Baylor Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman draws attention wherever he goes.
It's nearly impossible not to since he stands 6'9", weighs 280 pounds and has a physique that is taken straight from the Greek sculptors who chiseled statues of men from granite.
Oh, he also dyes his mohawk blond, red or even a fluorescent green just to stand out a little bit more than his impressive frame already allows.
Oakman is the epitome of being "the first guy off the bus" to intimidate upcoming opponents, but his evaluation as an NFL prospect goes beyond his natural gifts. Upon closer inspection, he's far from a polished gem.
The defensive end's physical traits, though, are as alluring to NFL evaluators and draftniks as the siren's song was to ancient mariners.
As the sea wayfarers learned in Greek mythology, those is search of something more should be wary and look beyond what was right in front of them.
No one can deny Oakman's physical prowess. NFL teams will be absolutely drooling over his potential as an edge-rusher due to his unbelievable length and athleticism.
After nearly breaking the Internet with an untold amount of memes he inspired due to his beastly appearance during the coin toss at this year's Cotton Bowl, Oakman did it again with an insane box jump, which Bleacher Report provides a look at:
The absolutely frightening part of Oakman's game is that he's barely scratched the surface regarding how good he can actually be if he ever pulls it all together.
His production last year certainly points toward an ascending talent. Oakman led the Bears with 19.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
The total isn't as important, though, as a lack of consistency.
Talented yet inconsistent is the best way to describe Oakman as an NFL draft prospect as he prepares for his senior season.
His aspirations reflect his overall ability, but the NFL might have overwhelmed him if he had declared as a junior.
"I could be No. 1 [overall]," the defensive end said in a media session before the Cotton Bowl, per MLive.com's Mike Griffith.
But he also acknowledged his "body of work wasn't good enough."
A double-digit sack total and nearly 20 tackles for loss in a season is usually good enough for most. Oakman is still too raw, though, to be highly effective as an NFL defensive end at this point in his career.
NFL scouts will immediately view the tapes in which Oakman faced NFL-caliber offensive tackles. Last season, TCU's Tayo Fabuluje, Oklahoma's Tyrus Thompson, Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark, Kansas State's Cody Whitehair and Michigan State's Jack Conklin were the best of the best on Baylor's schedule.
Fabuluje and Thompson were already drafted by NFL teams in this year's class, while Clark, Whitehair and Conklin all carry draftable grades entering their senior campaigns.
Oakman didn't perform at an elite level against top competition.
|Shawn Oakman's Production vs. Top Competition|
|Opponent||Date||Total Tackles||TFLs||Sacks||QB Hits|
The most concerning number is the lack of consistent pressure off the edge, evidenced by an underwhelming amount of quarterback hits. It wasn't an all-or-nothing situation, but Oakman finished the season with only nine quarterback hits to go along with his 11 sacks.
To place that number into perspective, nose tackle Andrew Billings had as many quarterback hits as Oakman last year.
The 2015 Cotton Bowl was very telling when viewing Oakman's game as a whole. The defensive end sacked Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Conklin ran Oakman wide, Cook held the ball too long without anywhere to step up in the pocket and the defensive end hustled to end the drive with a sack.
Oakman then disappeared for the next two quarters of play. Baylor's green jerseys served as a wonderful camouflage, because he proved to be invisible for a very long stretch of time.
The urgency in the defensive end's game was gone.
Conklin easily handled Oakman in his pass set, and he absolutely destroyed him by driving the edge defender off the line of scrimmage multiple times through the first three quarters.
It wasn't until Michigan State attempted a screen pass late in the third quarter that Oakman's presence was once again felt. The gargantuan end walked Conklin—a projected first-round pick for the 2016 NFL draft—back to the quarterback, forcing an errant throw by Cook that resulted in an interception.
Long stretches of inactivity and a lack of impact plays were regular occurrences for Oakman during the 2014 season, because his technique is erratic at best.
Statistically, the Oklahoma State contest was one of Oakman's best performances. At the very least, it was his only multisack performance of the season. The Pennsylvania native finished the contest with two sacks, a forced fumble and another quarterback hit.
However, the previously mentioned concerns seen during the Cotton Bowl were evident even in this particular contest against competition that wasn't as highly regarded.
Pointless at the Point of Attack
Everything starts with leverage—or lack thereof—in Oakman's case.
At 6'9", the defensive lineman is built more like a basketball player than a stud defensive end. He's angular and lacks bulk in his lower body. This makes it extremely difficult to consistently remain stout at the point of attack.
Teams certainly aren't shy to run the ball right at the All-Big 12 First Team performer.
Two examples are provided below which clearly show how Oakman struggles to sink his hips and hold his ground. The first is against a simple down block:
Oakman pinched inside at the snap and was easily washed out of his running lane.
In the Cotton Bowl, Conklin absolutely manhandled the defensive end in these situations and created gaping running lanes for the Spartans running backs.
Oakman's inability to hold his ground at the point of attack becomes even more obvious against a double-team:
The left side of Oklahoma State's offensive line collapsed Oakman two or three yards down the line of scrimmage. The defensive end lost contain, which opened up the left side of the field for Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph to exploit.
Despite a herculean physique, Oakman hasn't displayed the lower-body or core strength in his lanky frame to consistently hold his ground against 300-plus-pound offensive linemen.
Disinterest to Disengage
In order to become a consistent performer along the defensive line, the ability to read one's keys and react accordingly is vital.
This is an area where the Penn State transfer has room to grow by leaps and bounds.
An end's first responsibility in a 4-3 defense is to maintain outside contain. Some schemes require defenders to spill runs wide, but they do so in order for teammates to rally to the football. A defensive end is never asked to turn his shoulders and simply stand by while a run develops.
Defensive linemen are supposed to read the pressure being applied by a blocker, locate the football and react.
In the example below, Oklahoma State left tackle Michael Wilson turned Oakman's shoulders to the play, and the talented defender simply seemed content to remain blocked:
There was no effort to apply pressure against the block in order to decrease the width of the running lane or work across the face of the blocker to try to make a play against the run. Instead, the running back easily identified the cutback lane between the left guard and tackle for a positive gain.
Below is yet another example of Oakman not disengaging from a block, or even properly attacking it:
Prior to the snap, the defensive end owned outside leverage. He's lined up on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. This is a natural advantage in Oakman's favor—one he quickly surrendered.
The defensive end shot his hands at the snap of the ball and gained control of the lineman's chest:
Oakman was in proper position to make a play or blow up the incoming jet sweep. He does neither.
The left tackle used his outside hand to control the defender's upper body and swung his hips to the outside to successfully execute a hook block:
Oakman once again lost contain, which opened an outside running lane for the wide receiver.
These are fatal flaws that will keep a defender off the field if they're repeated at the professional level.
Yes, edge-rushers primarily make their money by getting after the quarterback, but prospects that are deemed situation-based defenders lose value.
Technique isn't the only concern in the aforementioned plays. Oakman also needs to attack the game with a more aggressive attitude.
Early in the Cotton Bowl, for example, the pass-rusher fired off the with reckless abandon. As the game continued and Baylor built a comfortable lead, he didn't explode off the snap. At times, he barely came off the ball with any sense of urgency.
Part-time players don't often become dominant performers on a full-time basis.
Not to Be Dismissed
In today's NFL, a player's perception is nearly as important as his on-field prowess.
Oakman was dismissed from Penn State's football team by then-head coach Bill O'Brien after an incident on campus.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's Joe Juliano provided details to the charges of theft, harassment and disorderly conduct:
University police chief Tyrone Parham said Oakman entered the store and presented his student ID to purchase some items. However, the store clerk noticed that Oakman had hidden a hoagie and a bottle of grape juice on his person, and held on to the student’s ID, Parham said.
In an attempt to recover the ID, Oakman shoved the employee against the wall, the chief said.
After being dismissed, Oakman chose to attend Baylor University and sat out the 2012 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
In previous years, this wouldn't cause too much of a fuss in regard to a top prospect, but teams will certainly investigate what happened just to cover their bases.
The previous situation only adds to Oakman's evaluation even though he's been a model citizen at Baylor since the incident.
Oakman publicly addressed the situation during a 2012 interview with CBS Philly's Joseph Santoliquito:
I did everything wrong, and there is no one in my shoes but me. I did what I did and it obviously got me kicked off the team. I cried when coach O’Brien told me I was kicked off the team and I haven’t cried since. Well, I cried Wednesday, July 27th when I left Penn State the last time. It hit me for the second time real hard what happened, that I wasn’t coming back. It was my dream to play football for Penn State, and then make it to the NFL. I let myself down, I let my family down, I let everyone down.
Three years ago, Oakman made a mistake. There haven't been an indications that he has been any type of problem within Baylor's locker room or off the field. But every piece of information will be used by teams during the evaluation process. It can't be excluded.
Taking the Next Step
Being the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft is Oakman's ultimate goal. He's openly stated that it's a possibility he's already pondered, and one respectable sports outlet even slotted the defensive end in the No. 1 hole for their way-too-early 2016 mock draft.
A delineation line must be established to properly judge Baylor's freakish pass-rusher: Oakman's raw talent suggests he has a possibility to become the first player selected in April's NFL draft, but he's too far away from being a refined prospect at this point in his career to be seriously considered.
The good news? Oakman has 11 months to continue his upward trend and improve upon the nuances of playing defensive line.
Right now, NFL teams see potential worthy of first-round consideration. A year from now, Oakman may have proved he can be a consistently dominant defender to enter the No. 1 overall conversation.
Potential can be a dangerous, though. It's only a positive if it can be harnessed and properly developed.
For a prospect physically built like a Greek god, Oakman remains a mound of soft clay from a football perspective that is waiting to be turned into a work of art.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.