The public embarrassment created by Shaw's lie will make him one of the biggest character risks in the draft, leading NFL decision-makers to think long and hard before adding him to the locker room.
While the attention will eventually subside when another headline replaces Shaw's hoax, the redshirt senior has a lot of work to do to salvage his NFL chances. Here are three suggestions that I would pass on to Shaw to help him repair his reputation and enhance his draft prospects:
1. Shaw must make amends with the USC football family.
I'm sure Shaw has apologized to several members of the Trojans' athletic administration for the negative attention he brought to the program, but it's imperative for him to sincerely express his remorse for his egregious error in judgment. NFL officials will make the rounds on campus to vet Shaw's character prior to the draft and the opinion expressed by those around the program will greatly impact how scouts present the USC star's case in pre-draft meetings.
Thus, it's important for Shaw to re-establish himself as an upstanding citizen in the community and redirect the attention on his character on the good deeds that he has done throughout his career as a Trojan. Shaw was not only elected team captain by his teammates and coaches -- which is the ultimate sign of respect on a team -- but he was repeatedly asked by officials to serve as a spokesman for the team as various Trojan functions.
Given the tremendous amount of respect that Trojans officials have shown Shaw in the past, they can help repair his reputation by vouching for him as a person and player.
With a number of ringing endorsements from several influential members of the football program, Shaw can overcome the negative perception that currently surrounds his name in war rooms around the league.
2. Shaw needs to shoot straight with NFL coaches and scouts.
For all of the work that Shaw needs to do with various administrators, coaches and teammates at USC, he must diligently work to convince NFL coaches and scouts that he isn't a character risk in the locker room. Evaluators are leery of bringing a "problem child" into the program, so they will vet Shaw's story to see if there are deeper issues that need to be addressed by the redshirt senior.
In addition, NFL officials will run an extensive background check on Shaw to determine if this situation is an isolated incident or part of a string of transgressions he has been involved in. That's why it's important for Shaw to come clean with NFL scouts and coaches when he meets with them in the future. He needs to understand that team officials typically know the answers to the questions asked in meetings, yet they are simply giving a prospect an opportunity to get his side of the story out when conducting an interview at an all-star game or the NFL Scouting Combine.
If his story fails to match what investigators uncover during their research, a prospect will have a hard time earning the trust of scouts and coaches. Most importantly, he will make it difficult for a scout, coach or general manager to stand on the table for him when presenting a case in front of ownership.
It's always tough to admit your mistakes, but Shaw has to be straightforward about why he misled USC officials to salvage his chances of being a top selection in next year's draft.
3. Shaw needs to "ball out" when he returns to the field.
Despite all of the conversations about the importance of bringing "high-character guys" into the locker room, the bottom line in the scouting business always centers around performance and production. Sure, team officials want good guys who are solid citizens and excellent teammates, but a talented player with a few off-field issues will always have an opportunity to make it in the NFL. That's just the reality of building a winning team in an ultra-competitive industry.
Thus, Shaw should focus on alleviating the concerns of NFL officials by performing at a high level when (and if) he returns to the field for the Trojans. Measuring 6-foot-1, 200 pounds with impressive instincts, athleticism and versatility, Shaw is a coveted commodity in the NFL due to his potential to play cornerback, safety and nickel back at the next level. He has the length to match up with elite receivers on the perimeter, while also displaying the toughness to be a factor against the run as a box-area defender.
I had some concerns about his speed and explosiveness when I evaluated him during the summer, but I felt good enough about his overall toughness, competitiveness and instincts to rank him as one of the top senior prospects at the position and someone who would likely earn mid-round grades (3rd-5th) heading into the season.
With a black cloud suddenly hanging over his head due to his public transgression, Shaw has to take his game to another level to convince scouts that his talent outweighs the character risks. If he puts in work on the field, it makes it easier to sell him to a head coach who is more interested in acquiring "winning" players instead of choirboys. While the public humiliation caused by Shaw's lie will certainly have an impact on his final draft grade, the redshirt senior can put the focus back on the field by playing at an all-star level when he returns.