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Christian Ponder all smiles over Vikings' Matt Kalil pick

When the Minnesota Vikings traded down one spot in last week's NFL draft to grab USC left tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 4 pick, they were united with the player many assumed they wanted all along.

Pre-draft chatter suggested the team could move in another direction from Kalil, but nobody was happier with the choice than second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.

"It is huge," Ponder told ESPN Twin Cities on Wednesday. "A lot of time last year, it didn't necessarily have to do with the protection. A lot of times I wasn't comfortable getting to my third, fourth reads, checking the ball down. Instead of just checking it down when a guy is wide open, I'd just run. 

"... That's something I have to get away from. It's easy to break the habit. It's just going to make it so much better having full confidence in the protection."

Not a surprising narrative from Ponder, who started 10 games as a rookie, completing a pedestrian 54.3 percent of his passes. Building chemistry with his targets didn't happen the way it did for, say, Cam Newton down in Carolina, but we might not see another rookie performance of that caliber for many years. For Ponder, adding a core building block at left tackle means his progress will be hastened.

Ponder watched the draft with running back Adrian Peterson, a figure equally thrilled with the move. 

"Both of us cracked a pretty big smile," Ponder said. "Offensive line is looking good. They got stacked up pretty quickly and they've got a lot of depth now. I'm excited about that as a quarterback."

Ponder's situation in Minnesota remains challenging. He's operating without a bevy of weapons, but nothing lifts a young passer like a hulking (but quick-footed) blindside protector. 

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