Christian Ponder's Running Ability Should Keep Him in San Francisco

People have to realize that expectations affect perception, and, more than likely, they affected our view on Christian Ponder’s play. As a Minnesota Viking first-round pick who was not projected to go above pick no. 30, he was immediately declared a bust, even though his past shows that he was always a good athlete and not half bad in comparison to his lower-tier draft class quarterback counterparts (Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert).

As the lockout was about to cloud the 2011 off-season, Ponder showed wonders at the Scouting Combine with a 4.65-second forty yard dash and an impressive 6.85-second three-cone time. In 2012, the Vikings were 10-6 with him after a 3-13 season, including a 1-5 record with Donovan McNabb, in 2011. He posted an 18:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an 81.2 passer rating and rushed sixty times for 253 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

However, after suffering a deep triceps bruise, leading him to be inactive for the Wildcard Round versus the Green Bay Packers, his “bust” label was officially put on him.

The Vikings weakened their confidence in him by signing Matt Cassel to a backup role, and, Ponder worsened and only played ten more games with the Vikings from 2013 till 2014. He went 174-for-283 for 1870 passing yards, seven touchdowns versus eleven interceptions, and posted a passer rating of 72.9, and not even an Oakland Raiders reunion with former Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave helped. He was released by the Oakland Raiders after the 2015 preseason and toiled as an inactive third-string reserve for Denver Broncos before getting released in December of that year.

The past resume has areas that do read “disaster.” However, when everyone still thinks that Kelly will change the NFL again despite always electing to be last in time-of-possession and wimping out on fourth down and short, not wishing for a Ponder comeback makes no sense.

Everyone is already tainted with too much lead-role bias, desperate for defense-free Oregon football in the NFL, and overly impressed by him accepting no GM duties, and such clouted mindsets make us fail to realize that he is as much or more of a Chip Kelly-fit versus Colin Kaepernick. Even before his shoulder injury, Kaepernick was still unable to find his second or third read. With Ponder’s pro-style savviness, in comparison to Kaepernick’s, and athletic ability, ruling Ponder out internally or externally would be a mistake. In his last ten games with the Vikings, he ran thirty-eight times for 167 yards and five touchdowns, and, as a Raider, posted numbers at the rate of his career year in 2012.

In his last three years as a Viking, Ponder rushed for 4.3 yards per carry, and complementing that will his 2012 passing would be a big boost for the 49ers.

He will have to prove a lot in his final preseason game, but, hopefully, Kelly, general manager Trent Baalke, and Kelly’s former colleague in Philadelphia, assistant general manager Tom Gamble, realize that Ponder has outperformed rookie sixth-rounder, Jeff Driskel. Driskel has two games with passer ratings below 70 and completion rates at 50 percent, or lower, while only helped the 49ers to one scoring drive in three games. Ponder had two in one game versus Denver, and the stats reveal that Ponder should be on the team.

Driskel (2016 Preseason)
3 games
Passing: 14 of 27 (51.9 percent) for 129 yards
Rushing: 9 attempts for 87 yards
Turnovers: 1 fumble
Sacks: 2

Ponder (2016 Preseason)
2 games
Passing: 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) for 97 yards and 1 touchdown
Rushing: 3 attempts for 31 yards and 1 touchdown
Turnovers: 1 interception
Sacks: 2

If the 49ers want to be competitive, they should create the best team they possibly can and capitalize off any future success afterward. If it means, putting Jeff Driskel on waivers, by all means, they should do it. There is only a 1/31 chance that he gets picked up by someone else and, rarely, do lowly drafted rookies get claimed by other teams. 

Besides, Kaepernick’s chances of making the 49ers’ team may not be bright as once projected, per Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. With past surgeries and noticeable thinness hampering his ability work out and “size-speed ratio” going away, there is no point in having a running plan for Kaep, especially as he can make an extra $20 million with a career-ending injury along with his $11.9 million already guaranteed