The Vikings used their second pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, an early third-rounder acquired in a first-round deal with the Jets, to secure a new backup -- and potential successor -- for quarterback Kirk Cousins, in Texas A&M's Kellen Mond. But if Minnesota had its way on draft weekend, the team may have come away with a more immediate challenger for Cousins. According to ESPN's Courtney Cronin, the Vikings were eyeing Ohio State QB Justin Fields before moving back from their No. 14 pick, preparing to take the Buckeyes prospect -- or even trade up for him -- before the rival Bears swung in to select him at No. 11.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told reporters after the first round that he attempted to move up from No. 14 before shifting back to No. 23 with New York. According to Cronin, Fields was among his top targets for a potential trade, as well as offensive tackle Rashawn Slater, who went 13th to the Chargers. Minnesota alerted Cousins ahead of the draft that it was considering a QB at some point in the draft, Cronin reports, but also assured him his job wouldn't be in jeopardy. Fields, however, tested their commitment.
As Minnesota watched Carolina and Denver pass on Fields at Nos. 8 and 9, (a) 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 ... (After the Bears traded up to select Fields), 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.
Chicago ended up surrendering its No. 20 pick, as well as first-, fourth- and fifth-rounders in 2022, to move up to the Giants' selection at No. 11 and take Fields. Mond, meanwhile, landed with Minnesota during a Day 2 run of QBs and is set to serve as Cousins' No. 2 in 2021. Cousins is under contract with the Vikings for the next two seasons but will count $45 million against the team's salary cap in 2022, when he could be traded for a savings of $35 million.