Despite signing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the offseason, there were still a number of rumors surrounding the Las Vegas Raiders potentially drafting a quarterback with their first-round pick. The Raiders went another direction in the first round but did eventually address the position by drafting Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell in the fourth round.
O’Connell is not a mobile quarterback, but he has great size and is extremely accurate, especially on short and intermediate throws. Thriving in that area is essential to have success in head coach Josh McDaniels’ offensive scheme and in the NFL in general. And some college coaches believe O’Connell is a player who will be in the NFL for a long time, though not necessarily as a starter.
One Big Ten coach praised the former Purdue quarterback, noting that his accuracy and intelligence will allow him to be an excellent backup in the NFL for a long time, but his lack of athleticism will limit him, via Marcus Johnson of Silver and Black Pride:
“He’ll be a really long-term, good backup, he’ll play forever,” a Big Ten coach said. “He’ll wear a ballcap, hold a clipboard, make a lot of money. He’s so smart and he’s really accurate. But there aren’t many statues anymore [at quarterback].”
It may seem like a bit of a backhanded compliment, but it is clearly meant as true praise for a player who had a lot of success in college. In his last two seasons as a starter with the Boilermakers, O’Connell completed 67.6% of his passes for 7,202 yards and 50 touchdowns with just 24 interceptions. He undoubtedly has some tools to work with, but also some shortcomings as well.
As the coach noted, there just aren’t too many quarterbacks who can’t move around in the pocket at least a little and O’Connell just doesn’t have great mobility. He also struggles with his accuracy on deep passes. But his work ethic and football IQ could still keep him with a job for a long time in the NFL.
Josh McDaniels said he wanted to get a young quarterback in the building to be able to develop and the Raiders have one now in O’Connell. Whether he becomes a solid backup or perhaps the team’s future franchise quarterback remains to be seen, but he is in a great position to learn and grow under some excellent minds. Now it will be on O’Connell to take advantage of that and reach his potential.