Could Kellen Mond be the Passer to Carry the Vikings over the Hump?

Rookie QB Kellen Mond (11) goes through the Minnesota Vikings offseason program alongside Kirk Cousins (8) and Nate Stanley (14). (Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports)

Kellen Mond was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round.

The Minnesota Vikings always find themselves in a unique situation every offseason. Whether it is the need to fill holes in the roster or replace star players who departed, they always become active in offseason free agency. In most NFL divisions, they are a playoff-caliber team that could wreak havoc in the playoffs. However, in their current scenario, they lie in the NFC North, stuck in the shadow of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, as well as an occasionally good Bears team.

If you have been stuck under a rock lately, the only NFL news you have missed is the rift between the NFL MVP and some aspect of the Packers organization. Although this is unfortunate for the Packers fans, it opens a window for the rest of the NFC North, which includes the Vikings, Detroit Lions, and Chicago Bears. The Bears are similar to the Vikings in that they sporadically play well enough to get a spot in the Wild Card round, whereas the Lions seem to play well enough to win a top-5 draft pick every season for the past decade. With Rodgers not practicing or solving organization-related situations, the aforementioned hump appears much easier to conquer for the trio of Packer foes.

As much as one would want to see LB Khalil Mack and the Bears avenge their missed field goal and make it further than the Wild Card round, it doesn’t seem like their offense is ready to take the next step. With the Lions rebuilding under new head coach (and knee-analyst) Dan Campbell, the Vikings are in prime position to take the Packers’ reign and continue the NFC North’s tradition of winning.

One question must be asked before we assume the Vikings as the next kings of the north: Do the Vikings have the right guy under center for the job? The answer might surprise you.

The Vikings’ roster at the quarterback position is as follows: incumbent starter Kirk Cousins, former college starters Jake Browning (Washington) and Nate Stanley (Iowa), and rookie 3rd round pick Kellen Mond of Texas A&M. As much as the playoff struggles can be blamed on all aspects of the team, one issue might be the quarterback position. Cousins might not be the guy to carry the team to the promised land, but the guy to win Minnesota their first Super Bowl could be on the roster already. Take a hint: if he was worth a third-round pick, maybe he could be something.

QB Kellen Mond might be the guy most would think of to take over the Vikings following the end of Kirk Cousins’ fully guaranteed two-year, $66 million contract in 2022 (end of next season). Mond was selected in the third round (66th overall) by the Vikings, but they had little to no plans on starting the former Texas A&M passer. His numbers don’t jump off the page: as a 4-year starter, he passed for a combined 9,661 yards, throwing 71 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He carried the A&M football program through a period of average play, where they were occasionally ranked and were selected to play in some odd-named end-of-season bowl. Overall, Mond refused to let the team fall below mediocrity. That being said, in comparison with their SEC Conference rivals, they seemed pretty mediocre to the average college football fan.

Mond’s time at Texas A&M didn’t boost his draft stock like first-round passers in his class, players like Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, or even Trey Lance. Luckily, Mond might have found himself a job in a system that might favor his style even more than the Texas A&M offense. To compare, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher & Co. ran a pro-style offense, looking closer to what NFL coaches Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll run. Minnesota’s offense is under the direction of Klint Kubiak, who likely gains his offensive knowledge from his dad, retired Super Bowl-winning coach Gary Kubiak. The father seemed to run a balanced operation featuring zone blocking, a mix of both the run and the pass, and an even mix of formations as well. This offense is shown recently by the success of Minnesota RB Dalvin Cook (G. Kubiak as offensive coordinator) and the past success from former San Francisco 49ers QB Steve Young (G. Kubiak as the QB coach). Mond’s numbers might not tell much of a story, but it shows that balance was attempted at Texas A&M. This balance is the same balance already demonstrated in the Kubiak offense.

Although this is a fit for Mond, it doesn’t mean that this job is automatically his. It leads many to question if Mond is better than Kirk Cousins or if he would be a better fit in the offense than Cousins.

Unfortunately for Cousins, the ‘thing’ he is known most for is his habit of choking in primetime, and unless they are playing the Saints in the playoffs, this fact stands true. He has played some solid football as of late, and as he becomes more consistent in the system, the more the system seems to turn in his favor. Cousins’ stats have shown the negative aspects about his game, as he sits in the bottom-third in the league when it comes to interceptions while ranking in the middle of the pack in both touchdowns and passer rating. The inconsistencies in his game are slightly harmful to the team’s success, but thanks to a reliable tailback in Dalvin Cook, Cousins has had the pressure taken off of him as he grows into the offense. There is a negative side to all things, and as much promise as Cook has shown running the rock, there is only so much gas left in Cook, giving Cousins only so much time in learning the offense. As a professional quarterback, he needs to pick up the pace of the learning process.

Again, the solution to this snail’s-pace learning process might already be on the roster in the earliest of the team’s third-round picks. If Mond can pick up the system and run it in the offense or even take it to the next level, then he might have the upper hand at the starter job, leaving Cousins grasping for answers.

Whether it be Mond, Cousins, or any other quarterback under center in week 1, they will have the luxury of many valuable weapons. At the receiver, they are equipped with wideouts Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, the latter of which is coming off of one of the greatest rookie seasons from a receiver in NFL history. They have solid backs in Cook and Alexander Mattison, as well as five new draft picks (not including Kellen Mond) joining the team for the 2021-2022 NFL season.

All in all, Cousins can play quarterback at an efficient level, but the question revolves around his ability to retain his job. Although Mond is a rookie and has very little chance of playing, the NFL offseason provides teams an opportunity to evaluate talent and see whether or not an improvement can be made. Even if the direction they go is not the betting favorite, it will still be interesting to see what the rest of the NFL offseason holds.

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