When it comes to the quarterback position for the Las Vegas Raiders, most of the attention has been, rightfully, placed on new starter Jimmy Garoppolo. But there is another intriguing player to keep an eye on in rookie Aidan O’Connell.
The Raiders traded up in the fourth round to take O’Connell out of Purdue where he was very solid over his last two seasons as a starter. In 2021 and 2022 O’Connell completed 67.6% of his passes for 7,202 yards and 50 touchdowns. While much attention hasn’t been paid to him coming into training camp, his performance so far has been enough to catch the eyes of a couple of people.
Most notable is Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels who reiterated that accuracy and intelligence were the main traits they saw in O’Connell and that he loves the way he attacking each day so far, via Bill Williamson of SB Nation:
“Yeah. Like I said, it’s spinning (mentally for all players), and the quarterbacks are probably spinning as much as anybody. You’re exactly right (about O’Connell’s desired traits). That’s definitely part of the allure with Aidan,” McDaniels said. “He played a lot of football in a good conference in college football, had a winning record in the Big 10 every year that he played there at Purdue, which isn’t easy to do. He’s played against good competition, he’s accurate with the ball, he loves the game of football.
“He works very hard at it, which to me if you don’t have those two things at this position, it’s going to be hard for you to ever continue to grow and develop at that place. So, he’s getting a lot of reps. He’ll make mistakes and learn from them every day and then hopefully not make them again. That’s the process that we’re going through with the quarterbacks right now. I really love his attitude, his demeanor, the way he approaches football and how he attacks every day. He’s got a plan, and that usually bodes well for you in terms of improving.”
Someone else who has taken notice is Raiders cornerback Brandon Facyson who said the rookie is doing a fantastic job so far:
“I think he’s doing a great job. He’s going against a good defense, and we’re going against a good offense,” Facyson said of the rookie signal caller. “As he’s coming in learning, he’s a new quarterback and I know it’s his first time being in the league. So, regardless of how good or how bad the day goes, it’s just something to look forward to the next day because he’s learning. So, I think he’s doing a fantastic job though. I think we would all agree with that, and just keep coming to work every single day, keep packing that lunch pail as we said at Virginia Tech.”
It would be foolish to expect O’Connell to start challenging for the starting position, but he has at least shown flashes so far that makes it clear that there is something there to develop. With some time and the right work, O’Connell could be an important piece of the Raiders in the future.