Thursday, January 28, 2016

2016 NFL Draft Profile #12 - Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.

Shawn Oakman, Edge, Baylor - 6'8, 270 - RS Senior - #2
Often when judging draft prospects, it is best to know almost nothing about the player going in to the project.  You want to trust your eyes and avoid all of the noise and opinions about a player.  This, of course, is impossible when the player has been a bit of a lightning rod in the area - partly because he has been involved in some high profile moments that have absolutely colored people's perception of him before the tape is ever viewed. 
That will be the case with Shawn Oakman.  Whether it was the incident that had him dismissed from Penn State, the internet memes showing his insane build, the moments of poor judgment on the field, or even the pull-up exhibition (here) that has been shown for many, everyone has a Shawn Oakman opinion.  Then, Sports Illustrated decided to place him as the top pick in the 2016 draft when they released their first mock draft last May, and with that he became "over-rated", a descriptor that has followed him for the balance of the last 12 months. 
He also has quite a personal story of a tough upbringing and the hurdles he has overcome in life that cause many to root for his ultimate success.  He is an incredible physical specimen - even amongst NFL prospects - and appears to be the model for all future uniform unveilings with a body chiseled out of granite.  But, of course, there are many male models in the world who are not exceptional football players.  The question that follows Oakman everywhere is the following:  Is he the top notch prospect that people want him to be or is he just another project that will end up being a Day 3 pick that we might never hear from again?
What I liked:  When you watch 200-300 snaps of Oakman, you will absolutely find plays that explain someone placing him high in Round 1.  He is a large man who contains great traits including very long arms and a wing-span that reaches 84" across.  This allows him to work his way through traffic and affect plays in many ways.  He does have a motor that at times runs very high and chases plays to make them after they break down.  When he sees a crease he often penetrates and rings up many tackles for loss.  The idea he has not been a productive college player is pure fiction.  In 25 games in the last 2 seasons he has racked up 15.5 sacks, 34 tackles for loss, and 5 forced fumbles.  That may not quite match some of the other candidates high in the draft, but it seems to shatter the idea that he doesn't make plays and just looks great in a uniform.  The questions become "how is he making plays" and "who is he making plays against" which is another portion of an evaluation.  He made most plays with quickness off the snap (rather than beating guys with moves) and he made much of his production against less-than-heavyweight competition.  
What I did not like:  There was a very high amount of things that I would put in this category.  Unfortunately, his 2014 was enormously better than 2015.  I try to use recent footage to study, but on this player, I actually wanted to look at both years to see the distinct difference.  Why was his motor and production much worse in 2015 after he decided to skip the draft and stay another year?  One theory is that he was hurt (knee seems to be what most are saying) and another is he decided at some point to get into the "stay healthy for the draft" mode.  Maybe it was both.  But, for whatever reasons - possibly after he was blindsided in the Texas Tech game (shown above - likely as a moment to get even after his cheap-shot the year before on their QB) he looked like he was playing at half-speed and turned into a very pedestrian player and often a bystander.  He played with no speed and very little urgency for a large part of 2015 which was certainly confusing to all who know what he is capable of.  
On top of this, he has poor overall technique combined with a build that places almost all of his bulk in his upper body.  He evidently has no vast array of pass rush moves.  He has no anchor against the run and therefore - regardless of what game you watch - he gets moved out of the way at the point of attack like you might expect a much smaller man to be pushed.  He was pancaked numerous times where he cannot keep his feet in a tight battle with a tackle.  He has leverage issues that suggest he is too upright, but even in a proper stance, he just doesn't have the lower body to compete unless he is using quickness to penetrate.  He can't stand his ground.  More than anything, I fear Oakman has no position.  He has some traits of a 3-4 DE, and some traits of a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 designated pass rusher, but not enough of either to feel confident on Sundays.  Whoever takes him might need to be ready for a project that may or may not have time given that he will be 24 years old on draft day.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys:  I realize after that last section that many will be turned off by his future.  This is an important time to remind people that it only takes one team to see something and that he will test very well at the Combine.  Some teams target traits and are comfortable looking for value on Day 2 and 3 where they can find diamonds in the rough.    If he can find his right home and if he turns the switch back on, he can fix a lot of this and quiet his doubters (an ever-growing group).  I don't see the Cowboys on this list because their defensive end issue is already due to not having players to stand against the run. 
As for his future in the NFL, I am going to hope he has another gear that more properly represents 2014.  2015 is over now and whatever poor tape he put out there, it won't matter when he is on his new NFL team.  From there, he can control his future and work hard to develop into something special.  I don't see him in Round 1 anymore, but at some point, the good tape and measureables will get him picked and a chance to change his narrative completely.

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