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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: EDGE Elijah Ponder

  • The Draft Network
  • January 31, 2021
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Elijah Ponder earned a starting role for Cincinnati in 2019 and illustrated steady growth that season and in 2020. The Bearcats played him in multiple alignments on the defensive line, including on the edge and inside in even and odd front looks. At the next level, I like him best as a 3-4 five-technique or base end in 4-3 front. Ponder is an outstanding run defender who has good processing skills, timely responses, power at the point of attack, heavy hands, and the ability to play with extension. He can defend multiple gaps and is lethal when slanting toward inside gaps. As a pass rusher, Ponder gives great effort and keeps his hands engaged. With that said, he isn’t explosive or bendy and he needs to develop a consistent pass-rush plan and expand his repertoire. As it stands, there are too many body-to-body reps where he is tardy to deploy his rush plan. While he is hard-charging, he lacks quickness and bend to consistently attack the outside hip of offensive tackles. Ponder has appeal on early downs in the NFL and it would not surprise me to see him become a meaningful rotational defensive lineman for a defense that is multiple with its fronts. 

Ideal Role: 3-4 five-technique, 4-3 base end.

Scheme Fit: Any.


Written by: Joe Marino 

Games watched: Georgia (2020), Houston (2020), Memphis (2020), Tulsa (2020) 

Best Game Studied: Georgia (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Tulsa (2020) 

First-Step Explosiveness: Ponder lacks explosive burst out of his stance and he can be tardy to release. He’s hard-charging but lacks quickness up the arc and doesn’t put much stress on blockers to frame him on the edge. Becoming a better snap anticipator would be helpful. 

Flexibility: Ponder lacks flexibility in his hips and lowers, making it difficult for him to consistently threaten the outside hip of offensive tackles. In order to corner, he requires a fully greased angle and a step. Ponder does have some looseness in his upper body where he shows the ability to reduce and slip through interior gaps. 

Hand Counters: Ponder’s hands are busy and he keeps working them to soften angles throughout the rep. With that said, timing and placement can be off. He needs to develop a consistent rush plan because he can be late to activate his hands. 

Length: Ponder has sufficient length and I never got the sense watching his tape that he didn’t have enough length. Against the run, Ponder does well to play with extension and maintain clean pads. With that said, I don’t think he will be confused as having vines for arms. 

Hand Power: Ponder has some pop in his punch. While his hands can be tardy, he does have heavy strikes and good grip strength. He has the power needed to clear his pads and create an initial jolt with his strikes.  

Run Defending: Ponder is a terrific run defender and that starts with how sound he is at processing blocks and responding. He has the functional strength to anchor, stack blocks, and shed. He sets firm edges, squeezes down, and is capable of defending multiple gaps. 

Effort: Ponder plays the game with consistent effort on each snap. The only time his motor throttles down is when he is fatigued. He is enthusiastic in pursuit and competes to defeat blocks.  

Football IQ: Ponder is a terrific processor against the run that understands how blocks are attacking him and how to attack. I do wish he had a more developed pass-rush plan and played with better leverage. He is an assignment-driven player that understands his role.  

Lateral Mobility: Ponder doesn’t impress when it comes to lateral mobility and he’s better in condensed areas. He is segmented when changing directions and has to make sure he stays leveraged when he’s the outside contain player. 

Versatility: Ponder played up and down the line of scrimmage for Cincinnati, a defense that had plenty of odd and even fronts where he played inside and outside. I like Ponder best as a 5-technique in a 3-4 or base end in a 4-3. He’s a much better run defender than pass rusher. 

Prospect Comparison: Victor Abiamiri (2007 NFL Draft, Philadelphia Eagles) 


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 68/100

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