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Friday, April 29, 2011
Dilfer: 'Christian Ponder is Elvis Grbac'

By Kevin Seifert

One thing we can all agree on when it comes to ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer: He can be counted on to bring a strong opinion and with little nuance, especially on the topic of quarterbacks.

Christian Ponder
Quarterback Christian Ponder has sparked considerable debate after being selected 12th overall by Minnesota on Thursday.
Appearing Thursday morning on ESPN Radio's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," Dilfer left little doubt his take on the Minnesota Vikings' decision to draft Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the No. 12 overall pick.

"Christian Ponder is Elvis Grbac," Dilfer said. "He's Elvis Grbac. Elvis Grbac was a beautiful thrower. He threw for 4,000 yards. He did a lot of nice things. Every time it got tough, he melted."

I think it's only fair to note that in 2001, the Baltimore Ravens replaced Dilfer with Grbac. The Ravens became a better passing offense but never returned to the Super Bowl, and I think that episode remains stamped in Dilfer's brain.

But that said, Dilfer told Cowherd that he watched every snap Ponder took in college. He described Ponder as a quarterback who looks great in workouts but quickly loses accuracy and effectiveness in the pressure of a game.

"His drop, his arm speed, everything about him ... it's one tempo," Dilfer said. "He has to play at the 7-on-7 tempo. The drop has to be rhythmical. The receivers have to be open. The ball goes one speed. The pocket has to be nice. Any time he's asked to quicken that up or there's people around him, his accuracy is awful. ...

"The great quarterbacks are as accurate going to [options] two, three and four as they are when you go to one. ... Christian Ponder, as soon as you get to two or three, the ball is dirting. It's high. It's all over the place. OK? He plays with a lot of anxiety. Do you want your quarterback in the NFL to play with a lot of anxiety?

"Christian Ponder tests off the charts. He's in shorts and a t-shirt. He goes to his pro workout, he's in shorts and a t-shirt. His big pecs are hanging out. He's got big guns. He looks great. He's a good-looking young man and he spins that ball around the football field in a perfect environment and people go 'wow he can play.'"

Dilfer also suggested that Ponder will continue to have a high injury rate because of the way his shoulders are built and because his arm action puts pressure on his elbow. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton would have been a much better pick, Dilfer said, and called it a "travesty" and a "major, major whiff" that neither the Vikings nor the Seattle Seahawks (at No. 25 overall) drafted him.

Finally, Dilfer said he was "very self-aware" and recognized that he didn't always react well under pressure during his career.

I'm not budging off my take from Thursday night. I think the Vikings had to take a shot at a quarterback at No. 12. No one said Ponder was the 12th-best player in this draft or even the next great quarterback in this league. He doesn't have to be for the Vikings to get where they want to go. And, I can tell you there is a wide disparity of opinion on whether Ponder or Dalton is the better pro prospect, a topic I'll further explore later Friday. Let's just say Dilfer represents one side of the spectrum.