Winning a Super Bowl and being named the the game’s MVP will get you some admirers.
Two quarterbacks in this year’s draft class, Christian Ponder of Florida State and Andy Dalton of TCU, are familiar with the career path of Aaron Rodgers and will be looking to replicate his success in professional football.
Ponder, in particular, likes to think he’s a reasonable facsimile of the Packers captain.
“Obviously the Super Bowl quarterback is a good quarterback to compare yourself to,” said Ponder at the NFL Combine. “But just because of how athletic he is, and the way he moves in and out of the pocket, buying time with his feet. He’s extremely accurate and we’re also the same size.”
They’re almost exactly the same size. Rodgers is 6-2 and 225 pounds while Ponder checked in at 6-2 and 229 pounds in Indianapolis.
Dalton is also 6-2, though he weighed in slightly less at 215 pounds.
The Horned Frogs quarterback counts Rodgers among the role models he enjoys watching on film.
“I love watching Aaron Rodgers and everything he’s been able to do,” said Dalton. “He’s a laid back guy, but on game day he’s competing, he’s a guy that’s fun to watch.”
The two NFL hopefuls are part of the second-tier of quarterbacks expected to go anywhere from the late first round to somewhere on the second day of the draft.
The first-tier of quarterbacks generally includes Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert, Auburn’s Cam Newton, Washington’s Jake Locker and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett who all look to be first-round draft picks, while Gabbert and Newton are good bets to go in the top 10 overall.
Ponder and Dalton, meanwhile, join a second group of trigger-pullers along with Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick that have a few more question marks about them, but could still end up being very good starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
The questions with Ponder primarily have to do with his health and a recurring elbow injury that limited him and his effectiveness at several times throughout his senior season at Florida State.
Ponder was very open about his injury and insists he’s healthy now.
“I got hit in the sixth game of the year (against the Hurricanes) and the fascia, which is the connecting tissue between your skin and your muscle got separated from my muscle and a little pocket formed,” said Ponder. “Every time I landed on it fluid would build up. I’d get it drained once a week and the next game I’d land on it again.
“Throughout that whole process scar tissue had built up and that was what was impeding it from healing. They went in and cut out all the scar tissue and did some other stuff to heal it. Now it’s fine.”
With a good performance at the Senior Bowl both during the week of practice and in the game, questions surrounding his health have become more infrequent. Ponder also relished the chance to prove his wellbeing by undergoing testing and physicals by team doctors at the Combine.
“This has been a great opportunity for me to get in front of doctors and prove that I’m healthy,” said Ponder.
Critics of Dalton will point to his arm strength and wonder if it there’s enough velocity behind the ball to succeed at the next level.
Given the likelihood that Dalton will be a second-round draft choice as opposed to a first rounder, he addressed whether there is less pressure for guys like him to be a franchise’s savior and compared the situation to Rodgers.
“Just depends on the situation and the team you go to and their QB situation,” said Dalton. “Some guys it doesn’t take long to step in and be the guy. Others they have time to sit back and watch a little bit.
“You see what Aaron Rodgers did this year, he sat out for awhile and sat behind Brett Favre and he’s done an outstanding job once his time came.”
Given the possibility that there will be no free agency prior to the draft this year, there are several teams with uncertainty at the quarterback position that may be forced to address that position higher in the draft than usual.
Considering Matt Flynn’s name has been bandied about as trade bait and because he’s a free agent next year, the Packers may could be in the market to draft Flynn’s replacement.
It will be interesting to see whether they’d take a chance on either Ponder or Dalton on the second day of the draft––if they last that long.