For fans hoping the Las Vegas Raiders would add a future franchise quarterback in the draft, they were likely disappointed that the team didn’t address the position until the fourth round. The team waited and traded back up in the fourth round to select Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell.
O’Connell has been compared to Tom Brady for a number of reasons, including his ability to get rid of the ball quickly, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. O’Connell acknowledged his quick release as one of his strengths.
“I think it’s just something I try to do. I know it’s one of my strengths and something I try to do as best as I can,” O’Connell said during an April 29 conference call. “It’s kind of what got me to be able to, in the first part, get a chance to play at Purdue.”
As Brady did in 2000, O’Connell enters the NFL from a Big Ten school in a later round in the draft. Like Brady, O’Connell is regarded as a relatively slow and unathletic pocket passer. According to NFL.com’s draft profile, he is viewed as a potential backup player with “slightly above average” upside. Draft analysts were bullish on Brady, too, saying he “can’t drive the ball downfield,” according to NBC Sports Boston. The New England Patriots wound up drafting Brady in the sixth round out of Michigan and he went on to become the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Aidan O’Connell Is Looking to Grow
O’Connell, who is 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, enters the league as third on Raiders’ depth chart, behind Jimmy Garoppolo, 31, and journeyman Brian Hoyer, 37.
“I definitely come with a growth mindset, with a learner’s attitude that I want to just soak in as much information as possible,” O’Connell said during the conference call. “Expectations are really just to come in and work as hard as possible to be the best teammate that I can be, to try to be the best player I can be and just to squeeze every bit of talent and whatever I have inside of me to try to help the organization, to help my teammates.”
Two months before the draft, head coach Josh McDaniels said the Raiders were looking for a homegrown quarterback that the team could cultivate.
“The goal for us, eventually, is to have somebody that’s going to be here for a long time,” McDaniels told reporters February 28, two days before the NFL combine. “You see the teams that are having success right now in our league, our conference and specifically in our division, they’re young players that were drafted by their clubs and they’re being developed there under the same continuity.
Aidan O’Connell Has Been Doubted Before
O’Connell didn’t get recruited to play football at Purdue. He tried out for the team as a walk-on and was buried behind a long list of quarterbacks on the depth chart. That didn’t stop him from competing and eventually becoming the starter in his final two years with the Boilermakers. In 2021, his best season, he completed almost 72% of his passes and threw for 28 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He said his own ignorance helped further his NFL career.
“I joke, and it’s probably a little serious, too, I think I was just a little bit too dumb,” O’Connell said during the conference call. “If I looked around and assessed the situation, I probably would have transferred or stopped playing football.”