2020 NFL Draft Scouting Prospect Profile: Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Evaluating wide receivers is hard. It is difficult whether you do it the way that we prefer it here at RotoExperts (digging through the numbers and generating historical comps) or if all you do is #WatchTheTape. One of the reasons why it is so difficult is that many players do not evolve in a linear way. Laviska Shenault falls under that category of player. He played through injuries and might have to perform at the combine with a nagging groin injury, but he is one of the most interesting prospects in the entire class.
2020 NFL Draft Laviska Shenault Prospect Profile
Shenault was a basketball player, primarily, while growing up and had only played a few years of football when he got offers from many major universities to play wide receiver. He chose Colorado despite offers from a few big SEC schools (Bama and LSU), perhaps because he knew he wouldn’t have to redshirt as a Buffalo. He played in 12 games as a freshmen, though mostly on special teams.
His 2018 season is what we are primarily interested in. He played in only nine games but dominated in all of them. In his first game as a “starter” against in-state rival Colorado State, he recorded 11 receptions for 211 yards and a touchdown. He lead Colorado in every receiving category and also ran for five touchdowns on 17 rushing attempts as the Buffs frequently used him in wildcat packages.
2018 was Shenault’s age-20 season, giving him a relatively early breakout age and missed the last few games of the season before undergoing offseason surgery. It was the offseason injury troubles that likely contributed to his disappointing 2019. He dropped from a 46% Dominator rating to a 26% dominator rating and had only five games with five or more receptions. The step back in production, even if partially explained by injury, cannot be viewed as a good thing or a positive indicator for Shenault.
The sophomore season is what propels Shenault in the mind of NFL scouts and dynasty players and it is completely justified. That sort of dominance at a young age can’t really be pushed by the wayside. If it is true that a lot of his downtown in production is as the of the result of injury, then his final season at Colorado might be a false flag of poor performance.
Projecting Laviska Shenault Into The NFL
Perhaps more than any other prospect in the draft, how we feel about Shenault is going to be highly related to how he is drafted. If he seems a Hakeem Butler-esque drop to the 4th round, he might barely be worth a 2020 rookie second round pick. If he goes somewhere in the first or second round, as several mock drafts suggest, then he will be a back-end of the first round pick.
As Ryan Bobbit noted on Rotoviz, many of Shenault’s sim scores are elite NFL players: AJ Brown, Michael Thomas, NKeal Harry, Donte Moncrief, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cody Latimer are seven of Shenault’s ten highest comps with a draft position set in the first round. I am predisposed to liking players that do what Shenault does, i.e flash ability in all aspects (short passes, in the wildcat and down the field) so seeing that list did not do a good job of taming my enthusiam.
The tape grinders love Shenault’s game too. Matt Waldman from FootballGuys is a fan and the guys at Draft Network agree with me that he should be used in an “offensive weapon” capacity and not just turned into an X wide receiver as they write “Laviska Shenault is the type of swiss army knife that creative offensive coordinators will love to add to their list of weapons. His ability to win on the outside based off of his athleticism, coupled with his mindset that he can score whenever he touches the ball, offers a truly distinctive skill set. His landing spot will be vital for his career though he’s a prospect that can be utilized in many spots. Locking him into one particular role is doing everyone involved a disservice and his impact will suffer as a result. “
To me, if you can’t get excited about Shenault than you are doing football wrong. Is he maybe going to be a little overdrafted in the NFL draft and in rookie drafts because he looks so spectacular when he gets the ball? Probably. I have a slight concern about his performance at the combine if he really does run/lift with a groin injury but if the NFL takes him in the top-60 picks, those concerns will be mostly alleviated.