2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Ryan Shaw, FS Arkansas Pine-Bluff

Arkansas Pine-Bluff got some buzz in the NFL Draft this past year with the path that offensive tackle Terron Armstead took that ultimately ended as a third round pick and the second FCS player selected behind SELU corner Robert Alford.  The reigning SWAC Champions have another talented draft hopeful this year in free safety Ryan Shaw, who was 1st Team All-SWAC and received honorable mention as an All-American.  Shaw predominately plays a true center field in the Golden Lion secondary as their last line of defense with the ability to hit.  In many ways, Shaw looks like an oversized corner that has the range to cover the back end but will come up and make a hit on a running back given the opportunity.  Because of the defense the Golden Lions employ, Shaw does not light up a box score but he is an effective player with potential in the NFL and warrants selection as a day three pick with the chance to improve as a senior like Armstead did this past year.

Vitals & Build

Shaw is listed at 6’1” 205lbs, which would be be a good size and build for the NFL, looks impressive as an athlete with his speed, acceleration, and fluidity on the field.  He still appears to have a decent amount of room to continue adding strength without sacrificing any athleticism as he continues to progress toward this season and works toward the NFL Draft process.


Shaw comes up and looks to land big hits when he has the opportunity.  He does a good job wrapping up ball carriers and can hit with power.  When the play looks somewhat contained, Shaw breaks down and positions himself to make sure that if the ball carrier can make guys miss that he will be in position to prevent a big play, but when Shaw is coming up to make a tackle and is the one who is going to make the play, he tends to go full bore and launch himself into the tackle which has powerful results and can cause a fumble.  To his credit, he is accurate and does not miss, but this could be due in part to the level of competition and he should make more of an effort to break down where he still has the power to make a good hit but does not risk missing the tackle.

Run Support

Shaw is a willing run defender and when he reads run, he will come downhill looking to make an impact.  It can be difficult because he is often playing a deep safety position, so in those situations, they do not want him to have to make the play.  He comes from 15-20 yards back and goes full speed into the ball carrier that allows him to really lay the wood.  Shaw is opening himself up to miss with this style, but he has been accurate to this point.  When he is lined up closer to the line of scrimmage, in the box or usually lined up in the slot, he does a good job of tracking down the ball carrier to make the play.  For the most part, he makes good, form tackles, but he will shoulder bomb when he feels he can get away with it, which is risky and ill advised.  To his credit, he is accurate for the most part when he chooses to do it, but he is better off sticking with a good wrap up tackle, which still allows his shoulder to make good contact and deliver pop on the ball carrier.

While Shaw needs to work on negotiating blocks, he does not panic when he has a blocker in front of him and can still make the tackle.  He sees the field well and is able to diagnose plays quickly and react accordingly.  As soon as he reads run, he is coming full speed to support the play, which is good, but again, needs to break down to make sure he does not miss the tackle.  Shaw seems to take good angles and put himself in positions to make tackles on wide ranging plays to avoid having ball carriers run by him.


The Golden Lion defense emphasizes prevention, taking away the deep ball, and keeping plays in front of them from their secondary, but this is especially true with their safeties.  Whether they run a 2-deep safety look or shift into their 1-deep look, they have their safeties play extremely deep and come up to make plays.  In fact, despite the fact that they are deep, their first movement is still to backpedal for a few steps as they diagnose what is going on with the offense.  Shaw demonstrates a solid backpedal and with his overall skill set and athleticism if he has background as a corner before growing out of it and moving to safety.  It would not be surprising if some teams want to get a glance at Shaw at corner just to see what he can do, because he has great size and speed for that position as well.  He shows good range and takes the right angle to make plays on the football.

Shaw does a good job of reading the quarterback’s eyes and flowing in the same direction as the quarterback does.  There are times where it seems as though he is a little too fixated on what the quarterback is doing but he seems to have the peripheral vision to adjust to what the receivers are doing as they come down the field.  He may want to work a little more on shifting his vision from the receivers coming down the field to the quarterback and back, but this has not been a problem in the games, so it may not be an issue.

Shaw is able to react and break on the ball when it is thrown whether in front of him or adjusting to move back and if the opportunity presents itself, Shaw can make a play on the ball or hit the receiver as he is trying to catch the ball with enough force to separate the receiver from the football.

Ball Skills

Shaw appears to have solid hands with the ability to deflect passes as well as intercept them.  The role he plays does not offer a ton of opportunities to get interceptions but he had one this past year that he took back for a touchdown and three as a sophomore.  There have been a few opportunities where Shaw should have made interceptions and was unable to close the deal, whether it was a case of losing focus or getting too excited in the moment and just losing it.  There is certainly ability there but obviously needs to capitalize on the opportunities as he gets them as turnovers are huge.  For instance, Shaw dropped a ball in the end zone against Jackson State that resulted in a field goal in a tight game.  Arkansas-Pine Bluff ultimately was able to close out the game and win, but in a game of inches, it can make a big difference.

When Shaw gets the ball in his hands, he does have the ability to take it the end zone as he showed against Texas Southern.  He is not afraid to try to make guys miss and be aggressive as he returns and if he is not corralled quickly, he can get a lane and score.

System Fit

The most obvious fit for Shaw is as a center fielding style free safety that protects over the top and can go up and make plays on the football as well as being able to intimidate opponents who are going up to try to catch the football.  Again, it is possible he could get a look at corner for a few teams just to see what he can do with his measurables, but he stands out as a guy who can come in, learn a system, and be molded with the potential to be a starter.


Sat, Aug. 31 at Arkansas State
Sat, Sept. 7 at McNeese State
Sat, Sept. 14 vs. Alabama State
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Alcorn State
Sat, Oct. 5 at Jackson State
Sat, Oct. 12 vs. Texas Southern
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. Southern University
Sat, Oct. 26 at Mississippi Valley State
Sat, Nov. 9 vs. Grambling State
Sat, Nov. 16 at Alabama A&M
Sat, Nov. 23 at Prairie View

Notable Games

First game of the year, the Golden Lions get a shot at in state FBS opponent in Arkansas State, so this will be a great opportunity for Shaw as well as the entire team as a whole to make a statement.  This will have absolutely no bearing on their season in terms of trying to win the SWAC Conference, but there is always an added intensity for these schools trying to prove something to the rest of the state, their conference, and the opponent’s conference.  Going on the road, they will have one of the bigger opposing crowds they will see all year.  As for the conference schedule, Jackson State, Alabama State, and Alabama A&M have been extremely competitive and could be big games for Shaw as well as the team in general.

NFL Comparison

Shaw is similar to former Florida Gator and current Cincinnati Bengal Reggie Nelson.  Like Shaw, Nelson was an impressive athlete out of Florida with impressive range and athleticism, but it took Nelson a little while to adjust and figure out the NFL.  In Nelson’s case, it took an inauspicious tenure with Jacksonville and going to the Bengals to get figured out.  Shaw has similar size and athletic ability with the range and ability to make plays as Nelson does and he has the long term potential to be the same type of player in which Nelson has evolved.

Draft Projection

As it stands right now, Shaw looks like someone who will warrant a third day pick with the potential to improve.  In addition to making most of the opportunities he gets in their defense and working to refine his game, Shaw’s biggest opportunity to solidify and improve his stock could be in the game against Arkansas State and in the post season process, especially in an All-Star game.  Similar to what Armstead did last year, if Shaw can go to the East-West Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl and look the part and excel, his stock could really move up before heading to the Scouting Combine.  It will not be easy but with another great year and impressing in the post season process, Shaw has a chance to crack day two of the draft due to his significant physical ability and potential going to the next level.

Interview with Ryan Shaw

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Arkansas Pine-Bluff Golden Lions Reggie Nelson Ryan Shaw Safeties

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