It’s among the worst kept secrets in the league that the Denver Broncos hope to take a wide receiver in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. I’ve long thought that John Elway will do whatever he can to come away with Alabama’s Henry Ruggs, in no small part because his comments about a need for speed at his end of 2019 press conference.
But I’ve been wrong before. Last year I was completely caught off guard by the Broncos’ selection of Noah Fant. I assumed it’d be Drew Lock or one of the two Devins at 10, and instead Elway moved down the board and split his pick into multiple picks.
This year one player everyone has begun to overlook who could draw interest from Denver is Colorado’s own Laviska Shenault, especially if he slides because of concerns about his injury shortly after the NFL Combine.
- Looks like a back with a 6-foot-1, 228-pound frame.
- Elite athlete with chiseled build, explosive athleticism, and very good balance.
- Very good mental processing, had the acuity to line up all over the CU’s offense and help teammates line up.
- Very good competitive toughness, thrives in tight moments and can be counted on to play through pain.
- Elite play strength shows in his physicality and ability after the catch.
- Very good acceleration from a stop, can immediately threaten DBs off the line.
- Very good phone booth start/stop quickness.
- Will use body to out-rebound the football.
- Very good hands with very good manual dexterity.
- Good catch radius with growth potential if he can better harness his athletic advantages.
- Very good body control and looks at home in the air.
- Elite yard after catch generator; he immediately becomes a back with the ball in his hands and shows the ability to both elude and/or punish potential tacklers.
- Jack-of-all-trades game has led to rawness in more technical parts of receiver play.
- Adequate releases and needs to tighten his feet and hands against press.
- Adequate separation, is currently not a deceptive route runner.
- Adequate ball tracking and will need to improve here to maximize his physical gifts on the deep level.
- Needs to become more consistent with late hands to improve in contested situations.
- Adequate blocker for no other reason than he doesn’t want it.
- Significant medical history includes ankle, toe, core, pelvis.
What I’ve heard/read:
Everyone sees the explosive plays he generates and how he repeatedly shoulders the load as one of the most high-end weapons in the country, but few know the true story of the meaning behind the Shenault last name and why the signature dreadlocks happily draped over it as he passes swiftly by defenders for touchdowns.
This style of play doesn’t come without a price. Shenault has dealt with several injuries over the years, missing three games of his sophomore year with shoulder and toe problems and two games this year with a core muscle injury. This playmaker has never been what scouts call a “100 percenter.” He doesn’t have to be 100% in order to ball out because his toughness goes a long way. He’s not the kind of guy that will sit out a half because of an ankle sprain or bruised thigh. His physical and mental toughness have been tested; they’ve proven to be elite and likely will get him drafted late day one or early day two of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Shenault has elite physical tools you cannot coach at the wide receiver position. Now he just needs to improve all the things you can coach.
Shenault is a dynamic pass catcher whose tall, muscular frame and aggressive, physical style are tailor-made for the NFL. He lined up all over the formation for Colorado, taking snaps out wide, in the slot, and from the wingback, running back, and wildcat quarterback spots. He’s Deebo Samuel with a Mario mushroom power-up.
”2 Live” is both talented and stoic as a three-level threat with outstanding physical traits and ball skills. He offers explosive playmaking potential with strength/wiggle to house a short catch-and-run throw or race and leap to pull in a bomb downfield. Shenault shines as a phone-booth bully who’s able to body up and create late windows while securing throws with vice-grip hands. Evaluators get excited by his talent as a direct-snap runner, but sometimes he’s too physical for his own good, which could bring his history of durability into play. Despite his traits and talent, there is work to be done as route-runner and coordinators need to determine how best to use him. He’s a high-end talent, but not a sure thing. An exciting ceiling but a lower floor.
Laviska Shenault checks nearly every box you’d want from a high-end wide receiver prospect entering the NFL — minus production. Shenault’s physical ability is jaw dropping and should transcend a dysfunctional offense at Colorado. Shenault possesses the explosiveness, physicality, short area quickness, hands and linear speed to become a high volume alpha receiver at the NFL level. He’s capable of defeating press on the boundary and should produce immediately.
Shenault is a versatile weapon that can challenge defenses at every level of the field. An impressive blend of size, physicality, burst and ball skills, Shenault has no limitations in the ways he can make plays. Whether it’s stretching the defense vertically, winning in the intermediate areas of the field, uncovering quickly on the short stuff or used for touches in space out of the backfield, Shenault brings a well-rounded skill set to the table. He’s a fierce competitor that was often held back in college on account of an unimaginative offense and erratic quarterback play. Shenault’s skill set can immediately take an NFL offense to another level and add difficult to defend dimensions to it.
Laviska Shenault is a late Day 1/early Day 2 candidate for teams searching for a high-upside, versatile receiver, but do not need one right away. Shenault is an incomplete prospect who requires projection when considering his releases off the line of scrimmage and his route running, both of which are underdeveloped largely as a result of scheme requirements and efficacy in simpler uses. To that point, Shenault provide a quality floor given his near-elite RAC profile and extremely strong hands away from his frame, which allows him to win on quick-breaking routes and screen/jet concepts. Shenault is a plus athlete with ideal density for league play, and should be considered one of the highest-ceiling receivers in the class.
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. He still has work to do as a route runner, but he received a late start at doing so because of the lack of demand with the details of it during his first two seasons. His body frame and playing style also allows him to transition into the slot to create mismatches or on critical downs where a play needs to be made. Still finding his way in that area, he has the upside in order to become a highly explosive weapon that could complement a high-end No. 1 option well.
If I were a general manager, I wouldn’t draft a wide receiver in the first round of the draft not named CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Why? I’ve given out a total of five first-round grades to 2020 receivers: CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (5th overall) Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (6th overall) Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (10th overall) Justin Jefferson, LSU (17th overall) Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado (20th overall) In a vacuum, each of these players is one I would deem worthy of a first-round pick. And if certain teams (such as the Philadelphia Eagles) drafted Jefferson, Shenault or any of the other receivers not among the top three, I would understand why that pick was made.
Shenault played through pelvic bone inflammation the entire 2019 season and missed multiple games for the second consecutive year. The nagging injury affected his pre-draft process, and he eventually decided to get core muscle surgery following the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine. It put him on a good recovery timeline for minicamps but prevented him for participating in Colorado’s pro day. Shenault tried to gut it out at the combine and failed, pulling up after one hampered 40-yard dash. No one has seen a fully healthy Shenault since 2018. While the 2019 film is still really good, the 2018 film is the real story. He was a dominant three-level player who broke more tackles than a running back, offered a deep threat rare for players over 215 pounds and ran enough of a route tree to separate and win with timing.
Why he fits
So long as he’s healthy and Pat Shurmur is willing to manufacture touches for him as he develops, the fit is an intriguing one. Shenault should be an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands. He’s perfectly comfortable playing bully ball to create space for himself to operate with his physicality, and with a quarterback like Drew Lock who will trust his receivers to make plays he could be a redzone threat early in his career.
The last impression NFL decision makers will have of him is gritting through an injury to run a disappointing 40-time and needing surgery. COVID-19 casts uncertainty on his medical situation leading up to the draft, which makes it look like a near certainty that Laviska Shenault will slide.
Let there be no doubt, he’s a risk. But the upside is a tantalizing one. If Elway is looking to gamble, and the coaching staff can meet him where he’s at with a plan to help him develop, they could find themselves with one of the most talented playmakers in the NFL.
Do you want the Broncos to draft Laviska Shenault?
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