Career Recap: Since the 2015 NFL Draft is now in the past, it is time for the media to start looking ahead to the next year. One of the most hyped prospects so far has been Oakman. That is based off a strong 2015 Cotton Bowl against Michigan State and his imposing stature as a tall, chiseled defensive end.
Oakman totaled 48 tackles with 18.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, three passes batted and three forced fumbles during 2014. After a hot start to the year, Oakman cooled down before ending the season in impressive fashion against the Spartans. Oakman gave Michigan State left tackle Jack Conklin, an early-round prospect, a lot of trouble.
The previous season, Oakman totaled 33 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. That was his first year with Baylor, because he had sit out the 2012 season after transferring from Penn State. Oakman had redshirted in Happy Valley in 2011.
2015 Season Outlook: The 2015 schedule looks easy for Oakman. The preseason view has the best offensive lineman he'll go against in the fourth game with Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark. That should be Oakman's toughest test of the year, but he will see some quality offensive linemen in the final five weeks with games against Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas.
In recent years, some Baylor prospects have had their production hurt by so many blowout wins that result in starters only playing half-games. At the same time with the Bears lighting up the scoreboard on a weekly basis, Oakman gets a lot of pass-rush opportunities as teams try to catch up.
Skill-Set Summary: Oakman certainly passes the eyeball test as he is very chiseled in the upper body to go with height and length. There is no doubt that he is a rare athlete with size and speed. The question about Oakman in 2015 will be if he can improve his skill set for the NFL.
While the media has generated a lot of hype around Oakman, late in the 2014 season, WalterFootball.com sources from a variety of teams said their grades on Oakman were not matching the attention. One general manager of a team that has been very good at drafting and was picking late in the 20s in 2015 said that Oakman "sucked," and he thought that Oakman was the most overrated prospect. They had Oakman in the fourth round if he had entered the 2015 NFL Draft.
One top scout from another team said that he didn't think Oakman "sucked," but he required development and needed to learn pass-rushing moves for the NFL. That team had a third-round grade on Oakman. A third franchise said they had a second-day grade on Oakman. Teams also said they have off-the-field concerns about Oakman stemming from his time at, and transfer from, Penn State. Thus, Oakman made a wise decision to return to school and improve before turning pro.
Oakman is strong and quick, but doesn't consistently play up to his skill set. Because of his height, can play too high and have some quiet stretches. Another height-related issue for him is being quite stiff. He has a hard time flattening to the quarterback and takes extra steps to turn the corner. Oakman still can get some sacks with that in college, but in the NFL, the ball is typically out by the time he gets there. Oakman needs to spend a lot of time on the hoops drill to sink his hips and avoid extra steps.
Oakman flashes big plays at times, but doesn't perform at that level consistently. He has a quality bull rush to push offensive tackles into the pocket. One big area for improvement is to develop some pass-rushing moves. Oakman won't be able to just beat blockers on size and speed alone in the NFL. He needs to come up with a repertoire of moves. Given his size, a club and rip move would make sense to go along with the bull rush.
In the ground game, Oakman flashes some impressive plays with the ability to fire his gap and get into the backfield. Again, there are times where he gets in trouble by standing up too high.
Oakman looks like a fit as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. For that role, it would help if he added some more strength. With his length and quickness, he could set the edge nicely for a 3-4 team after adding some weight. That role also would decrease the sack expectations for Oakman. He also could be a base end in a 4-3 defense.
Sources say in some ways, Oakman is a similar prospect to Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt, a second-round pick in 2013 out of SMU. Hunt and Oakman are almost identical in size. Hunt also had good production at SMU, but hasn't done much in the NFL over his first two years. Oakman has to show improvement as a senior to get teams to change their draft grades on him.
2016 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2015 season, Oakman has a big range. If he plays well and improves, the first round is possible as it only takes one team to fall in love for Thursday night, plus he could fit in any NFL defense. If Oakman falls to the second day, he shouldn't be lower than a third-rounder with the second round looking like a safe bet.