Late on Thursday night, after the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft had concluded, I wrote about the possibility that the Vikings could end up regretting not being more aggressive to move up for Ohio State QB Justin Fields, who surprisingly fell to the 11th pick. That Fields wound up with Minnesota's division rival, the Chicago Bears, who boldly moved up nine spots to secure their franchise QB, only makes this a more interesting story to follow in the coming years.
On Monday, more details have emerged regarding the Vikings' interest in Fields.
In a new article, ESPN's Courtney Cronin reports that Minnesota was "preparing to take Fields given the way the board was falling."
As Minnesota watched Carolina and Denver pass on Fields at Nos. 8 and 9, their distant dream suddenly felt like it could become a reality. With Vikings ownership in the main draft room, front-office personnel worked the phones and tried to see where they might have to move up to land Fields.
At No. 10, the Dallas Cowboys swapped with their division rival Philadelphia Eagles, who took wide receiver DeVonta Smith. The Vikings were three picks away from closing in on Fields when the Chicago Bears dealt their No. 20 pick, their No. 164 pick and their 2022 first- and fourth-round picks to the New York Giants to move up nine spots to draft Fields, a potential franchise-saving quarterback.
The Vikings were stunned, and this one really stung. They wanted one of the top quarterbacks, but they weren't desperate enough to give up that kind of draft capital for a player who would be sitting behind Cousins for at least a year.
But Fields was the guy for Minnesota, and the team was prepared to take him if he had been there at No. 14 and begin a process of shifting course.
If Fields becomes a star, this is going to be a fascinating story to come back to in the future.
The Vikings wanted to be proactive about landing a quarterback this offseason, given Cousins' contract situation and inconsistent results. Per Cronin's story, a coach called Cousins recently to let him know they were seriously considering drafting a QB at some point.
Landing Fields would've given the Vikings a potential future star who would've almost certainly ended Cousins' time in Minnesota sooner rather than later. With occasional exceptions, the difference-making QBs in the league come from the first round. But the Vikings declined the opportunity to aggressively go up and get Fields, which likely would've cost their 2022 first-rounder.
According to Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune, there was some internal debate in Minnesota's draft room about Fields.
By taking Kellen Mond 66th overall, the Vikings have a QB who will put some pressure on Cousins and give them flexibility. If Cousins continues to struggle to lead the Vikings to the playoffs and Mond impresses in preseason games and behind the scenes, he could become a much cheaper starting option in 2022 or 2023. If Cousins responds to the pressure by upping his game and earning an extension, Mond can be traded or kept in a backup role.
The Vikings are high on Mond's potential, as are some analysts, most notably NBC Sports' Chris Simms, who ranked the former Texas A&M star above Fields prior to the draft. There are also minor concerns with Fields because of his epilepsy.
But Simms aside, very few would argue that Mond has a better chance of becoming a star than Fields does. The new Bears QB has a much more obvious path to reaching that level, which is why the Vikings may end up regretting their lack of action on Thursday night.
We'll just have to wait and see.
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