If there’s anything I can say for certain as we head into the 2021 season, it’s that this is the year of the rookie quarterback. The quarterbacks of the 2021 draft class are some of the most hyped college prospects we have ever seen. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones were all drafted in the first round, and as of now, all but Fields will be starting for their new teams—or at least play in some capacity—Week 1.
The storylines surrounding those five quarterbacks have filled the minds of NFL fans and analysts basically since the moments they were drafted. As their regular-season debuts approach, their hype only grows.
With all their hype, it’s easy to forget about three more quarterbacks—Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond, and Davis Mills—who came off the board in the second and third rounds this year. They’re not in line to start Week 1, and there’s not necessarily an assumption, at least not like the one there is with Fields, that they’ll start at some point this season. Trask is behind Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, and according to the Buccaneers’ depth chart, he’s behind Blaine Gabbert as well. At least for this coming year, it’s unlikely he’ll see much playing time. The two outliers, Mond and Mills, have more of a window.
There’s a lot of uncertainty with the Houston Texans’ quarterback situation, and they found a good temporary solution by signing Tyrod Taylor to a one-year contract in March. Though at this point, Taylor is basically a professional at being a stand-in starter for a team that hopes to eventually bench him in favor of a new face of the franchise.
He was the Cleveland Browns’ Week 1 starter in 2018, but after a Week 3 injury in a game against the New York Jets, the Baker Mayfield era began in Cleveland. Last year with the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor was their starter in Week 1 and heading into Week 2 against the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs. In what was essentially a freak accident, his lung was punctured by a team doctor administering a pain-killing injection and Justin Herbert went on to start that game and never gave the job back—Herbert ended up winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Mills is in a prime position to see playing time at some point this season. The Texans clearly don’t see Taylor as a long-term solution to their quarterback question, the one-year contract made that clear. Based on Super Bowl odds, Houston may be uncontested in picking their new field marshal as well. Since the Texans are dead last with +25000 odds to win it all this season, let’s assume they get the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Before it gets to that point though, the Texans will want to get a look at what they’ve got in Mills.
Of the rookie quarterbacks not named Lawrence, Wilson, Lance, Fields, or Jones, it’s Mills who has the best chance to get some regular-season action. He’ll have the opportunity to win over the front office in Houston. If he succeeds, the Texans can charge into the offseason with the intent to build around him. If he fails, Houston will likely be able to take their pick at a new face of the offense anyway. Playing Mills is a win-win for them, so be ready to see him in action before the end of the season.
If nothing changes between now and Sept. 12, Mond will enter the 2021 regular season as the backup to Kirk Cousins in Minnesota (Sean Mannion will be in the mix too). In 2020, Cousins signed a two-year contract extension to keep him with the Vikings through the 2022 season. Now entering his fourth season with the team at age 33, he hasn’t found an incredible amount of success in Minnesota, having made the playoffs one time and winning the wild-card game before losing in the divisional round.
That’s not to say the lack of success is all his fault. He’s had the fortune of playing with a defense that was among the best in the NFL in 2018 and 2019 before slipping a bit last season, but he’s also been stuck behind a shaky offensive line that has ranked among the worst in pressure rate across the interior. Minnesota brought in some help with their most recent draft, adding guard Wyatt Davis and tackle Christian Darrisaw, so there’s reason for optimism in Minnesota.
Cousins probably isn’t on the way out quite yet. He’s not old old, he’s played well despite the circumstances in Minnesota, and he’s got another couple of years on his contract. Mond likely won’t see too much time on the field for the Vikings this year. That is, unless Cousins somehow ends up on the sideline at some point, whether that be to injury or poor performance.
We could see some action from the rookie out of Texas A&M before the year is over. The Vikings probably hope that doesn’t happen. In an ideal world, they’d stick with Cousins through at least this year, and maybe give Mond more looks in his second year, with the veteran quarterback in the last season of the current contract. If Mond gets his chance this year though, anything could happen if he shines.