It was pretty tough to be a Minnesota Vikings fan in Week 17. After getting thrashed by the division rival Green Bay Packers, 37-10, coach Mike Zimmer took to the podium and did a thrashing of his own when asked about rookie quarterback Kellen Mond. Remember: The Vikings were without Kirk Cousins due to COVID-19 and decided to start Sean Mannion instead of Mond, their third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. When asked why the team went with Mannion, who has no long-term upside in Minnesota, over Mond, Zimmer was, well, see for yourself: https://twitter.com/SomedaySports/status/1477868991897116672?s=20 Yikes. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the ‘ole ball coach. But, hey, he gets points for honesty, right? Here’s the thing: It’s not like Mond was the Vikings’ first-round pick or even a consensus starting-quality prospect in the run-up to the 2021 draft. In fact, The Draft Network graded Mond as a developmental prospect that could lead to being a high-end backup option. He was ranked as the 99th overall prospect in the class. Maybe that’s how the Vikings view him, too. And there’s no harm in that. Look, fans want rookie quarterbacks—especially ones who are drafted on day one or two—to play as soon as possible. Usually, teams draft quarterbacks that high because they’re fielding an aging veteran or journeyman as the starter. So, of course, when the chance for the Vikings to see what they had in Mond presented itself, the fan base wanted to see him. More often than not, however, the coaches know best: https://twitter.com/WillRagatz/status/1477854512236961794?s=20 Mond was the 66th pick—the seventh quarterback drafted—for a reason. Legitimate starters with the potential to be long-term answers at the position rarely fall out of the first round, let alone down to the third. Sure, there are some exceptions, but that’s more of an anomaly than a rule. And remember: Mannion was a similarly-graded prospect when he entered the league in 2015. He, too, was a third-round pick and, ironically, was the seventh quarterback drafted that year as well. We’ve seen how his career’s panned out thus far and there’s no reason to assume Mond’s will be any different. This may seem like a harsh and premature dismissal of Mond’s potential as an NFL quarterback, but it isn’t meant to be. Maybe he works out much like Cousins has been able to after being drafted in the fourth round the same year Washington selected Robert Griffin III. Cousins, for all his quirks and shortcomings, is generally ranked in the upper half of starters and has spurts in which he looks like a legitimate MVP candidate. He’s a true quarterback success story that’s overcome the odds of being a mid-rounder-turned-starter. Mond’s chance to play won’t come in Week 18, barring some strange and unexpected turn of events. It certainly seems like there’s just as good of a chance that he’s Minnesota’s primary backup in 2022 as there is that he’s cut at the end of training camp. So while Vikings fans may have wanted to see what he can do in primetime, the more reasonable approach is to see if he can mature into a viable NFL quarterback over the next couple of seasons. He was, after all, a third-round pick.
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