Vikings by position: Christian Ponder entering pivotal 3rd year at QB
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Editor's note: Each day until the NFL Draft begins on Thursday night, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practice, tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (4)
Ponder (6-foot-2, 229 pounds) remains the unquestioned starter as he enters his third NFL season -- one that will go a long way towards determining the Vikings' course at the most important position. Resume the late-season ascent that proceeded his triceps injury, and Ponder can solidify general manager Rick Spielman's belief he has the traits to be a franchise quarterback. Succumb to the kind of protracted slump Ponder almost didn't escape in 2012, and coaches may be inclined to take a look at Cassel (6-4, 230), the 30-year-old former Kansas City starter who will make a robust $3.7 million this season even if he doesn't play a snap. Cassel fits coordinator Bill Musgrave's offense better than Webb (6-4, 220), an athletic freak with an erratic arm exacerbated by his discomfort in the scheme. He might end up being showcased to read-option teams in camp, unless the Vikings decide to take one more shot at moving him to receiver in a contract year. Bethel-Thompson (6-4, 230) has exceptional arm strength but has yet to play an NFL snap.
Webb was drafted as a receiver, so the Vikings technically haven't taken a developmental quarterback in the late rounds since 2008. It seems unlikely that'll change this year, though there's always a chance they identify a project they can't pass up. Some teams don't even take four quarterbacks to camp because there just aren't enough snaps to go around. If the Vikings do add one in the draft or rookie free agency, somebody isn't making it to Mankato.
Last 10 drafts
• 2012: None.
• 2011: Ponder (first, 12th).
• 2010: Webb (sixth, 199th).
• 2009: None.
• 2008: John David Booty (fifth, 137th).
• 2007: Tyler Thigpen (seventh, 217th).
• 2006: Tarvaris Jackson (second, 64th).
• 2005: None.
• 2004: None.
• 2003: None.
No quarterbacks are known to have visited Winter Park.
• Mel Kiper, ESPN: 1. Geno Smith, West Virginia; 2. Matt Barkley, Southern Cal; 3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse; 4. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State; 5. Landry Jones, Oklahoma.
• Mike Mayock, NFL Network: 1. Smith; 2. E.J. Manuel, Florida State; 3. Barkley; 4. Nassib; t-5. Tyler Bray, Tennessee; t-5. Glennon.