If you're baffled by the sudden Kellen Mond draft buzz, here's what's worth remembering
I’m not surprised that there’s an increased market for Kellen Mond in the NFL Draft.
Think about it. The guy has roughly 3 1/2 years of starting experience against SEC competition. He has the size and the arm needed at the next level and the mobility demanded of modern offenses. He delivered his best season yet in Year 3 with quarterback guru Jimbo Fisher and his pro-style system after losing his top 4 receivers. He was the Senior Bowl MVP and he says all the right things.
Mond, whether his doubters realize it or not, checks a lot of boxes.
That’s why I came into the pre-draft process assuming that he’d be a nice mid-round pick. That is, a guy who could develop into a capable backup who could perhaps make something happen if his services were needed. That’s not to say he was going to become a star in the league, but there’s a market for the “keep this thing afloat” quarterback.
But apparently even that is too conservative of an outlook for the former A&M starter.
If you saw this tweet from Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy on Thursday, it probably raised your eyebrows a bit:
All the talk on outside continues to be on the “big five” (Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Jones, Lance) but there’s growing buzz inside the league on two QBs: Stanford’s Davis Mills and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. Both are seen as potential starters. Neither is getting out of Round 2.
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) April 1, 2021
The words “potential starters” and then the last sentence “neither is getting out of Round 2” was enough to make me think, well, perhaps I need to take another look at this.
How has Mond’s stock risen so much since the end of the season? Sure, the Senior Bowl performance helped, and Mond probably put a few people on notice with what he did at his pro day.
Kellen Mond showing off his arm at Texas A&M’s Pro Day 🚀 @TheKellenMond
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) March 30, 2021
(Mond has actually always been really good rolling to his left like that. I’d argue the best throw of his college career came off a play in which he was rolling to his left.)
But why has the market on Mond sky-rocketed in such a short amount of time when we’ve had 4 seasons to watch him?
The key word in that sentence was “market.” The big offseason storyline in the NFL is quarterback market in flux. Remember this tweet just before the Super Bowl?
There are roughly 10 QBs locked into starting jobs for Opening Day of the 2021 NFL season. This is expected to be an unprecedented offseason of QB movement.
My Over/Under of teams changing QBs this off-season is 18. I’ll go with the over. pic.twitter.com/hOKVRaE3Pj
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 25, 2021
This is basic supply and demand. Much of that market, by the way, is still in flux. That means there are teams who truly don’t know who their starting quarterback is going to be. We’ve already seen trades with the 49ers, Eagles and Dolphins within the top 10 of the draft, presumably as a way for the 49ers to get to No. 3 and pick a quarterback. With the Falcons picking at No. 4, there’s a perfectly realistic scenario in which 4 quarterbacks come off the board in the first 4 picks.
That’s never happened before. In 2018, we saw 4 quarterbacks taken in the top 10 for the first time since 1949. It seems inevitable that we’re in for a historic quarterback draft because there are 5 quarterbacks (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Trey Lance) who are showing up in the top 4 of mock drafts.
How does that impact Mond? It means that if you’re not in one of those top 4 picks and you’re unsure about your quarterback situation, you probably still need to draft someone at the position. Hence, why Mond and also Davis Mills, are suddenly viewed as potential Round 2 guys instead of Round 3-4 guys, which they’d probably be with a normal market.
Again, that’s not to take away from what Mond has done to get to this point in the pre-draft process. But we’re talking about someone who never earned an All-SEC honor at season’s end. Mond had a career 7.1 yards per attempt in college, which dropped to 6.6 in true road games.
We saw a lot of Mond at A&M. That’s why it’s strange to see him being talked about like a guy who had maybe 15-16 career starts instead of 44.
Fisher’s quarterbacks, in general, always seem to have a rising stock come draft time. Jameis Winston was an obvious top-2 pick at the time, but EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder both rose in part because when you watched them during the pre-draft process, you saw all that they were asked to do running Fisher’s offense. It was making decisions pre-snap, going through progressions, understanding when to run on the RPOs, etc. The idea of picking someone who understands that mental side becomes increasingly attractive, even if the numbers aren’t quite as good as other draft-eligible quarterbacks (that was especially true for Ponder).
Remember Manuel? Like Mond, he was also the MVP of the Senior Bowl. I remember watching him in Jon Gruden’s quarterback camp and seeing how much it benefitted him playing for a coach like Fisher, who always demanded a quarterback to explain his decisions and understand the thought process of a spread, option offense. When you combine that with the size and the way they handle themselves within the locker room, yeah, it makes them attractive prospects.
Mond, in all likelihood, won’t follow in the footsteps of Winston, Manuel and Ponder as first-round picks. What none of them were able to do, however, was get that big second contract with the team that drafted them. Mond wasn’t any of those guys as a prospect, and he wasn’t as polarizing as A&M legend Johnny Manziel, who also failed to stick as a starter in the NFL.
You can look around the league and find those non-Round 1 guys who did get that second deal with the team who drafted them. Dak Prescott just did it, Russell Wilson was in that spot, as were guys like Derek Carr and Andy Dalton. None of them were considered top-3 quarterbacks in their respective classes, yet their franchises got Pro Bowl quarterbacks who earned playoff berths on those rookie deals. If you can find that guy without mortgaging the high price needed now to get into the top 4, you’re set up extremely well.
Mond is going to benefit from being in that spot. There’s absolutely still risk associated with taking someone like him with a Round 2 pick for all of those aforementioned concerns about his rather large college sample size.
But this is still about basic (quarterback) economics. If the first part of the pre-draft process was any indication, that Mond stock is going to be a fascinating one to follow for the next month.