NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
The Patriots are entering a tough stretch of their schedule. These next six 6 games could very well define not only their season, but their draft status as well. Unfortunately, they will not be playing at full strength, especially on defense, which will make this stretch even more difficult. Last week, the loss of Jerod Mayo was clear, especially against the run. Now the Patriots will be without Chandler Jones, arguably their best (and maybe only) pass rusher. With the position being so thin now, it highlights how important it is to have a stable of pass rushers at the team’s disposal. That is why I decided to continue my look at potential pass rush options for the upcoming draft and give Shawn Oakman a look.
Name: Shawn Oakman (#2)
School: Junior, Baylor
Weight: 280 lbs.
He is 6’9″ tall and no, that is not a typo. Oakman is truly a rare specimen when it comes to his size and length, but his game is much more than that. He has a very nice combination of speed and power and a good first step. Before getting into the film, I assumed I would see a pure speed rusher, but he showed a very nice bull rush. In fact, I would say he relies more on his power moves than speed to get to the quarterback. He shows a nice array of pass rush moves. He uses his long arms and violent hands to get separation from the opposing lineman. Oakman is aggressive in his pass rush and plays hard on every play. The one thing I noticed is his unique ability to angle his body so the opposing lineman has a smaller surface area to grab onto. He does this while maintaining his balance and getting after the quarterback. Despite an already huge frame, he could still add some weight to it without sacrificing athleticism. I could see Oakman playing the DE in both a 3-4 or 4-3. If I had to describe Oakman in one word, it would be disruptive.
One concern with a guy of his size is always whether he can keep a low pad level. To his credit, Oakman does a good job of doing so, but there are times that he gets too high. One thing to remember is that this is his first year playing full time, so he is still developing his skills and overall his game is still a bit raw. One skill that he needs to develop is using his size to his advantage. I watched 5 of his games from this year, and only once did I see him get his long arms and huge hands up to try and knock down a pass. He needs to realize that he is not going to get to the quarterback on every play and has to learn to take advantage of length. JJ Watt has become a master of getting his hands up to disrupt the passing lanes and Oakman could have that type of impact as well if he learns to get his hands up. While Oakman does have good speed, he loses momentum when he’s forced to change direction. It takes him some time to get that big body back up to top speed. Like I said in his positives, Oakman has the frame to get bigger, and I think if he’s going to be successful at the next level, that is exactly what he needs to do. He lacks upper body strength to disengage from lineman if they do get into his body and his lower body has a little bit of the Shawn Crable chicken leg look (Patriots fans know what I am talking about). He can be overaggressive and needs to improve his play recognition. He transferred from Penn St. because of some off -the-field issues as well as grades, but I have not seen or heard of any issues at Baylor, so hopefully that is behind him now.
There is a lot to be excited about with Oakman. First off, his size is so rare and the fact that he could add onto the frame is very intriguing. The potential to be a match-up nightmare is there, his skills just need to be refined and developed. He reminds me of Chandler Jones a little with they way he rushes the quarterback. Last week I did a scouting report on Alvin Dupree, another pass rusher, but they could not be more different. Dupree relies purely on his speed whereas Oakman is more of a power rusher. Dupree is probably going to start off as a pass rush specialist that could be converted to OLB. Although Oakman is still raw, I see a guy who could play from day 1 on all three downs and have success. I would give Oakman a first round grade. I think coaches will fall in love with his potential.