Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the crown jewel of the 2021 NFL Draft and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is expected to be right behind him when it comes to QB rankings. However, if teams miss on those two next year, who are some of their options at the position? In this article, we will highlight two potential Fields backup plans in Sam Ehlinger of Texas and Kellen Mond of Texas A&M.
If you do not follow college football closely then Ehlinger is perhaps the more familiar name, but both of these two quarterbacks from the Lone Star state are likely going to be names we hear a lot about when it comes to the 2021 NFL Draft.
Ehlinger is now three years into his career at Texas, and through those three seasons, he has completed 729 passes (on 1,154 attempts) for 8,870 yards, 68 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. A 63% completion rate, a 3:1 TD:INT ratio and 7.86 yards per attempt are all solid numbers heading into his senior year. Even with the Longhorns taking a step back in 2019 after a victory in the Sugar Bowl the previous season, the production continues to rise in his three seasons. Ehlinger’s touchdown totals have risen from 11 touchdowns as a freshman to 25 and then 32 as a junior. Additionally, he has progressed nicely when it comes to passing yards, stepping up from 1,915 to 3,292 and then to 3,663.
Another place with Ehlinger brings added value is with his legs. In 2018, he found the end zone 16 times on 482 rushing yards. 2019 saw a dip in rushing production touchdown wise, but a return of seven scores and over 650 rushing yards is a serious asset in the NFL right now. Ehlinger’s ability to make plays with his legs is something that NFL teams will be keen to see continue in 2020.
The knock, at least from the 2019 season, was Ehlinger throwing 10 interceptions as the Longhorns finished 8-5 following their win in the Alamo Bowl. 8-5 with a Bowl victory is normally not terrible, but for Texas, who were ranked in the top-10 in the preseason, it is certainly a comedown from their Sugar Bowl victory. Additionally, for Ehlinger, who was a dark horse candidate for the Heisman entering the season, to end the season not even close to the conversation shows there is still plenty to do.
Ehlinger has started to feel more comfortable in the Texas offense and has showcased his tools more as time progressed. The junior season did not turn out the way the team would have hoped results-wise, but Ehlinger’s continued progression is at least encouraging. In his senior season, the Longhorns need to begin letting Ehlinger loose, so he can develop further and become a strong backup plan behind Lawrence and Fields.
Mond has had an interesting career thus far through his three seasons with the Aggies. He was a player than some people felt might be a candidate to enter this year’s draft as an underclassman. However, he decided to stay at Texas A&M and, with a strong season, has am opportunity to enter the conversation to be among the top quarterbacks in 2021.
In those first three seasons, Mond has completed 613 passes (1,061 attempts) for 7,379 yards and 52 touchdowns with 24 interceptions. His numbers dipped down a bit in 2019 from 2018, throwing for about 100 fewer yards and four fewer touchdowns. However, perhaps more importantly, his completion percentage rose over 60 percent for the first time in his college career. Mond was really in the same boat as Ehlinger this past offseason. Both really need that extra year in school to put more solid throws on tape and numbers on the stats sheets. Additionally, given the relative strength of this year’s class compared to how next year’s projects it may make even more sense financially.
Mond is another quarterback in the 2020 class who can make things happen with his legs. Over the last two seasons, he has 15 touchdowns and 975 rushing yards 275 carries. A quarterback being able to utilize their legs has become a huge part of the NFL in the past decade, and Mond can definitely hold his own.
The knock with Mond is not the arm talent but the accuracy. He just needs to keep developing forward this season and if he can improve that completion percentage while continuing to make plays, he will be a solid option for teams that don’t land the top options. This season will be a very important year for him, perhaps even more so than Ehlinger, who already has name value. A lot of eyes are going to be on Mond in 2020, and he is going to be quite an interesting study throughout this next draft cycle.
Teams will undoubtedly be tripping over themselves to get into a position where they can land Lawrence. But with strong seasons, Ehlinger and Mond could position themselves such that teams feel comfortable settling on those two, which could see them being drafted far higher than they would have expected had they declared this season. Chances are we will see both of them at next year’s Senior Bowl, where they will be hoping to make their cases as potential first-round picks.