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Christian Ponder wasn’t that bad for the Minnesota Vikings.

Wait, wait, don’t freak out. I don’t mean that in the way you think.

As a football player, Christian Ponder was that bad. If you need a recap: The Vikings drafted Ponder with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 draft and he instantly struggled, going 2-8 in his first 10 starts and averaging under 170 yards passing per game. While the team won 10 games in 2012 and he showed some signs of improvement, it was only temporary. Ponder continued his descent in 2013 going 2-6-1 and grading 39th of 44 QBs by Pro Football Focus among players who threw at least 150 passes

So, yeah, instant bust. Not exactly fun times for anybody watching. But Ponder being a bust was not that bad for the Vikings’ franchise in the long run.

As a rookie, he was so poor that the Vikings nearly Sucked For Luck. They finished 3-13, one game ahead of the Indianapolis Colts, who selected Andrew Luck No. 1 overall. The Vikings still got the No. 4 overall selection and took Matt Kalil.

Let’s just focus on that part of the story. If the Vikings hadn’t beaten Washington on Christmas eve 2011 and ended up landing Luck because Ponder was terrible, it might have been the best thing that happened to them since drafting Randy Moss. Luck instantly transformed a tanking Colts club into an 11-win team by the following season and graded as high as No. 2 in the NFL by PFF by 2016.

Had Kalil continued to play at the same level as his Pro Bowl rookie season, it could have been a difference maker for the Vikings in the subsequent years in which they struggled to find quality pass protection.

Thing is, in the NFL, you get rewarded for being bad. Look no farther than the Cincinnati Bengals drafting Joe Burrow No. 1 overall and then reaching the Super Bowl two years later. You rarely get rewarded for being in the middle.

Ponder gave the Vikings another gift in 2013. The Vikings got another top 10 pick in Anthony Barr and because it became clear that Ponder was done in Minnesota, they picked Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd overall pick.

Had Bridgewater not suffered a severe knee injury, he may have ended up being the Vikings’ franchise quarterback long term. The Vikings stacked enough talent through the draft and free agency to build division winners in 2015 with Bridgewater and 2017 behind Case Keenum.

So as we officially head into draft season with the start of the NFL Combine next week and there’s buzz that the Vikings could trade Kirk Cousins and draft a quarterback, the natural concern from fans is that the Vikings could draft another Ponder and have the franchise set back for years.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You do not have to live with Fear Of The Next Ponder – or FOTNP.

If the Vikings pick a top prospect like Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett or Matt Corral and he ends up imploding in the NFL, they will still be able to reload their roster through draft capital and cap space and create a perfect landing spot for the next guy.

Some examples of teams who have done this: The Vikings drafted Tarvaris Jackson in the second round of the ‘06 draft. Three years later, he was a bust and Brett Favre picked Minnesota to come play with a loaded roster. The Arizona Cardinals missed on Josh Rosen and nabbed Kyler Murray the next year with teh top pick. Tampa Bay moved on from Jameis Winston to Tom Brady. Tennessee went from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. Washington screwed up the Dwayne Haskins pick and had Justin Herbert on the board when they picked the next year.

Yes there are teams who have tried taking back-to-back QB picks and saw them both fail. Nothing is a 100% play. But if you add up the possible outcomes, the chances of a truly special quarterback are maybe 10%-20%, chances of a decent QB in the first round are close to 50-50 and the chances of a miraculous bust make up the rest. Eyeballing it, the 30% of dudes who stink still allow for their teams to get another bite at the apple pretty quickly.

So FOTNP doesn’t have to haunt your draft season. Especially when the upside to picking a QB is that he could be your Allen, Mahomes, Jackson.

Think there’s no chance that anybody comes out of the draft like those guys? Well, none of them were picked No. 1 overall. All of them were scrutinized and debated. Heck, every team in the NFL passed on Jackson, including the Ravens with an earlier first-round pick. If the Vikings don’t draft a quarterback, the odds of having someone special under center are 0%.

Drafting a quarterback isn’t an automatic fix to everything that ails a team. There’s always uncertainty and it usually takes time before that player can become the leader of a Super Bowl contender. But even if the Vikings were to go wrong with another QB pick, it would set them up for another chance to still build a great team and find the next QB later. Building a great team is the goal, not a team that’s stuck in the middle and always hoping to find the “final piece” around a massive QB contract.

Welcome to draft season. Let go of your FOTNP and buckle up. 

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