these rookie quarterbacks and you look at all the rookie quarterbacks that are great now -- all the way back when you look at Drew Brees and his rookie year, to Matthew Stafford and even where he was at his rookie year, and you see where Christian Ponder is, those guys are all going to have mistakes and they're going to take time to develop.

"But as they develop and they continue to develop and progress in Year 2 and Year 3 and Year 4, Christian shows a lot of those same traits that some of those great quarterbacks showed when they were rookies."

Good draft in 2011

All the Vikings' draft picks from last year were on the active roster when the season ended, other than linebacker Ross Homan, a sixth-round selection out of Ohio State selected 200th overall.

And Spielman believes the experience those draft picks got playing the past season because of the many injuries will make them strong contributors next season.

The Vikings surprised people when they took Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph in the second round, but without a doubt he will be a superstar at the position, according to Spielman.

Spielman mentioned he is high on the entire draft class.

"Christian Ballard [fourth round, 106th overall] did a good job in the defensive line when he got his number called," he said of the former Iowa lineman, who had 13 tackles as a rookie.

"You have [safety] Mistral Raymond [sixth round, 170th overall], who got an opportunity to play late in that season, and he grew in that position. And even Brandon Burton [fifth round, 139th], our corner, who's a young corner with a lot of talent. You started to see how he started to contribute more on special teams and did play some defense for us."

Spielman also mentioned that offensive lineman DeMarcus Love, a sixth-round selection, and defensive lineman DeAndre Reed, a seventh-rounder, didn't play as rookies, but they did make progress this past year and will contribute in the future.

And Spielman said he was very excited about guard Brandon Fusco, the sixth-round pick out of Slippery Rock. "[He] got a chance to play a couple games and we're very excited about what he showed when he got his chance," Spielman said.

"That's a part of the process that these guys learn, the speed of the game and what the NFL is about. Those guys pretty much held their own, that's why they were out there. We had a couple guys that didn't even get a chance [as rookies] ... but feel very confident they'll contribute next year."

Looking ahead, he said: "I know how important this draft is going to be. We'll have hopefully another 10 picks going into this draft and be able to hit on some of those guys who continue to develop and build this roster up again."

Twins generate revenue

Twins President Dave St. Peter pointed out the significant amount of tax revenue the Twins paid to Minnesota and Minneapolis this past year.

State sales tax collections at the ballpark totaled more than $10.7 million in 2011 and have surpassed $22 million dating back to Target Field's opening in 2010, St. Peter said.

Then Minneapolis collected a total of $5.69 million via the city sales entertainment and liquor tax, something the Twins were exempted from paying at the Metrodome. The total for that tax over the past two years is $9.26 million.

Overall, the Twins have paid $36 million in taxes to the state of Minnesota, to the city of Minneapolis and to Hennepin County since opening the ballpark in 2010.

And don't forget that the Vikings also don't pay that same tax at the Metrodome, but they will have to pay it in a new stadium, just like the Twins.

Jottings

• Vikings owner Zygi Wilf didn’t deny a recent rumor that the club had to come up with a $20 million call from partners to keep the club revenue in shape. It’s a good indication that the Vikings aren’t profitable.

• Twins President Dave St. Peter, talking about the difference in the club’s position in revenue sharing since moving to Target Field: “I think we were receiving upwards of [receiving] $20 million in revenue sharing [at the Metrodome], and this year we paid in something north of $10 million. It’s a big swing, but it’s something that we believe very strongly in, and Carl Pohlad fought tooth-and-nail to make it happen with Commissioner [Bud] Selig, and it’s good for the game.”

• When Jerry Kill took over the Gophers football team, a number of players were in academic trouble. Well with the great academic staff working hard, the projection is that when the final grades come out, the roster will have near a 3.0 grade-point average for the fall semester. And all but three members of the squad with eligibility for 2012 will be present.

Flip Saunders and the Wizards are in a rebuilding season and the former Timberwolves coach has started the NBA season 0-7. Saunders will try for his first victory of the season Sunday against his former squad.

• Jared Allen on explaining why he broke Chris Doleman’s team single-season sack record: “At a time when people are out of work and out of jobs and there’s so much crap going on, and that was really my focus, was to put a positive attitude forward. I’m going to come to work and truly enjoy it, and it paid dividends. Do I want to do this ever year? Absolutely. Will it happen? I don’t know. I’m going to work my butt off, and that’s one thing you can always count on, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got on the field.”

 

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