Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Surprised by Ponder pick? Don't be

Posted by: under Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFL draft, Brad Childress, Leslie Frazier, Vikings fans, Brad Childress, Brett Favre, Leslie Frazier, Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings draft Updated: April 29, 2011 - 1:18 AM

The assembled media was standing in a cordoned off area of the Vikings' practice facility on Thursday night in Winter Park when Rick Spielman made his way to the stage to address the crowd that had gathered for the team's draft party.

Although we could not see what transpired, it was impossible not to hear it. As Spielman fielded questions from Vikings play-by-play voice Paul Allen and others from radio flagship KFAN, there were more than a few catcalls directed at the Vikings vice president of player personnel.

This has been a long offseason for Vikings fans, who were frustrated by the team's 6-10 finish and haven't had their mood improved by an NFL lockout that might or might not be over and so far has cost the Vikings the ability to improve themselves through free agency.

No doubt fueled by a few cocktails, some of these folks got the opportunity to direct their disgust at the Vikings brass.

A few minutes earlier they had chanted for the Vikings to draft Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara. Also available with the Vikings on the clock were Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley; North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn; and California defensive end Cameron Jordan.

And yet when Minnesota turned in its draft card it carried the name of Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder. This was a guy projected as a third- or fourth-round pick a few months back when the well-respected Pro Football Weekly draft guide came out.

The opinion of many will be that the Vikings reached for a quarterback who is considered injury prone and was bothered by problems with his throwing arm last season. However, if you are really shocked by this pick, you simply weren't paying attention to what the Vikings were doing in the months leading up to this draft.

The view from this corner had been that the Vikings' ideal situation would be to trade back in the first round, take a quarterback like Ponder, and recoup the third-round pick lost to New England in the Randy Moss trade. However, as the draft neared it became apparent that there was going to be a run on quarterbacks and that it would be sooner than most had expected.

The Vikings simply weren't going to let themselves be left without what they considered a top-tier QB coming out of this draft. All you had to do was listen to coach Leslie Frazier as he addressed a small group of reporters last month at the owners meetings in New Orleans to figure out that this team was going to take a quarterback early in the draft.

Ideally, the Vikings could have considered their options through free agency or maybe a trade if the lockout hadn't started on March 11, but beyond the labor situation it became clear that Frazier wants the chance to develop a quarterback and end the rotation of veterans who came through the door in Brad Childress' four-plus seasons as coach.

Of course, Childress ended up using the likes of Brad Johnson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte and Brett Favre because the guy he put his faith in as a rookie coach never developed. Tarvaris Jackson was a definite reach in the second round in 2006 and he never became the quarterback Childress expected.

Jackson, though, came from Division I-AA Alabama State and Ponder was 22-13 as a starter in four seasons at Florida State.

Vikings fans won't be too happy to see Ponder wearing No. 7 in Minnesota -- that was his number at Florida State and he'll probably keep it -- because it will serve as a short-term reminder of Jackson. But Frazier is confident that the similarities will end there. It remains to be seen if the Vikings will attempt to bring in a veteran to start in front of Ponder in the short term, but there is little question the long term plan is for Ponder to be the quarterback in Minnesota for many years.

Only time will tell if that will happen or if this indeed was a reach. But Frazier feels that eventual success will bring an end to the jeers heard Thursday night.

"Our fans love the Minnesota Vikings," he said. "They want to see the Vikings do well so we have to go out and perform and if we don't perform well this next season, emotions will be mixed also. As a team we've got to make sure we are doing the right things for our fans to be supportive and be cheering. We plan on getting that done over the course of this next season."

 

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