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Minnesota Vikings

Stadium: TCF Bank Stadium | Coach: Mike Zimmer
Team RankingOverallRushingPassing
Offense27th112.8 (14th)202.8 (28th)
Defense14th121.4 (25th)223.2 (7th)

Frazier hopes Ponder ready to start

The Sports Xchange
Frazier hopes Ponder ready to start · Notes, Quotes · Strategy And Personnel

Coach Leslie Frazier has said he hopes rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will be ready to start when the season begins.

Appearing on 1500 ESPN Radio, Frazier said, "Ideally, I'd like for him to be ready to go when we play San Diego (in Week 1). That would be the ideal situation - we've got our Matt Ryan, we've got our (Joe) Flacco, we've got our (Mark) Sanchez right here. But because of the uncertainty of the offseason, it's just hard to determine exactly how you want to approach it. So, we need a little more clarity on what this offseason's going to be like."

Frazier admitted, "It would be tough to be able to send him out there against San Diego if we don't start football, if we don't report until, say, mid-August, or three weeks prior to the season. That would be a tough, tough deal for any young quarterback. It's tough enough just getting through OTAs and preseason games, but if we start this thing without preseason games or one preseason game, I think you have to rethink how you approach it. So, that'll probably answer what direction we go - based on when we start football."

--The Vikings spent the months leading up to the NFL draft vetting just about every draft-eligible quarterback.

Last Thursday, they decided to put their faith in Florida State's Christian Ponder, making him the 12th overall selection in the first round. There had been some thought the Vikings might take Washington's Jake Locker but he already was gone to Tennessee at No. 8.

Locker was the second of three quarterbacks to go in the top 10. Carolina had selected Cam Newton No. 1 and Blaine Gabbert fell to 10th before Jacksonville worked a trade with Washington take him.

The selection of Ponder wasn't met with positive reviews from fans attending the Vikings' draft party at Winter Park. Their preference seemed to be that Minnesota would have selected Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara but the fact the Vikings went the quarterback route should have surprised no one.

"Quarterback was a huge need for us, everybody knows that," said Rick Spielman, the Vikings vice president of player personnel.

The hope of Spielman and new coach Leslie Frazier is that Ponder will end the succession of veteran quarterbacks the Vikings paraded through Winter Park during Brad Childress' four-plus seasons as coach.

The Vikings were impressed by Ponder at a private workout last month that was attended by Spielman, Frazier, new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson.

"You rarely get a chance to take a swing at a young quarterback and we felt that it was a no-brainer to take Christian Ponder," Spielman said.

Ponder becomes only the third quarterback taken by the Vikings in the first round in their 51-year history, joining Tommy Kramer (1977) and Daunte Culpepper (1999).

Ponder had a 22-13 record as a starter in four seasons at Florida State and is known for his intelligence -- he earned his undergraduate degree in 2.5 years and obtained his master's degree before his senior season -- but also being somewhat injury prone.

Ponder said the expectations he will face won't impact him. "I've dealt with being the face of Florida State and handling the pressure there," he said.

"Obviously, it's a whole other level in the NFL, but I don't think anyone puts as much pressure on me as I will myself. No one's expectations exceed mine."

The Vikings could attempt to sign a veteran free agent to play in front of Ponder for a season, but there also is the chance he will step in as the team's starter. Frazier said Ponder will be competing with Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar for the job, but that's a bit hard to believe.

"I want it to still be an open competition with the guys that are on our roster," Frazier said. "It will be those three. What happens with free agency? Who knows? We'll eventually get to that point. But right now it's a competition between those three and we'll line up with the best guy when we get ready to line up against the Chargers [on Sept. 11 in the regular-season opener]."

--The Vikings did not get rave reviews from all when they used the 12th overall pick on Christian Ponder but the team was in desperate need of a young quarterback to build around and the Florida State product provides some hope that now will be possible.

After having only one pick on Friday, the Vikings used the remainder of the draft to attempt to fill a wide variety of needs and appeared to get some value picks as they had eight choices on Saturday.

Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman sent a fifth-round selection to Cleveland for two sixth-rounders, giving the Vikings four picks in that round. Minnesota finished with 10 picks, its most since 2000.

The Vikings' approach to this draft served as a clear indication that Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier knew their roster had to get younger and that competition had to be created.


Tight end Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph was projected as a first-round pick by some, so the Vikings grabbed him when he was still around with the 43rd overall selection. Should step in and play an immediate role in this offense and could be used in two-tight end sets with Visanthe Shiancoe.


Defensive tackle Christian Ballard: With defensive tackle Kevin Williams facing a potential four-game suspension to begin the season, Ballard could have an opportunity to see playing time right away.

A closer look at the Vikings picks:

Round 1/12 - Christian Ponder, QB, 6-1, 227, Florida State

Ponder's intelligence and experience in a pro-style offense were two big selling points. Could have chance to start in 2011.

Round 2/43 - Kyle Rudolph, TE, 6-6, 266, Notre Dame

Rudolph fell in the draft in part because of a severe hamstring injury that required season-ending surgery in October. Says he is 100 percent now.

Round 4/106 - Christian Ballard, DT, 6-4, 290, Iowa

Has the ability to play both end and tackle but is expected to be used inside. Refused to address reports that he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Round 5/139 - Brandon Burton, CB, 5-11, 190,Utah

Will provide much-needed depth at the corner position and likely will compete with backup Asher Allen. The Vikings needed insurance with starting right corner Cedric Griffin having torn the ACL in both knees over the past two years. His presence means that veterans Lito Sheppard and Frank Walker likely won't be brought back.

Round 6/168 - DeMarcus Love, G/T, 6-4, 315, Arkansas

Versatile lineman started 26 games for Arkansas at left tackle and could be seen as the eventual replacement for Bryant McKinnie.

Round 6/170 - Mistral Raymond, CB, 6-2, 192, South Florida

Projected as a cornerback but also has the ability to play safety.

Round 6/172 - Brandon Fusco, C/G, 6-4, 306, Slippery Rock

Played in college and could push starter John Sullivan and backup Jon Cooper.

Round 6/200 - Ross Homan, LB, 6-0, 229, Ohio State

Will be expected to make his mark initially on special teams.

Round 7/215 - D'Aundre Reed, DE, 6-4, 258, Arizona

A backup for much of his time in college, this appears to be a project pick.

Round 7/236 - Stephen Burton, WR, 6-1, 221, West Texas A&M

Ability to return kickoffs and punts increased his role and helped to get him drafted.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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