Vikings

What Is Going On With Kellen Mond?

Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea (USA TODAY Sports)

It was a cold, dreary night at Lambeau Field. With Kirk Cousins out, the Minnesota Vikings turned to career backup Sean Mannion. But, after three quarters of struggles, Kellen Mond entered the game.

Two checkdowns and a near-interception later, Mond might have buried his chances at becoming the quarterback of the future if the current regime is in place. During the post-game press conference, Mike Zimmer shoveled another layer of dirt on Mond’s future.

How did we get here?

The Vikings were bullish on Mond’s prospects when they drafted him. But amid a lost season, Zimmer has no interest in getting him on the field. When asked why, Zimmer grimly replied, “I see him every day.”

Is Mond’s development not going as planned? Or is Mond caught in the middle of a power struggle between Zimmer in the front office?

Is it that Mond will never succeed in Minnesota? Or is Mond just a project quarterback with potential the Vikings will eventually unleash?

These questions trace back to last year’s draft. The Vikings unsuccessfully tried to trade up for Justin Fields and then passed on Mac Jones when they were on the clock. Although the trade down helped the Vikings take Christian Darrisaw at No. 23, it also netted them a pair of third-round selections.

Rick Spielman covets late-round picks like Thanos covets the Infinity Stones. He can take a swing on a toolsy prospect with each selection and hope that his coaching staff unleashes their potential.

However, this leaves Zimmer with a slew of project players not ready to hit the field.

Last season, the situation came to a head when Spielman made an NFL-record 15 draft picks. While Justin Jefferson took the league by storm, the rest of the class left plenty to be desired. Few others made an impact this year, and the Vikings are limping to a 7-9 record.

Zimmer chose to lean on veterans this year with his job possibly on the line. Spielman obliged with a $45 million spending spree in free agency, but he chose to do things his way in the draft.

That meant trading down and acquiring the pick that eventually became Mond. When the second day of the draft had concluded, Spielman gushed about Mond’s potential.

“Just like any other position…we try to track whether they’re spiraling up or they’re spiraling down,” Spielman said. “We felt that he was on the right trajectory and has a lot of upside to develop.”

The Vikings don’t appear to be a great environment for a developing quarterback. Their head coach is laser-focused on the defensive side of the ball. The offensive coordinator has struggled with getting plays down to the field, and the entire staff is trying to avoid pink slips.

The idea of having Mond take first-team reps in practice sounds like turning in their resignation papers. But even with Minnesota’s struggles, it’s possible that Mond wasn’t the right pick for the Vikings.

Coming out of Texas A&M, Mond had several limitations as a quarterback. While he has the arm to throw downfield, his accuracy has been an important question. He didn’t eclipse the 60% completion mark until his junior season, and his career completion percentage (59) didn’t put him at the top of draft boards.

But while some quarterbacks with low completion percentages can find ways to make up for it, Mond didn’t have that trait. In his NFL.com profile, Lance Zuerlein said that Mond’s deep throws were “often flat and overthrown.” He also completed only 35% of intermediate throws and 27% of deep throws outside the numbers during his senior season.

While Klint Kubiak can mask those deficiencies by utilizing Mond’s mobility, he predicates his offense on deep throws. According to Pro Football Focus, 11.9% of Cousins’ throws went 20 yards or longer this season. While that number was 17th among qualifiers, his 48.4 adjusted completion percentage (which takes into account things he can’t control, such as drops) ranks eighth.

By comparison, 10.4% of Mond’s passes went 20 yards or more during his final season at Texas A&M. More concerning was his 43.8 adjusted completion rate, which ranked 47th among qualifiers.

Any coaching staff believes they can fix these flaws. Because Jimbo Fisher had installed his robotic mechanics on Mond, the Vikings may have felt they needed to do a hard reset. The same thing happened with Aaron Rodgers, who needed a reboot after learning under Jeff Tedford at Cal.

But this offense doesn’t suit Mond’s strengths, including his ability as a runner. With Cousins’ limitations as a runner, the Vikings wouldn’t benefit from installing a zone-read offense with a play-caller that has struggled this season. Not to mention, it wouldn’t help anyone in a season where they need to win.

Mond’s best hope would be if an offensive mind comes in and caters the offense to him. Lamar Jackson’s development is an example where the Ravens transitioned from a similar quarterback in Joe Flacco. When Greg Roman was brought in during his second season, Jackson took off and became a superstar.

Even if the Vikings were to draft a similar quarterback, like Liberty’s Malik Willis, Mond would have a puncher’s chance.

The book isn’t out on Mond, but it needs to be re-written. Zimmer and his staff potentially being shown the door could be what he needs to salvage his career.

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