Vikings GM Peeks at a Couple of 2022 Rookie QBs

Nov 11, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) warms up before a game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

About one week ago, we detailed Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman’s jaunt to see Carson Strong in action, a 22-year-old college quarterback from Nevada.

Now, the journey to scout more 2022 rookie signal-callers is well underway. Spielman attended Thursday’s collegiate Pittsburgh-North Carolina showdown, a contest won by Pittsburgh 30-23.

Spielman was presumably peeking at Sam Howell, who plays from the Tar Heels, and Kenny Pickett, the quarterback for the Panthers. Recently, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. called Pickett the top quarterback in the 2022 draft class. As of late for Howell, the Tar Heel has tumbled to the bottom of the 1st Round in several mock drafts. Of course, it is still very early in the pre-draft cycle.

The Vikings currently have two quarterbacks on roster who could feasibly lead them into the future – Kirk Cousins and Kellen Mond.

Cousins, 33, is performing well in 2021 while his team has a 3-5 record. If the Vikings do not circumvent their current losing ways, Cousins’ future in Minnesota is dicey. The writing on the wall would explain the Vikings missed the playoffs in three out of four seasons under Cousins’ leadership – not a good look.

Mond, a rookie from Texas A&M, is very raw. He was plucked out of the 3rd Round last April, joining the Vikings after a draft-night trade by Spielman that also netted Wyatt Davis from Ohio State. Mond could be the future for the Vikings – or he could entirely fall by the wayside of NFL stardom as is the case for most quarterbacks selected in the 3rd Round. We shall see.

What do we know for sure? Well, Spielman is scouting rookie quarterbacks, so that is undoubtedly a contingency plan on his mind pertaining to Cousins and Mond.

Here’s the scouting report on Howell from Joe Marino of The Draft Network:

“He features a quick, compact, and snappy release and does well to get himself aligned to his targets, often using a dovetail at the top of his drops to get himself in position to set his base and deliver the football. In terms of accuracy, he is above average with his ball placement to all levels of the field and he throws a beautiful deep ball that he will drop in the bucket on the nine route a few times per game. Howell is a quick and twitchy enough runner with the football and is competitive with the ball in his hands. He hangs tough in the pocket and keeps his eyes down the field when things collapse around him. He has the ability to extend plays, win outside of structure, and make accurate throws on the run. While he doesn’t have elite arm strength, he generates plenty of distance and control on his throws with enough velocity to drive the football outside the numbers even from the opposite hash.”

As for Pickett, his professional outlook is arguably even brighter. This from Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network:

“Pickett’s strong off-script profile is one of his most appealing features. But the Pitt QB has a degree of polish, which comes with experience. Pickett has exceptional mechanics in structure. He keeps his feet and shoulders squared toward his target, and he continually resets his base as he goes through his progressions. Pickett’s never idle on his feet, and he navigates the pocket well. He knows how to manipulate throwing lanes with his positioning. Pickett is poised in the pocket — he stands tall and delivers strikes even amidst contact. He knows to turn his upper body before throwing to generate maximum hip torque, and he consistently steps into his throws to maximize momentum. Additionally, Pickett has a fairly good feel for pressure around the edge, and he’s proactive in evading and extending plays. Mentally, Pickett shows promise.”

The fascinating aspect to follow on the possibility of a new Vikings quarterback in 2022 is Spielman – the man. If Spielman is not terminated in 2021 as a result of [what appears to be] a losing season, he may be loyal to Cousins and the massive $45 million cap hit in 2022. To alleviate the cap hit, Cousins could be extended for an extra year or so to ease the pain.

But if the Vikings ownership cans the head coach and the general manager, well, all bets are off. Cousins could be traded, the Vikings roster might be gutted, and who knows on the philosophy of the new regime.

For now, however, it seems Spielman is gently preparing for life after Cousins. That was even evident when he chose Mond in the last draft.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).