He's overrated! He's elite! Here's the evidence showing why there's still such a strong divide on Kellen Mond
You might have your mind made up about Kellen Mond, and there’s nothing I can do to get you off that opinion. That’s fine. Your eyes have told you 1 thing about him, and there’s nothing that some column can tell you about why there’s 2 sides to the argument.
But just for the heck of it, hear me out.
Maybe, just maybe, you can craft any argument you want to convince yourself that you’re right in how you feel about the A&M quarterback. And that, as much as anything, frustrates people.
I say that because as he enters his senior season and Year 3 as a full-time starter in Jimbo Fisher’s system, there still seems to be such a divide on Mond. One day, you’ll see someone argue why he isn’t a top-5 returning quarterback in the SEC, and the next, you’ll hear someone say he’s the conference’s top returning signal-caller.
Is he complicated? Yes. And no.
I decided to make a reference guide for all Mond-based opinions. If you’re baffled why people think he’s elite, you can come here. Or, if you’re baffled why people think he’s mediocre, you can come here, too.
Better yet, if you need data points to support why you think he’s elite, I’ll have them. If you need data points to support why you think he’s mediocre, I’ll have those, too. Consider this column your 1-stop shop for all of the possible preseason Mond takes.
Since it’s always better to get the bad news out of the way, let’s start with that side of the argument.
Mond said last year and this year that he believes he’s the best quarterback in the SEC. Unfortunately for him, there are plenty of reasons to debunk that.
It’s no secret that at a time when the likes of Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa took efficiency to a new level, Mond’s biggest knock is in that department. For the sake of this argument, let’s eliminate the 2017 season. Mond was in a different offense, and he was a part-time starter as a true freshman. Check out Mond’s efficiency ranks among qualified SEC quarterbacks in 2018 and 2019:
Yes, Mond has yet to rank in the top 6 in the SEC in quarterback rating. One could have probably guessed that based on his yards per attempt, which actually regressed in 2019 despite his SEC ranking improving (he went from 7.5 to 6.9).
At the root of those efficiency issues is his propensity to hold onto the ball a bit too long. Only Joe Burrow took more sacks than him in 2019, though that’s easy to forgive the LSU star for because he completed an absurd 76% of his passes for 10.8 yards per attempt in 15 games. He also threw the ball 108 more times than Mond, who had just 3 fewer sacks taken than Burrow.
Entering Year 2 in Fisher’s system, Mond regressed in yards per attempt, passing yards, touchdown passes and quarterback rating. Over the course of his career, we’ve still seen Mond struggle with efficiency even when he had clean dropbacks:
The passers w/ the highest Yards/Attempt on clean dropback attempts in SEC play returning for 2020 -min 30 att
1. Guarantano 10.7
2. Corral 9.36
3. Jones 8.57
4. Maurer 8.54
5. Shrader 8.35
6. Trask 8.21
7. Nix 8.20
8. Mond 7.37
9. Smith 6.98
10. Plumlee 6.23
— SEC StatCat (@SEC_StatCat) April 21, 2020
That’s a troubling thought for someone who has more experience than any returning SEC quarterback. The benefit of having a talented, veteran quarterback is supposed to be that he can pick you apart if you give him time, and he’s not fazed by a road atmosphere.
Speaking of those road splits, woof. Mond’s numbers in true road games are, as you might have guessed, not great.
Win-loss record is by no means everything when it comes to quarterbacks, but it is something. Mond’s 2-6 road record consists of wins against a 7-win South Carolina team in 2018 and a 4-win Ole Miss team in 2019, both of which were 1-score games in which A&M was held to fewer than 30 points. In fact, Mond has yet to lead A&M to a 30-point effort in 9 career road starts.
Over the past 2 years, Mond is 9-7 as a starter against SEC competition. Against SEC bowl teams, however, he’s 4-7. There’s a strong case to be made that Mond’s best win as a starter shouldn’t have happened in that 7-overtime marathon against LSU. Had Jace Sternberger’s fumble in the first overtime been called, Mond would be 8-8 vs. SEC competition with a 3-8 mark against SEC bowl teams.
That’s right. What was easily Mond’s best win as a starter even has divide.
For the “A&M didn’t deserve to win vs. LSU crowd,” Mond’s best non-LSU win was … a 20-14 overtime win against Kentucky in 2018. To be fair, the Cats finished as a top-15 team. Still, he’s dangerously close to being 0-6 combined vs. Alabama, Auburn and LSU.
Including games against Clemson and Georgia, Mond’s Aggies played in 300 minutes against teams that finished in the top 15 of the Associated Press Poll in 2019, and A&M led for just 7 minutes and 42 seconds of that. That’s not elite.
Mond’s 2 years as a full-time starter coincided with 2 of the best single-season performances we’ve seen by quarterbacks, and they happened in Mond’s division (Tua Tagovailoa in 2018 and Burrow in 2019). To look at those numbers and argue that Mond is now being touted as the conference’s top returning quarterback is, for some, a stretch.
Now for the other side …
If you’re in that camp like Jordan Rodgers, you’re basing that stance on something that even the “he’s overrated!” crowd can get behind.
Mond can beat you in more ways than any returning SEC quarterback.
He has the ability to stretch the field, he can locate the intermediate routes and he can break off long runs against elite competition in a way that very few quarterbacks in the country can:
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) September 22, 2018
Mond has had moments against elite competition that look All-America, NFL-level. Remember the Johnny Manziel-like play he made against Alabama in 2017? How about what he did in the last 20 minutes against Clemson in 2018? And who could forget those throws he made to keep A&M alive in the aforementioned marathon game against LSU to close the 2018 regular season?
I don’t care if this play is being made against air. There are very few quarterbacks in the country who could do something like this:
Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond: Highest graded QB returning to the SEC in 2020.pic.twitter.com/BRwa94axN8
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 30, 2020
Pro Football Focus had that charted as one of the top throws of the entire season in all of college football. PFF ranked Mond No. 41 among FBS starting quarterbacks last year, citing the difficult schedule as a reason for his dip in overall production. All 5 of A&M’s losses came against teams that won at least 9 games AND had a defense that ranked No. 32 or better. Four of those teams ranked in the top 8 nationally in passing efficiency defense, too.
In Mond’s 2 years as a starter under Fisher, he’s 12-0 against teams that finished the season with 7 wins or fewer. In other words, he doesn’t have what would be deemed an embarrassing loss on his résumé.
Mond enters 2020 with 70 career touchdowns, which is 24 more than Feleipe Franks and 37 more than Jarrett Guarantano, who are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, among returning SEC quarterbacks (that’s not including grad transfers from outside the SEC like Jamie Newman and K.J. Costello).
If Mond hits 30 combined touchdowns in 2020 — he averaged 29.5 in his 2 years as a starter — he’ll hit 100 career touchdowns. Here’s the list of SEC quarterbacks who have done that:
- Tim Tebow (Florida), 145
- Aaron Murray (Georgia), 137
- Danny Wuerffel (Florida), 122
- Dak Prescott (MSU), 114
- Drew Lock (Mizzou), 109
- Nick Fitzgerald (MSU), 101
- Chris Leak (Florida), 101
- Peyton Manning (Tennessee), 101
That’s some extraordinary company. If Mond improves even slightly in 2020, he’ll finish his career No. 6 on the conference’s all-time list in touchdowns responsible for. Sure, it helps that he was a 4-year starter, but there have been plenty of 4-year starters in SEC history who couldn’t crack that club.
Want another career stat to help the pro-Mond argument? Sure. He has 8,694 career yards from scrimmage, which is good for No. 24 on the all-time list. The past 2 years as a starter under Fisher, Mond averaged 3,490 yards from scrimmage. If he just repeats that, he’ll finish his career with 12,184 yards from scrimmage.
Here’s the entire list of SEC players who have done that:
- Aaron Murray (Georgia), 13,562
- Drew Lock (Mizzou), 12,630
- Tim Tebow (Florida), 12,232
Yeah, basically any sort of improvement from Mond — 4 yards per game better than his average the past 2 seasons — and he’ll finish his college career with more yards than Tebow. That’s, um, something.
Obviously even the pro-Mond crowd isn’t going to sit here and even compare Mond to Tebow. At least I hope not. By any stretch, Mond is more Murray than Tebow because of the struggles in big-time games. But being compared to someone like Murray is still better than the “he’s not even a top-5 SEC quarterback” side.
And again, those projections of how he could finish among all-time SEC leaders are based on him essentially replicating his 2018-19 production. If you’re high on Mond heading into 2020 despite the aforementioned issues in big-time games, you probably pointed to the schedule once or twice.
In Mond’s first 10 games in 2020, Auburn is the only Power 5 team he’ll face that won at least 7 games last year, and the Tigers rank No. 78 in returning percentage of defensive production. Remember that stat about how Mond is 12-0 as a starter against teams with 7 wins or less? That seems relevant.
Also relevant is that for the first time in his career, there isn’t a Burrow, a Tagovailoa or even a Jake Fromm. Mond is entering Year 3 with someone who is considered one of the best offensive minds in the sport. We’ve seen the highlight-reel plays, and they’ve come in a variety of ways.
To think that Mond can improve in 2020 and take the next step isn’t far off by any stretch.
Have I confused you yet?
Hopefully I have. That was sort of the point.
Actually, check that. I had a different point here.
The goal today wasn’t to make you pick 1 side or the other of the Mond argument. Rather, it was to understand why there’s a lot of ammo each way. However you want to spin it is up to you. For now, at least.
Mond’s 2020 season with sky-high expectations will surely play a major part in how he’s remembered. If he can’t lead A&M to a New Year’s 6 Bowl, he’ll be written off in a hurry. Even if he does, it’s tough to imagine any scenario in which he steps outside of Manziel’s shadow. Is that fair? Probably not, but that was always going to be reality for many of the A&M quarterbacks who followed Manziel.
Mond has a chance to write his own final chapter. Who knows what that’ll look like.
Maybe it’ll be less confusing than the previous 2.