I remember a time when Christian Ponder had three-pronged greatness, or at least goodness (yeah, probably goodness): he was a great waiver wire add, a great option in two quarterback leagues, and a great flex option in leagues that allow QB plays in that spot.
Choose whichever word you wish to describe his level of awesome (good, great, satisfactory), but there’s no denying that as a utility option during the first portion of the season, he was an efficient fantasy point producer. Over the first three weeks he had five touchdowns, one of which came on the ground, with scrambling another added element in his arsenal. During that stretch which included two weak opponents (Jaguars and Colts) followed by a win over the 49ers, Ponder averaged 16.3 fantasy points per game. He topped out at 24 points during that Week 3 game against the Niners when he passed for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and then rushed for 33 yards with a score on the ground.
That’s great QB2 production for those who need to start that number of quarterbacks weekly, and it gave the rest of us who stashed Ponder as a backup faith in him as we began the journey deep into the bye week abyss. For a brief time he seemed reliable, a core quality from a backup in fantasy and reality.
Now those warm feelings are gone, mostly because Ponder still isn’t showcasing another core quality, and one that’s essential for the success of any quarterback in any format.
He’s not throwing the ball deep. Ever.
That’s not an astonishing discovery, or at least it shouldn’t be, as Ponder is averaging a very average 6.7 yards per pass attempt. But here’s a more alarming tale of both inaccuracy and perhaps a lack of arm strength from Michael Lombardi in his Friday Front Office View:
Ponder has been the king of short tosses this year, completing almost 90 percent of his passes thrown behind the line and almost 65 percent on passes thrown less than 10 yards. But when the Vikings ask Ponder to make plays down the field with his arm, his accuracy and production plummet. Ponder has not even attempted a pass over 30 yards in the air all season — even Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has attempted nine such passes — and he is only 1-for-10 on passes thrown between 11-20 yards. When defenses take away the short throws and challenge Ponder to drive the ball down the field, the Vikings quarterback fails to deliver.
Ponder is tied for 26th with just 16 passes of 20 yards or more, a number that’s forgiving because it only measures the length of the reception, and not how far the ball traveled in the air. But it’s a category in which Ponder is still struggling despite throwing to a burner in Percy Harvin who continually accumulates yards after the catch on screens and crossing routes.
For some perspective, the now benched Matt Cassel has 15 passes for 20 yards or more, despite 86 fewer completions.