The Kids Will Be Alright in Minnesota

Kellen Mond
Mar 5, 2021; Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond attends the House of Athlete Scouting Combine for athletes preparing to enter the 2021 NFL draft at Inter Miami Stadium Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Day One of training camp is in the books, and there was one play from a limited amount of scrimmage time that stood out:

A 40+ yard bomb from 3rd-Round pick Kellen Mond to 5th-Round pick Ihmir Smith-Marsette commanded verbal kudos from an energetic crowd. Also garnering attention from the crowd was the return of All-Pro DE Danielle Hunter, but we’ll save him for a story later in camp. This analysis is about the rookies — and how their respective skill sets were displayed on a singular play. 

Mond and Smith-Marsette stand out on the play from their connection, but don’t forget 4th-Round pick Janarius Robinson applying pressure from the right side. If this was live game action, a strip stack was on the menu. That’s three impressive plays from three rookies — on one play. Is the play enough to anoint any of the three starters immediately? No. 

Instead, relish the players taking advantage of opportunities early and flourishing,

Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood

Robinson was selected by the Vikings as a defensive end out of Florida State after accumulating three sacks as a senior. Viewed by many as a draft project with a 5th-6th Round designation, the Vikings pounced on him in the 4th round. Both Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson saw traits that induced drool. 

The rookie is described as an agile athlete with rare length, possessing the raw physical tools and athletic ability to thrive in the NFL. Scouts were low on his lack of skilled hand usage and inconsistent motor. That should not be an issue with the tutelage of Zimmer and Patterson.

Hell, even Hunter is getting in on the coaching:


Rocket Arm Mond

Mond arrives at the Vikings doorstep after an impressive career spanning four seasons at Texas A&M. He finished his career as one of three SEC quarterbacks to record over 9,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards — Tim Tebow and Dak Prescott were the other two. Mond entered the draft as a dual-threat quarterback and drew an early comparison to Colin Kaepernick. 

He wound up maturing into the position while at Texas A&M, relying on his physical gifts early in his college career before maturing into a confident pocket passer. During his senior year, he showed a solid presence and seldom encountered happy feet when the pocket collapsed. Mond needs to work on the accuracy of his deep ball, but he has an absolute rocket for an arm. His strength lies in his accuracy on underneath or intermediate routes and usage in RPOs or off of play-action.

Shifty Smith-Marsette

Ihmir Smith-Marsette, aptly nicknamed ISM, was drafted with plans aforethought to take over as the slot wide receiver. Those thoughts were dampened a bit with the signing of Dede Westbrook before training camp. ISM can still make an impact in the return game as the Vikings have sorely missed a competent returner since the departure of Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency. Special teams in 2020, on the whole, were dastardly. 

ISM is a lightning-fast receiver who owns a quick-twitch that allows him to change directions in a flash. He should still see the field in certain situations as his speed and shiftiness will mandate utilization. ISM must polish his route running and add some weight so that he is not undone by physical coverage, showcased in the clip below. Working in practice daily with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen should help hone the crispness of his routes as they are two of the best in the business. 

Although it was a singular play in the first scrimmage, the young guys showed out. If the rookies continue to do the next right thing and show a willingness to get better — the sky is the limit. Mond is already reported as one of the first on the field and last to leave. Each rookie has a talented veteran to serve as mentor. 

So, the kids will be alright.