No young players get more attention on the practice field than quarterbacks.
Not only is it the most important position in all of team sports, but if your team gets it right with a young quarterback, it will change the course of the franchise for years to come. And as we’ve seen in the past, first-round quarterback draft picks have floundered and late-round picks can come out of nowhere and flourish.
You just never know when it comes to quarterbacks. And that’s why there was so interest surrounding Las Vegas Raiders rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell during the OTA sessions and in the mandatory minicamps. He was selected in the fourth round (in a trade up) by the Raiders out of Purdue.
O’Connell showed promise during the spring. He will likely spend his rookie season behind expected starter Jimmy Garoppolo and veteran backup Brian Hoyer. Still, there is excitement perhaps that O’Connell will have strong future.
Among those impressed by O’Connell were his teammates and coaches. Veteran cornerback Brandon Facyson got to face O’Connell and he liked what he saw.
”I think he’s doing a great job. He’s going against a good defense, and we’re going against a good offense,” Facyson said of the rookie signal caller. “As he’s coming in learning, he’s a new quarterback and I know it’s his first time being in the league. So, regardless of how good or how bad the day goes, it’s just something to look forward to the next day because he’s learning. So, I think he’s doing a fantastic job though. I think we would all agree with that, and just keep coming to work every single day, keep packing that lunch pail as we said at Virginia Tech.”
One of the reasons why the Raiders targeted O’Connell in the draft is because he has the skill set that McDaniels craves in quarterbacks starting with traits accuracy and intelligence. While he isn’t getting to excited, McDaniels said O’Connell has shown he has desirable quarterback traits thus far.
”Yeah. Like I said, it’s spinning (mentally for all players), and the quarterbacks are probably spinning as much as anybody. You’re exactly right (about O’Connell’s desired traits). That’s definitely part of the allure with Aidan,” McDaniels said. “He played a lot of football in a good conference in college football, had a winning record in the Big 10 every year that he played there at Purdue, which isn’t easy to do. He’s played against good competition, he’s accurate with the ball, he loves the game of football.
“He works very hard at it, which to me if you don’t have those two things at this position, it’s going to be hard for you to ever continue to grow and develop at that place. So, he’s getting a lot of reps. He’ll make mistakes and learn from them every day and then hopefully not make them again. That’s the process that we’re going through with the quarterbacks right now. I really love his attitude, his demeanor, the way he approaches football and how he attacks every day. He’s got a plan, and that usually bodes well for you in terms of improving.”
It would be unrealistic to thing O’Connell has a strong chance to be an instant impact player for the Raiders, but, while it’s early, it’s not unrealistic to think he has a chance to develop.