What Can Kellen Mond Learn from Kirk Cousins?

Photo Credit: Tim Heitman (USA Today Sports)

When the dust settled over another drama-filled draft weekend, arguably the biggest news coming out of the Twin Cities was that the Minnesota Vikings used their second selection on a quarterback. Social media was ablaze with both shock and jubilation, but the move to pick former Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone.

Rick Spielman really didn’t try to hide his hand as it was clear that the Vikings would be eying the heir to Kirk Cousins‘ throne. Chief among the options was Mond, who they had been following closely throughout the process. Most of the narrative surrounding the four-year college starter was that he possessed great physical tools, giving him a high ceiling. Landing in a position where he had the opportunity to learn was going to be important.

With both Minnesota and Mond’s needs in mind, the pick made a lot of sense. The Vikings needed an upgrade at backup QB and someone who can develop into a starting-caliber player. Mond, on the other hand, needed to sit behind a veteran like Cousins to hone his game and adjust from the college level.

Thus, the storyline was born that Cousins can play as the Mr. Miyagi to Mond’s Karate Kid. The idea is easy to understand, digest, and move on from. But stopping there doesn’t answer the question of what Mond will be able to take from Cousins’ game, because, let’s be honest, they have wildly different styles.

Mike Zimmer held a press conference on Friday following the start of rookie camp, and his answer gave some insight into what Mond can learn from Cousins. “The things that he can learn from Kirk are the ways he handles the games,” he said, “[and] the way he goes about his business in the classroom.”

Zimmer said his rookie quarterback can work to develop his professionalism, but he also talked about what sets Mond apart.

“I want him to be himself,” said Zimmer. “We brought him in here as a talented, athletic quarterback.”

Mond has a big arm and the ability to scramble, making him all the more exciting. The big thing he needs to work on is his decision-making, something that Cousins has also worked on since landing in Minnesota.

Mond has a tendency to go to his first read, regardless of whether or not that receiver is actually open. Here he stares down his primary target and throws the ball despite a lack of separation, leading to an easy pick-six:

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Here’s another example of Mond trying to make something out of nothing. His receiver was covered in the back of the end zone, yet Mond forced it, leading to an easy interception after the receiver fell:

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Cousins is far from the perfect example of taking care of the ball, but it’s something he’s improved on during his time in Minnesota. Instead of constantly forcing the ball downfield, he checks down (to a fault at times) to some of his secondary reads in the flat.

This isn’t to say that Mond should check down, especially considering his big arm. But he has to learn that he doesn’t have to make the big play every single time he drops back to pass. This philosophy led to a significant reduction in Cousins’ own interceptions in 2019 (down to six). That number increased last year, although that was in part due to circumstances in which he had to force the ball when trailing late.

While Mond’s decision making is lacking at times, his potential is promising. In his most recent game action during this year’s Senior Bowl, Mond delivered this ball with perfect timing and accuracy for the score. Instead of staring down Amari Rodgers, Mond gives a quick look right to freeze the safety. This gave him the space to make this throw happen.

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He also needs to refine his footwork to improve his accuracy. He has a tendency at times to throw off of his back foot, causing balls to sail on him. This is something that Cousins does a pretty good job with.

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Even while facing pressure, Cousins is able to step into the throw, putting the ball right on the money for a Vikings score. It’s not an easy task, especially when the offensive line has struggled at times. But it’s the little things that have helped Cousins finish second, fourth, and ninth in completion percentage while wearing the purple and gold.

Like Zimmer said, it’s not about overhauling Mond’s game. Rather, the Vikings need to help him build upon it to become an NFL-level QB. Cousins can help this through his veteran leadership and overall understanding of Minnesota’s offense. That, along with tweaks to his footwork, could help bring Mond’s game to the next level.

It’s abundantly clear that Cousins is, and still will be, the guy. The decision to draft Mond doesn’t change that. With that being said, given that Mond’s weaknesses play into some of Cousins’ strengths makes this an extremely attractive situation.

Mond is bigger, faster, and stronger than Cousins. If he can use Kirk as an asset to improve his game, it seems the sky is the limit for him in Minnesota.

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