WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - APRIL 06: Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O'Connell (16) throws to the sidelines during the Purdue spring game on April 6, 2019, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - APRIL 06: Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Aidan O'Connell (16) throws to the sidelines during the Purdue spring game on April 6, 2019, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, IN. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Aidan O’Connell To Backup Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence?

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There is something about Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell.

This quarterback (QB) recently declared for the 2023 NFL Draft, and when I look at him on game film, I keep having this thought he would be the perfect project for Jaguars’ Head Coach, Doug Pederson.

Undrafted himself back when he played QB out of Northeast Louisiana, Pederson carved out a decent career as an NFL backup, before going on to coaching.

Pederson of course won Super Bowl LII (2017) as the Head Coach of the Eagles with third-round QB Nick Foles.

Now Pederson is improving the play of Jaguars’ second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence over this past month by going to a quicker release offense featuring short passes and intermediate routes with distinct breakpoints.

This is exactly the type of offense O’Connell would thrive in, well sort of…

Timing routes…timing routes…timing routes

O’Connell looks the part, and he has the arm. The thing he struggles with is holding the ball too long.

This messes everything up.

It messes up his ball placement at the intermediate and deep route levels.

If he got this fixed, a team would have something in O’Connell.

Don’t stare

As a kid, I remember hearing people tell me, “It’s not polite to stare.”

Nobody must have told that to O’Connell, because he has a glaring tendency to lock in and stare down receivers before throwing. Granted, he has the arm to overcome some of that, but it will be an issue at the next level.

O’Connell likes to pat the ball prior to delivery as well, and that coupled with staring down receivers will cause problems.

Being in a quick-hitting, quick-release offense would cut down on O’Connell’s time to think and get him doing what he does best, which is throwing.

O’Connell looks good in the pocket

This is where he caught my eye – – navigating in the pocket.

He’s got a lot of pro polish to him in terms of ball handling, play-action fakes, and moving around in the pocket.

O’Connell is a pure pocket passer.

Don’t expect him to run, because he can’t, but he can move around and has decent escapability under pressure.

O’Connell is what I call, “Downfield minded.” This means he looks to drive the ball downfield while maintaining that focus, instead of listening to footsteps.

Expect O’Connell to shine in the pre-season

This is exactly the type of QB who will do well during the pre-season, and he will have a long career as a backup in the NFL.

He may even shine in a temporary starting role sooner than later.

I will not go as far as to say he’s the next Brock Purdy (who I compared pre-draft to 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon), but he does have some tools to work with, and he will be on an NFL regular season roster as a rookie.

O’Connell has the “It” factor

#16 Aidan O’Connell 6-foot-3, 210 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s Final 2023 NFL Draft Grade: Fourth-Round (I would select him)

First Round Mock Big Board: TBD

Bust Probability: Low

Projected by 0% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of December 26, 2022 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

2022 game film reviewed: Penn State, Maryland and Michigan (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

Level of competition: High

2021 stats: 315/440 (71.6%), 3,712 yards (8.4 average), 28 TD, 11 INT, sacked 18 times

2022 stats: 320/499 (64.1%), 3,490 yards (7.0 average), 22 TD, 13 INT, sacked 22 times

NFL Comparable: Gus Frerotte

2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report:

Poised pure pocket passer with good size and arm strength who needs work on timing routes and ball placement. Good setup and excellent ball handling and play-action skill set. Has pocket mobility, but is not a runner. Below average accuracy on the move. Looks smooth in the pocket and has a good short game. Tendency to hold the ball too long, lock-in, and pat the ball prior to delivery, which leads to inconsistent ball placement and accuracy issues at the intermediate route level. Throws an easy ball to catch. Often puts it where only the receiver has a chance at it. Can put some touch on passes and fit it into some tight windows. Deep game is not good. Solid prospect with strong developmental upside. With some work, he could be special.

Final words

Fits the mold of the perfect developmental prospect who has the skill set and poise to step in if needed as a rookie.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated New York Jets and he is the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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