From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell.
#16 Aidan O’Connell/QB Purdue – 6033, 213 lbs. (Senior)
Senior Bowl/NFL Combine
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Aidan O’Connell||6033, 213||9 3/4||32 1/4||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Good frame with solid hand size
— Impressive touch passer able to throw over underneath defenders
— Gets the ball out on time, able to beat zone coverage by hitting short to intermediate windows
— Able to hitch and climb the pocket, shows subtle pocket movements to buy an extra second
— Capable of going through his reads, working the progression, and willing to hit checkdown
— Keeps eyes up and downfield
— Shows some anticipation to lead receiver against zone
— Quick release at the ear, good motion
— Spins a good ball to all levels
— Bounces back from mistakes, short-term memory
— Commanded offense well
— Has experience under center and working off play-action, reading defense on the fly after turning his back
— Offense ran through him and his arm
— Struggles much more against man coverage and throwing into tight downfield windows
— Too much arc and loft on throws, even on screens, and has difficulty cutting the ball on a rope
— Lacks mobility to avoid unblocked and free rushers
— Loses accuracy throwing to his left
— Will force throws underneath on slants against man
— Cornerbacks can sit and jump on his throws to the flat
— Occasionally will try to do too much and make mistakes, threw too many college INTs
— Will make poor decisions against the blitz, doesn’t have arm if he can’t transfer weight and step into throws, and doesn’t handle interior rush well
— Stats waned senior season
— Older than typical prospect
— Turns 25 in September
— 27 career starts for the Boilermakers
— Career: 1239 career pass attempts (66.7% completion rate) 65 TDs 30 INTs, 7.4 YPA
— 2022: 64.1% completion rate, 22 TDs 13 INTs, 7.0 YPA
— 2021 best statistical season, 71.6% completion rate (set single-season school record), 28 TDs 11 INTs, 8.4 YPA
— Two career rushing TDs, -279 career rushing yards (sacks taken out of rushing yards in college football)
— Became full-time starter in October of 2021 after appearing in his first three games
— Zero-star recruit from Long Grove, Illinois, walked onto Purdue, lone offer came from D-II Davenport
— One season as HS starting QB, threw 26 TDs and over 2700 yards, also played on the basketball team while playing CF on baseball team growing up
— Suffered season-ending foot injury three games into 2020, required surgery
— Got married in 2022
— Brother played football for Wheaton College, Aidan initially committed there to play with his brother before going to Purdue
— Had 20 career games with 40+ pass attempts, nine with 50+ attempts
— Became first walk-on to ever start at QB for Boilermakers
— Twice traveled to South Africa on mission trips, including one with NFL QB and former teammate David Blough
— Works with QB coach/trainer Jeff Christensen
Aidan O’Connell’s name gets buried in a strong QB class at the top. But the fact he’s even likely to hear his name on draft day is pretty impressive. A one-year high school starter with very little interest coming out who walked onto Purdue, became a starter, and turned into a successful college QB.
At his core, O’Connell throws a pretty ball and shows good touch and arc on his throws. He’s able to take what defenses give him, take a profit, and effectively and consistency throw underneath against zone. Versus Michigan, he started 14/15 by carving them up underneath, though he finished the game 32/47 (18 of 32 the rest of the way) once he had to push the ball downfield.
He does show anticipation on his throws and able to lead them or get the ball out before they break. Some examples.
I like his composure and makeup. Against Syracuse, he threw a terrible INT returned for a TD, a careless play to try and avoid a sack, that put Purdue in a two-score hole in the fourth quarter. He rallied the offense and took the lead on this play, O’Connell hitching and climbing and hitting his TE for this go-ahead score, though the Boilermakers blew the lead and lost.
While O’Connell doesn’t have a bad arm, he isn’t as effective driving the ball downfield against man coverage. He’ll begin to force throws and is far more effective picking defenses apart underneath. Often, he won’t even test defenses vertically until or unless he has to. And CBs can jump him in the flat while knocking away his slants. He also struggles in the face of interior pressure and that’s where he begins to force throws without the arm talent to get away with it.
And here’s that mistake against the Orange. Terrible decision under pressure that leads to a pick-six.
There’s also a consistent arc on his throws, even on screens. Know this is a far hash play but his pass has too much arc and takes too much time to get to his receiver.
O’Connell also lacks much mobility and is a pocket passer who can’t avoid free rushers or defenders who come free. Not a dealbreaker but don’t expect him to do a lot with his legs other than some minor ability to run and extend a play behind the line of scrimmage.
Overall, O’Connell is an accurate thrower who is quite effective beating zone from 5-15 yards. Against man, he looks far worse and will have issues consistently driving the ball with success down the seam or outside the numbers. There are traits to like but he profiles as a competent backup than a high-end starter. He’s beaten the odds before to make it in college and shouldn’t be counted out. But he shouldn’t be counted on either. My NFL comparison is Brian Hoyer, another Big Ten QB who had a better junior season before struggling more his senior year with a long career as an NFL backup.
Projection: Mid-Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 6.5 – End Of Roster/Practice Squad (6th/7th Round)
Games Watched: vs Michigan (2022), vs Penn State (2022), at Syracuse (2022)