Jay Paris: This draft has a different feel for O’Connell

Kevin O’Connell is feeling a draft. Even if it’s tardy.

“With it being pushed back two weeks, everybody is a little anxious,’’ O’Connell said.

O’Connell isn’t worried about his landing spot. He had a five years in the NFL after being San Diego State and La Costa Canyon High’s quarterback.

Instead of barking signals he’s wondering where his charges will sign. O’Connell, a 2008 third-round pick of the Patriots, is fresh off a 10-week stint of tutoring prospects with quarterback guru George Whitfeld.

Among the group absorbing O’Connell’s smarts was Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel.

O’Connell’s task was improving players’ stock as they prepared for the NFL Combine and their pro days. A good showing in those auditions can lead to an attractive draft slot and lucrative contract.

O’Connell, a Carlsbad resident, instructed his pupils as much off the field as on it. There were sessions in the classroom dissecting various offenses, deciphering defenses and how to have a presence when the teams do their eye-ball test with interviews.

If Manziel and crew come off as smooth as O’Connell, their cell phones should ping early on May 8.

O’Connell always had the look of an NFL quarterback: 6-foot-5, 225 pounds with a demeanor oozing with confidence and accountability.

Now when he’s not improving others, he educates fans viewing games he as an ESPN analyst.

“I love talking football,’’ said O’Connell, who’s part of The Mighty 1090 radio’s draft coverage.

Manziel, though, arrived at O’Connell’s feet with static.

Along with his Heisman Trophy he won as a freshman, Johnny Football is a polarizing figure: either loved or loathed.

“I had never met Johnny before we started working together so I had a complete open mind to help him out anyway I could,’’ O’Connell said. ”And he was one of the most enjoyable players to work with that I’ve been around. From day one, he had the motivation and his commitment to the process was outstanding.’’

What O’Connell provided was the nuances of his career, which saw him play in five different offenses. But something else impressed Manziel after his phone rang and O’Connell’s ex-teammate was on the line.

“Thanks for setting that up,’’ a giddy Manziel told O’Connell after speaking with Tom Brady. “That was really cool.’’

O’Connell shrugged.

“I had nothing to do with it,’’ he said.

But O’Connell had plenty to do with getting Manziel right, so he can do likewise for his future team.

“He wanted to continue to grow and learn the NFL game,’’ O’Connell said.

Predicting where Manziel is drafted is a crap shot. O’Connell speculates it’ll be in the first round, he’s just not sure where.

Although he’s certain that Manziel is special.

“With his skill-set, and ability to make plays, if he can combine that into a more traditional offense at the NFL level, I think the sky is the limit for him,’’ O’Connell said.

O’Connell’s take on the Chargers selecting at No. 25?

“I think there’s no question they’re looking at adding a player on the defensive side of the ball,’’ O’Connell said. “And they are at a great spot for a lot of reasons.’’

The Browns, in the market for a quarterback, are at No. 26. If neglecting to fill that void with their No. 4 pick, and a compelling quarterback is available, the Chargers might demand a heavy ransom.

The Chargers could peddle their pick and still get a solid cornerback, linebacker or nose tackle later.

“This is a draft with so much depth at so many positions of need for the Changers,’’ O’Connell said. “They can trade back and add picks.’’

Subtracting football knowledge from the savvy O’Connell is always a plus. Hopefully Manziel and others were paying attention.

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.



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