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Who the hell will they draft 2008: San Diego State QB Kevin O'Connell

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He needs to improve his foot work and get more consistent, but Kevin O'Connell has the arm and brains to develop into a quality NFL QB.
We're eight days from the draft, and between now and April 25th we will wrap up our Who the hell will they draft with some players we think Indy should take a look at, but might not be on the Colts radar. Yes, I still plan to do profiles of guys like Dustin Keller, James Hardy, and Corey Lynch (guys Indy has expressed some level of interest in), but now I'd like to shift to a roster area the Colts have not had to worry about for quite some time: Quarterback.

We're a spoiled bunch in Indiana. We really are. We have arguably the greatest QB ever to lace them up throwing the football for our team. If you sit back and think about that, it is truly an awesome thing. But the reality is he will not play forever, and if he should ever get hurt this Indianapolis team is in serious trouble. Since September 1998, Peyton Manning has started every game he has been a member of the Colts. Because of this, the Colts have not invested that much in acquiring good back-up QBs. The excuse of "Well, Peyton never gets hurt, so how can a back-up QB develop?" is a tired and silly excuse. Brett Favre never missed a start throughout his entire NFL career, and back-ups that developed behind him on the depth chart in Green Bay were Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks, and recently Aaron Rogers. The Colts have an outstanding QB coach in Jim Caldwell, and if a QB can't learn from Caldwell then he better start checking the want ads. And while players like Jim Sorgi are not "bad," they do not offer anything that can develop into a solid starting QB if Manning should go down with injury.

It's high time Bill Polian look for a guy who has the intelligence, arm strength, and leadership skills needed to run this Indy Colts offense, and I think he needs to look no further than San Diego State's Kevin O'Connell.

Like it or not, you have to have a strong arm to run the Colts offense. There is just no way around it. The base package is a 2 TE alignment that utilizes deep passes to set up the run. How many times have we seen play fake, deep throw to Harrison, TD? Unfortunately, none of the QBs on Indy's roster not named Manning have strong arms. Jim Sorgi is average at best and Josh Betts is... well, he's Josh Betts. Kevin O'Connell, by all accounts, has what scout call an NFL arm:

New Era Scouting:

Arm Strength: Can make every NFL throw. Was impressive at the NFL Combine. Deep out has little wobble, is tight and with a good spiral. Can put force on short passes. Good velocity.
NFL.com:
Arm strength to make every NFL throw. ... Has made considerable development as a passer over the past two seasons and has the tools to work with.
NFL Draft Countdown:
Arm is strong enough to make all the throws..Nice touch and timing.
Ok, so we know he can chuck the football. Bully for him. So could Michael Vick, but Vick's problem was he was as dumb as a post, both on and off the field. A strong-armed QB without any brains is as useless as rebuilt 1965 Mustag with no engine or driver. Usually, when you see guys like O'Connell projected as 4th or 5th round picks, it is usually because they are known as idiots on the field. What's unusual about O'Connell is he seems to have the kind of field general mentality needed to make it in the NFL:
Character / Leadership Ability: Is a good leader. Encouraging. Is a team player. Great character. Interviews well and is respected by teammates and peers.

Competitive Nature / Work Ethic: Is a very natural competitor, but has fun with it. Enjoys competing and is very driven. Has shown to be a hard worker. Has improved each of his four years as a starter at SDSU.

Football Intelligence: A smart player who understands his scheme and where to attack a defense. Puts in a lot of film time. Will need to adjust to a pro style offense.

O'Connell also had a very strong showing at the NFL Combine, showcasing the ability to make pretty much every NFL throw. New Era claims his deep out passes (the passes any quality NFL QB must be able to make) had very little wobble on them. Spirals were tight, velocity strong, and he has shown good accuracy. O'Connell is considered a "pocket passer," but for someone 6'6 and 228 pounds he has a remarkable ability to run with the football. But O'Connell is not someone who looks to run first:
Field Vision: Sees down field well. Can easily see over the offensive line. Will get out of the pocket and make throws. Sees running lanes.

Pocket Awareness: Will step up and out of the pocket. Great poise. Very patient. Will wait for the open receiver, but can run if need be.

The key here is he will wait for the open receiver, not just take off and run if his first or second options are covered. O'Connell also seems to have the toughness needed to play QB. He missed only 6 games during his college career, all with a thumb injury. He also seems to have genuine fun playing football, a trait we rarely see from Peyton because he is always so serious.

So, O'Connell is smart, hard-working, likable, tough, strong-armed, accurate, and shows excellent field vision. Then why is he a 5th round prospect?

NFL Draft Countdown:

Mechanics need some refinement..Struggles under pressure and makes poor decisions...Does not read defenses well..Still raw and is probably a better athlete than quarterback.
New Era Scouting:
Decision Making: Has yet to reach his potential as a quarterback. Is inconsistent at times and will make questionable throws. Has not faced top defensive talent in the MWC.
NFL.com:
Negatives: Raw. ... Struggles with consistency. ... Perfectly suited to the Aztec's offensive scheme due to his size, arm and athleticism and will need considerable developmental time to acclimate to an NFL offense. ... Obvious questions about San Diego State's level of competition in the Mountain West Conference.
The words "raw" and "inconsistent" come up a lot when discussing O'Connell. He seems to have all the physical tools and the mental fortitude to succeed in the NFL, but he has some mechanics issues planting his feet when he's ready to throw. Sometimes, he will throw off his back foot, doing his best "Brett Favre" impersonation. Still, these things look to be correctable by good coaching. That's where someone like Jim Caldwell, and perhaps by extension Peyton Manning, can work with O'Connell to become more consistent.

Of all the late round QBs, O'Connell is the most intriguing combining arm strength with toughness, smarts, and a leader's mentality. The key when evaluating him is does he have the ability to retain the work within the no-huddle, check-with-me offense the Colts use. At San Diego State, he played in a spread offense designed to maximize his size and arm strength. I think the answer is yes, he can learn and retain the Colts offense. He shows a strong desire to study and put in the necessary prep, but he needs to display more consistency in his decision-making. That can get corrected with great QB coaching.

O'Connell offers the most intriguing late round QB prospect that I see in this 2008 draft. He needs a few years to develop, but with a guy like Peyton Manning playing in front of him on the depth chart, he will have that time.