The Predictable Name for Vikings ‘Worst Draft Pick of Last 15 Years’

Rick Spielman
Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman after practice at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2006, the Minnesota Vikings – along with 31 other NFL teams – implemented high-round draft choices that never materialized. “Busts” are a spicy topic for sports circles as they incorporate disappointment, fury, sorrow, and gossip – all designed to vamp up the emotions of the beholder.

The picks that didn’t quite work out for Minnesota during the last 15 drafts include Tyrell Johnson (2008), Chris Cook (2010), Laquon Treadwell (2016), etc. And them some like Matt Kalil were tremendous for a minute before heading southward. Due to injury, Sharrif Floyd is also a member of this club.

Pro Football Focus chose the ‘since 2006’ parameter for some reason, negating the preponderance of Troy Williamson – who was selected in the 2005 NFL Draft to replace the departed-for-Oakland, Randy Moss. Between Williamson and the eventual ‘winner,’ an analytical battle would be fierce.

But PFF also cast Laquon Treadwell aside, instead naming Christian Ponder as the Vikings worst draft pick of the last 15 years.

Christian Ponder
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) warms up before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Ponder played in 38 games for Minnesota, tossing 38 touchdown passes to 36 interceptions. His career ended with the emergence of Teddy Bridgewater, the succession plan to Ponder who was picked from the University of Louisville in 2014.

Michael Renner of PFF assigned the worst pick for every NFL team in his analysis, explaining the Ponder choice with this rationale:

Several picks immediately jump off the page as outliers when you scroll through the 2011 NFL Draft, and they’re all quarterbacks. Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder were the only top-12 picks to not make Pro Bowls from that class. Ponder would never have more big-time throws than turnover-worthy plays in a season.”

Ponder showed mini-flashes of brilliance during isolated moments within specific games. These were, for example, “nice passes,” not full-scale stardom. Onlookers would see a Ponder pass and think, “Well, that was actually pretty nifty.” But the prosperity was limited, generally followed by a miscue that would lead fans back to earth on Ponder aspirations.

He was an impactful swing-and-miss. Ponder was in charge of the offense when Adrian Peterson won his MVP award – the last non-quarterback to do so – effectively a figurehead used to hand Peterson the football. Minnesota reached the postseason that season, 2012, losing to the Green Bay Packers after Ponder fell injured. In fact, Joe Webb, a WR/QB, started the game, resulting in a brutally anemic Vikings defeat 24-10 at Lambeau Field. So, the Vikings sacrificed the opportunity of pairing Peterson in his prime with an apt quarterback for the hopeful development of Ponder – which never occurred.

Each season from 2011 to 2013 hinged on Ponder’s progression while new head coach Leslie Frazier struggled to finagle the rest of the roster pieces. Ultimately, the team showcased an embarrassing defense during the Frazier era – not a good component for the groom-a-QB experience.

Ponder was chosen with the 12th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the second-highest pick by the Vikings in team history at the quarterback position behind Daunte Culpepper, who was the 11th player off the board in 1999.

After leaving the Vikings when the 2014 season ended, Ponder never played another down of regular season football anywhere.