Shawn Oakman is an interesting case, kind of Seahawky

December 22nd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Watch the video above. It’s the best way to introduce this piece.

Shawn Oakman is considering turning pro and you can understand why. He knows what he needs to do. This is about helping his family. He is the great hope. The 6-8, 285lbs freak of nature who simply had to make the most of his talent.

And yet he was expected to do it all on his own.

A lot of NCAA athletes get help. They receive expensive scholarships. They’re mollycoddled along through college. There are players that are destined to play in the NFL the moment they leave High School. Everything is geared towards getting them there. I get that.

Then there’s a guy like Oakman, who was dropped off at the door to begin life at Penn State with $200 in his pocket.

He didn’t last long, of course. In his words, “I’m either gonna eat or go to bed hungry once again. I chose to eat.” So he stole.

It’s not an excuse for shoplifting. I’m not trying to say what he did was right. He paid for it — Bill O’Brien kicked him off the team. But this is college life for some of these athletes. How many rookies do you hear reference, “I can afford to eat now” when they turn pro? College can be a real struggle.

It can also make a man as he looks to begin a career.

It’s hard not to be impressed with Oakman’s physical make-up. His height, length and power are quite frankly amazing. For that reason he could easily go in the top ten next April. There aren’t many human beings that look this good at 6-8 and 285lbs. He is built like a Greek God. He’s all muscle — he will have a ridiculously low body fat percentage even at 285lbs.

For me it’s not even the most impressive thing about him. I’m more impressed that someone as respectable as Larry Johnson went to bat for him to get him back on track. That he understood the problems he faced at Penn State and went out of his way to get him to Baylor. I’m equally impressed with the way he became the heart and soul of the Bears in less than a year.

There are plenty of good players at Baylor. Oakman is their leader. He doesn’t just lead the D-line or the defense. He leads the team. See for yourself:

Getting an offensive lineman to dance in pads doesn’t seem like an easy thing to do. Kudos to Shawn Oakman.

The second video is pretty telling. He marches around the field like one of the coaches while the rest of the squad are going through warm-ups. Art Briles, Baylor’s General, is seen encouraging Oakman to feed the message: “Nobody better” to the rest of the team.

It’s impossible not to respect the journey he’s taken or to appreciate how comfortable he is leading this group.

So what about the on-field play?

For a guy with such unbelievable size, at times he’s a little underwhelming. Your expectations are so high because of the physical measurements. You almost expect J.J. Watt. You don’t get it. He mixes between ineffective and explosive. He’s still a work in progress. But he’ll be a fantastic project for a good defensive minded coach.

His great reach is a major positive. He often keeps blockers at arms length and does a good job setting the edge, rolling the OT and eating up space along the line. He holds the point well and rarely gets pushed around. When he gets the speed-to-power working he can dominate — rag-dolling a lineman to break into the backfield to work against the run or pass. He has 10 sacks in 2014 and 18.5 TFL’s — a great return in his first full year as a starter. The potential is off the charts.

There are flaws too. His size is a strength and a weakness — he’s not the most agile pass rusher as you’d expect at 6-8. He’s not going to explode off the spot and beat a great left tackle for speed off the edge. He’s going to have to win more often than not with power and the bull rush. His enormous frame presents a great big target for a lineman to get his hands on. Despite having such great length he will struggle to disengage and break free from a blocker. He wastes far too much time getting caught at the line and you’d like to think he’d be better defending the run inside.

I think all the flaws are correctable because you see such explosive plays in pretty much every game. Against Texas he destroyed a double-team, leaving both blockers on the floor to hammer a running back for a loss. He decimated a terrible SMU outfit. The only Big-12 game where he didn’t get a sack was a blowout victory over Oklahoma. If you accept he’s never going to be J.J. Watt and try to max out the tremendous value of his unnatural size, you can nurture his potential into a really effective (if not dominant) defensive lineman.

He could develop into an even more athletic version of Calais Campbell. At Miami he was always bigger and built to play inside. And yet the measurements are similar — they’re both 6-8. Campbell has an extra 15lbs on Oakman. They’re both very powerful but not pure edge rushers. The big difference is Campbell can line up in the middle and take away the run. I highly doubt Oakman will be able to do that, at least in the early years.

Campbell ended up being the #50 pick in 2008. Oakman’s being graded anywhere from the top ten to the late first and beyond. Some teams will pass because he’s not the finished article and this is going to be a draft filled with talented plug-and-play pass rushers.

You have to believe the Seahawks will be attracted to his size. SPARQ isn’t just about speed, it’s about measurables too. He won’t need to run a 4.5 to be off the charts. If you improve his technique he could be a major asset for a D-line — working inside and out. They do love players that have special qualities. He might not be the finished product, but he sure could be special. And he has also that edge to him — the guy who battled adversity to lead his team. He has that ‘loose but determined’ character.

I suspect this could be an offensive minded draft for the Seahawks early on — especially given the way the defense is playing. There is something so appealing though in adding another defensive stud to the mix. I think it’s unlikely he lasts until the back-end of round one. He could be an intriguing option if he did.

He’s yet to make a firm decision on whether he’ll declare for 2015 but after such a productive year it’d certainly make sense. It’s not often a player like this comes along.

39 Responses to “Shawn Oakman is an interesting case, kind of Seahawky”

  1. Mark says:

    Rob, this more than any article I’ve read on your site shows what I believe the Seahawks evaluate. Oakman is a person. He has a past, overcome adversity, is a physical freak (in a good way), a leader… Really the complete package. I can easily see his leadership on this team. Him opposite Irvin would give QBs nightmares.

    He also seems like the type of player that could bust under a disciplinarian head coach and flourish under Pete Carroll.

    Great find.

    • Volume 12 says:

      Good point Mark. I think Seattle, perhaps more than many teams, look for what PC would describe as a ‘tremendous person.’ There’s something they look for in their potential draft pick’s personalities that they want to click or mesh with the ret of the guys. As a Seahawks fan and die-hard draft nut, I always find myself looking for the story behind the athlete or something to that effect.

  2. Volume 12 says:

    Great piece Rob! 100% hands down agree with you this kid could be really special. He’s extremely ‘Seahawky,’ and I don’t know if you ever noticed or for that matter care too much, but I’ve noticed that the Seattle scouts have attended multiple Baylor games this year. Hard to say, but has to be for this kid right? He’s very unique, you almost wonder if Seattle could create some new type of role or position for him. The 4-3 version of a, as you said. Calais Campbell. Or maybe a Julius Peppers? He is raw, but we know Seattle likes that in prospects and again I agree that in time, as you work on him, that he could play a 3-tech type role as well. Love his background, his hair (completely meaningless, just kind of cool), the leadership qualities and intensity, just him in general. He’s also pretty intellectual as well. Some of his tweets are hilarious, because he’s somewhat of a poet and creates these cool little poems. Yes to the ‘OakTree.’

  3. Ben2 says:

    Wow. Unique size/length. He could get bigger w/NFL training and nutrition, too…How could a defensive minded coach not want an opportunity to unlock/maximize that potential? If he’s there at 32 I’d be happy with this guy even with our offensive needs.

  4. Alaska Norm says:

    Can he play tight end? Now that would be a red zone threat. If he can turn into a Calais Campbell I would take him in a second. Calais is one of my favorite non Seahawks, who has turned into a really solid player and causes all sorts of problems… not yesterday though. Oakman does have the qualities that Pete loves. I’ve wanted offensive help but big D linemen with his ability’s would add an interesting twist to the mix.

  5. JaviOsullivan says:

    ¡¡¡Seahawky!!!

    It is very very difficult for Oakman stay late first round.

    If this ranked 29th I think Seattle will choose it without doubt and even make an trade up of two or three spot if we win the super bowl (32th).

    • Ralphy says:

      I don’t believe this regime has ever traded up in the draft.

      • Miles says:

        We did in 2013 when we traded up in the fifth to get Tharold Simon and Jesse Williams back to back. Speaking of, I wonder if Williams will be able to overcome his knee in year 3…

        • Beanhawk says:

          In the later rounds? Yes, we have traded up if there is a guy we like there; we have yet to see it in the early rounds though. Closest example to trading up is our “trading out” with Percy Harvin.

          This year could be an interesting case, however. We could have 10-11 picks. I don’t think we will see much trading up in the first couple rounds, knowing that Pete and John love volume drafting and the draft capital there might be too substantial. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them move around a ton in the middle rounds- moving both up and down when their board calls for it.

  6. kevin mullen says:

    I dig it! I just hope we can draft him and he not shoot up the boards come combine time.

  7. chris says:

    something about him screams athlete , but not football player to me i guess if anybody could develop him pete could , but i would be wary of spending a 1st round pick on him.

    • Ho Lee Chit says:

      I agree. I think he is a 2nd round guy. I would like to see him tried at LT. With his feet and arm length he might really make a good pass blocker.

  8. HOUSE says:

    I’ve seen Oakman range from 22-60 in mock drafts… The kid has ridiculous size and the great thing about our team is he wouldn’t necessarily need to be an IMPACT player Day 1. He can observe, digest the playbook and learn to be a professional football player. Great leadership in a locker room and a competitive nature is ideal for him to develop…

    I think the kid can be something SPECIAL

  9. Ed says:

    My top 5 of realistic picks:

    OT Stanley (ND)
    DT Brown (TEXAS)
    TE Funchess (MICH)
    WR Green-Beckham (OKL)
    DE Edwards (FSU)

    • Rob Staton says:

      The only one of the five that’d make me cringe is Edwards. Promises so much and delivers so little at FSU.

      • Ed says:

        Of those 5, which (at this point) would slide to us, and which would you think be the better pick?

        I have said it before, but I love this site and talking not just the Hawks, but football with you Rob.

        Go Hawks

        • Rob Staton says:

          I think Funchess will be there unless he runs a 4.5. Stanley for me probably won’t declare and would be gone if he does. I love Brown and expect he’ll go in the top-25. Edwards will be there in the mid rounds IMO. Green-Beckham probably goes back to Oklahoma but if he declares is a complete wild card.

          So out of the five I think Funchess is most likely to be available. But I’m not sure he’s the type of guy Seattle drafts early. Needs pushing, not a self motivator.

  10. Miles says:

    God Oakman is an intriguing player. It behooves us to consider him. I don’t know that I can see us drafting him early. Since he is a project he’ll be essentially a red shirt in year one. He would also be filling a roster spot presuming IR is not an option. We won’t be able to use him. The pass rushers we do take in the next draft will be with an eye toward complimenting what we have. With Avril and Bennett locked up long term, another piece like Oakman would crowd the DE group with a player we can’t use. That doesn’t sound like something the Hawks do. They look for guys that can contribute right away. And they do draft for need. Oakman is neither of those. I think they’ll look elsewhere for a complimenary pass rusher in the middle rounds. We also gavearsh and Scruggs and Irvin who will be in the mix, so why might we draft a pass rusher so high?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I suspect they will go offense early — the defensive group is pretty set. But if they did have an opportunity to draft Oakman early and pulled the trigger, I think they could work out a role for him in year one. He did have double digit sacks in 2014. He’s a guy IMO that can play some edge or inside, but won’t max out his potential until possibly year two or three — a bit like Bruce.

  11. chris says:

    rob, do you think that christine michael might be a little like bruce irvin in the fact that it will take 3-4 or longer years to fully reach his potential? also i can see the hawks going dline with our first pick and then going offensive heavy the rest of the draft with the usual mid round db thrown in.

  12. Ralphy says:

    Rob what do you think of Nick O’Leary out of FSU? He looks a little small for a TE but every time I watch FSU he makes a ton of plays.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Likewise whenever I watch him he has a game… but he’s had some quiet days too. For me he’s a great fit for a New England, high volume passing offense. Not so much for Seattle. He’s best as a glorified slot receiver in an orthodox attack.

  13. Jianfu says:

    I could also see this guy being a fit with Mike Zimmer in Minnesota.

  14. Matt says:

    Oakman is an absolute beast and would look great in a Seahawk uni! He’s the type of player that I expect will test out real well in the combine. When he does he’ll shoot up the draft boards. Oakman possesses elite talent, and with a year or 2 playing behind Bennett, Avril and McDaniel he would be highly likely to actually reach his talent level. It looks like Shawn could easily gain 15-30 pounds and push the pocket from the inside after a year or 2 training in the NFL. I know we basically never trade up, especially early, but Oakman is the type of player I’d like to see us target in the up coming drafts!

    Rob- Pass rushers are a premium and you can never have too many. This draft is loaded with DE/OLB(3-4 type) players who can get after QB’s. Who are some other 1-4 round pass rushers, outside and in, that you could see us target?

    I’ve been noticing a number of people talk about Devin Funchess, who I personally don’t want a part of. He’s not the type of worker that JS/PC look for in the draft. He hasn’t shown much improvement from year to year, and has never put up the numbers to warrant a high draft pick. The upside with the 6’5″ Funchess is obvious, but the drive to get better doesn’t look to be there. imo

    • Rob Staton says:

      Eddie Goldman DT
      Malcom Brown DT
      Melvin Gordon DE
      Trey Flowers DE
      Hau’Oli Kikaha DE
      Eli Harold DE
      Nate Orchard DE
      Preston Smith DT/DE
      Owamagbe Odighizuwa DE
      Chuka Ndulue DT

      • Volume 12 says:

        Good choice there on Miss St. DL Preston Smith there Rob. Very interesting prospect. He does seem like a Seattle ‘3-tech.’ They do need that type of DL in this year’s draft. He’s getting a lot of buzz right now, do you this k he’s a late riser knot the 1st, 2nd rounder, or a mid round guy? I should of clarified, but the DL I listed are all more of the mid to late round guys. Except for obviously Oakman and Harold.

        • Rob Staton says:

          I can’t see a rise that high. Senior Bowl will be big for him. There’s a lot to like about his play but also a lot to prevent him going too early. Without a major Senior Bowl or combine I think mid-rounds with upside.

          • Volume 12 says:

            Thanks. Personally I really like him and think he’d be a fantastic upside pick in the 3rd or 4th, possibly with one of our comp picks.

      • peter says:

        Do you think melvin Gordon has the size to stop the run and can he shed blocks?

  15. Volume 12 says:

    Matt, I’m no Rob by any means, but an interesting sleeper to keep an eye on could be Montana DE-LEO Zach Wagennmann. He plays with his ‘hair on fire,’ has a great motor, good length, and the size(6’4,250 lbs.) they like at the LEO position. He’s a high character, and a leader. His combine will be very interesting. Another guy is UCLA DE-LEO Owa Odighizuwa. This guy is physically jacked, he’s battled back from 2 hip injuries/surgeries, has a very interesting background, great motor, intense, physical, rumors are he’s a fantastic athlete. Virginia DE-LEO Eli Harold is a freak athlete, who seems to improve every year, but he may be a 1st Rd. type guy. Still think Oakman would be a perfect fit if he’s there. Your right though, this class is pretty loaded.

    As for the interior rushers I really like Georgia DT/DE Ray Drew. He had a disappointing year,(could of been due to a change at D coordinator and this is his first year truly playing inside. Former LB.) But he’s a former 5-star recruit, outspoken, a flat-out character, a team captain, good athlete and length, runs a sub 4.9 forty, he reminds me of the rookie version or what Seattle thought they were getting in Greg Scruggs. Oklahoma DT Chuka Ndulue is just a beast! He’s very intriguing. Houston DT Joey Mbu is also interesting and getting a lot of buzz, but I don’t know much about him.

    On a side note, there’s 2 Jr’s. who haven’t or might not even declare that are both kind of ‘Seahawky.’ Oklahoma DL Charles Tapper is a former basketball player and extremely raw, but loaded with potential and some freakish traits. If he does come out teams will have to check him out medically, because he has sickle cell anemia. And Penn St DT Anthony Zettel. Teammates and coaches rave about his athleticism, he’s intense, very high motor and had a fantastic year statistically. 1st year playing inside for him. I always remember Seattle saying they like ‘3-4 athletes for their 4-3 personnel.’

  16. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    I was pretty bullish on Margus Hunt in 2013 because he’s kind of an athletic freak. Not many 6’8″ 275# men who can run the 40 in 4.6s.

    I haven’t seen anything of Oakman other than the highlight films, but he looks similar, in that he’s an athletic freak of nature. Perhaps even more so than Hunt.

    Oakman needs to add some strength in his legs, and he needs some experience – he looked lost at times vs. SMU. But you can’t teach fire in the belly. Either you have it or you don’t.

    I wonder if his length and speed would translate in an ability to set the edge, such that he could play Big Red’s 5-tech role opposite the LEO.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think there is one key difference between Hunt and Oakman — Hunt had a limited football background having traveled to SMU to work on his track and field skills. He was also 26 at the time of the draft — so a player with a limited background at an age you needed an impact. Oakman is 23 in April and has a more extensive background in football and therefore might be easier to develop with a 2-3 year plan in mind.