First-round reaches, steals and winners

Christian Ponder got picked earlier than expected Thursday, going No. 12 to Minnesota. AP Photo/Dave Martin

Adam Schefter answers readers' questions every Monday and Friday in his blog. Got a query of your own? Submit it here.

Q: I thought that Kevin Seifert was crazy when he had the Minnesota Vikings drafting Andy Dalton at No. 12 in a mock draft, but taking Christian Ponder!? Isn't this a huge reach for a QB who was injured a ton in college and many had ranked as the fifth- or sixth-best QB in this class?

-- Dave (Minn.)

A: I'll say this, Dave. I like Christian Ponder a lot, and other teams did, too. We just didn't think he was going to go that high. Many people expected that he would go in the second half of the first round, but if a team believes that much in a quarterback, and the pick works out for it, then it's a home run no matter where the QB was picked. Minnesota would not have gotten another chance at Ponder in Round 2, so it grabbed him while it still could.

And here's the thing about Ponder: He impressed teams with his on-field talent, but what he has accomplished away from the field is just as impressive. Ponder graduated in 2.5 years with a degree in finance and a 3.73 grade-point average. Ponder is the only Division I player in the country to complete his MBA before he completed his senior season and then, to top that, Ponder worked last fall on a second master's degree, enrolling in Florida State's graduate sports management program. There's a reason that Ponder won the James Tatum Award as the Atlantic Coast Conference's top student-athlete.

Q: With the 25th pick, my Seattle Seahawks took James Carpenter from Alabama, an offensive tackle that Mel Kiper didn't even have ranked in his top 5 tackles in the draft. Was this the biggest reach of the first round? If not, what was?

-- Travis (Wash.)

A: It looked that way, Travis. But I will say this: Seattle hired former Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable as its offensive line coach. Cable knows offensive line talent. If Cable liked Carpenter as much as that pick would indicate, I'm not ready to write it off quite so quickly. But it did surprise some teams.

Q: As a New York Giants fan, I am stoked that Prince Amukamara fell to us at No. 19. Did we get the best value pick of the first round?

-- Jason (N.Y.)

A: The Giants think so, Jason. New York definitely could have used an offensive tackle more, but if a team has a chance to take a cornerback that was projected as a top-12 pick at No. 19, it's hard to go wrong. New York never expected Amukamara to be there. And in the passing league that this has become, a team can never have enough cornerbacks, especially in a division in which one team has Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, and another has DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Now, with Terrell Thomas, Aaron Ross, Corey Webster and Amukamara, no team in the league has more depth at cornerback than the Giants.

Q: I know that the Atlanta Falcons need a playmaker on offense, but didn't they give away too much for Julio Jones? If he doesn't work out, they gave away most of next year's draft to get him. This team needs serious help on the D-line as well.

-- Sara (Ill.)

A: It looks like a lot, Sara. But here's the thing with Atlanta: Since last season ended, the Falcons have been talking about getting more and more explosive. They were determined to come out of this draft with A.J. Green or Jones -- one or the other. At one point, it looked like the Falcons had a trade in place to get Green. In fact, there were actually people that thought that deal was getting done. At the last moment it didn't, and Atlanta had no problem trading for Jones, either. The Falcons love the player. Now someone from Atlanta texted me last night that the Falcons had a whole lengthy thought process as to why they gave up what they did for Jones. So there was a clear plan for it. They got a great player -- and gave up a lot to get him.

Q: Which team do you think was the "winner" of the first round? I would say it was the New England Patriots (as usual), because they got a solid tackle in Nate Solder and collected another first-round pick for next year.

-- Hugh (Texas)

A: The biggest winners, Hugh, were the players that went higher than they thought or expected -- Aldon Smith, Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and James Carpenter.

As for teams, the Cleveland Browns did pretty well, snatching up all those extra picks. New England came out of it with double ones again (surprise, surprise). The Washington Redskins were fortunate to get the player they wanted all along, plus an extra second-round pick tonight. The Giants love that Amukamara fell to them where he did. And the Saints got Cam Jordan and Mark Ingram in the first round, so New Orleans has to be pretty happy. Lots of winners, Hugh.

Of course that doesn't mean much today. We'll find out who the real winners were during the 2011 season (hopefully).