Michael Lombardi: Ready to be a starting QB?
Christian Ponder, welcome to the NFL. He will assume the starting quarterback job for the Minnesota Vikings, and he will also assume a ton of pressure. Ponder will be asked to make what most people feel is a playoff team a playoff team once again. He will need to demonstrate he can make every throw, and make them under pressure, and make them often.
Steve Wyche: Gave up a lot for him
It would be easy to say Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, since he was the first overall pick and as many people expect him to bust as succeed. I'm not going that route, though, because Carolina is a work in progress. I think Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones comes in needing to be a playmaker. Atlanta gave up a wealth of draft picks to get him -- including a first rounder next year -- and he's projected to take over the No. 2 slot from Michael Jenkins. The Falcons think they are a playmaker or two away from getting to the Super Bowl and hedged their bets on Jones. If he's only adequate, which most rookie wide receivers are, and Atlanta isn't dominant on offense, Jones and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are going to take some heat.
Vic Carucci: 'Obvious choice'
Is there a more obvious choice in this category than Cam Newton? As the top overall pick, he already is under immense pressure to make an immediate impact with the Panthers. But Newton has the additional burden of proving that he can function successfully in a more complicated offense than the spread attack he ran at Auburn. NFL defenses won't allow him to get away with reading only half the field most of the time and relying as heavily as he did on his immense physical talent. Newton's ego also will be closely monitored, with critics looking for it to veer out of control and pose problems to his development.
Jason La Canfora: Weight of the franchise on him
It would be easy to say Cam Newton here, and frankly I think that's for good reason. He bears the weight of the franchise and those who went out on the line for him. Not having a regular offseason would be crushing, and he might not play right away, but even if just holding a clipboard and getting in certain packages, all eyes will be on him. Every little thing he says, and every gesture, will be dissected. It's not fair, but it's the reality he is walking into. He's never been anything but a winner, but now the stakes are so much higher -- like $55 million guaranteed higher.
Charles Davis: He needs to win the job
One of the surprise picks of the first round, Christian Ponder was drafted not to eventually play but to start from Day 1. I love his makeup and skill set, but if he does not beat out Joe Webb to take the first snaps of the season, then the second-guessers will be out in force.