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:
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.
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.
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?
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.