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2023 Rookie Profile: Aidan O’Connell

While Aidan O'Connell isn't in consideration for a first round draft capital, he should be someone in the later rounds to keep your eyes out for. @coachsteve breaks down the Purdue quarterback.

The quarterback class is very top-heavy but has a few quality players to be journeyman-type quarterbacks. Aidan O’Connell has qualities that make him an interesting prospect who could see some draft capital. NFL teams seem interested in the quarterback from Purdue, so let us dive deep into his football history.

Profile Overview

  • College: Purdue
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 200 lbs
  • Hand Size: 9 3/4″
  • Age: 24
  • Year: Senior
  • Draft Projection: 6th

High School And Personal Life

O’Connell played his high school ball at Adial Stevenson High School in Illinois. O’Connell wasn’t a highly recruited high school prospect. He only started as a senior, throwing 2,741 passing yards and 26 passing touchdowns. He was committed to playing his college ball at Wheaton College but changed his him as he decided to go to Purdue as a walk-on.

College Career

2019PurdueBig TenSOQB610316462.811016.76.684130.4
2020PurdueBig TenJRQB38813664.79166.77.172135.3
*2021PurdueBig TenSRQB1231544071.637128.48.62811158.5
*2022PurdueBig TenSRQB1232049964.134907.06.72213132.2

O’Connell would take two years before seeing the field, as he did not play in 2017 and 2018. He got onto the field in 2019 as he flashed in starting the final three games of the year. In 2020, Purdue’s college season was cut short due to Covid. He would again replace Jack Plummer in the last three games of Purdue’s season. He would compile 2,000 passing yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions in six starts over two seasons.

In 2021, O’Connell would again be the backup for about the season’s first month until finally taking over as the starting quarterback. After becoming the full-time starter, he threw 25 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions over the final nine games. He would lead Purdue in a bowl game win over Tennessee with 534 passing yards and five touchdowns. O’Connell’s 2021 season set many Purdue records, such as completion percentage record and passing efficiency. In 2022, O’Connell regressed as he threw more passes, but his YPA fell, and he would throw fewer touchdowns and more turnovers. He would finish his career poorly, with 365 yards and two interceptions in his final college game. He finished at Purdue eighth in attempts, tied for fourth in completions, fifth in passing yards, and fourth in touchdowns.


Pro Style System

O’Connell has some glaring holes in his game, but one thing is that he’ll understand an NFL offense early on. It’s not as often that a college quarterback gets tons of experience playing under center than playing shotgun. He played the position often under center due to the coaching scheme at Purdue. He has experience playing in prostyle, pistol, spread, and I-formation offenses over his six-year career at Purdue. O’Connell has experience in the Purdue offense using play fakes and motions and increasing tempo when needed. Wherever O’Connell ends up, understanding offense and scheme won’t be an issue.

Chain Mover

NFL teams may like his ability to move the chains on drives. O’Connell is above average in the short and immediate passes that can work for an offense to move the ball. He is a timing and rhythm passer that can thrive in the correct type of offense. O’Connell excels in quickly passing concepts due to his ability to process information at a quick rate. This allows him to get the ball out quickly and find accessible passing lanes to get to his receivers. He has excellent touch on the ball and has reasonable anticipation as a passer. This allows O’Connell to move the chain and keep an offense alive longer on the field.

Areas of Concern

Athletic Ability

In the modern NFL, having the ability to be somewhat athletic is very important for the modern NFL player. It’s not often to have younger quarterbacks be pocket passers and cannot run or escape the pocket. While O’Connell has enough mobility to shift around in the pocket, he has no great athletic ability to get outside to extend plays with his feet or throw on the run. On his pro day, he ran an unofficial 4.7 40-yard time which is usually off by a few seconds. He finished with a negative 270 rushing yards in his college career. I expect little upside if O’Connell plays for an NFL team or fantasy without rushing.

Arm Strength

His arm is average, and O’Connell loses accuracy and velocity on deeper throws. While he does well on shorter passes, this arm strength to push the ball downfield is not great. O’Connell does not consistently push the football upfield or on drive throws with optimal velocity. If he overcompensates to add more zip, he loses ball/spin control of the pass. Due to his lack of arm strength, he completed 29.6 percent of his deep throws in 2022.

Projected Draft Capital & Role

O’Connell is currently projected in the 6th round of the NFL draft with the NFL Mock Draft Database. I’ve also seen only mock drafts, especially with Pro Football Focus taking him in round four a few times. O’Connell will likely be a backup quarterback for a team who likes a good locker-room player. He has gotten many private workouts and meetings from many teams this off-season. I’d expect O’Connell to be drafted at some point.

Dynasty Rookie Value

Even with O’Connell’s draft capital, I don’t see much fantasy value here. He is a hard worker and could grow into a journeyman quarterback. He would need top-four-round draft capital to be considered drafted in four-round rookie drafts. O’Connell will likely be the last man on the taxi squad or waivers until he can develop to meet NFL standards for talent.

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