Laviska Shenault Looks to Pounce Early in Jacksonville
One of my favorite prospects coming into the NFL Draft, Laviska Shenault, was an early Day 2 pick, as the 10th selection of the second round to the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is a rugged playmaker who has an elite ability to create after the catch and play all over the field.
The Jaguars have a need for a more physical option underneath as they have lacked any production from the tight end position and resorted to dumping off passes to Leonard Fournette in 2019. Can Shenault become that option for the Jaguars and with a lack of other changes on offense, who might he impact the most?
Laviska Shenault’s College Career
If there’s one thing you can’t question with Shenault, it's his character. He lost his father at age 10 to a horrific car accident and nearly lost his mother three years later to the West Nile Virus. It caused a young boy to quickly mature and he continues to grow out his hair since the death of his father as a tribute to what he lost. That hair cost him his high school basketball career due to an archaic rule and put Shenault in the weight room and on the path to become the athlete, and football player that he is today.
Coming into Colorado, Shenault played both football and basketball in his freshman year. He didn’t do much on the gridiron, totaling just nine offensive touches, although he did have a punt return for a touchdown. It wasn’t until he focused solely on football and got the chance to be a starter his sophomore year that he truly broke out.
The 2018 season saw Shenault play nine games - he missed three due to a toe injury - yet still managed over 1,000 receiving yards and led the nation with 9.6 receptions per game. Shenault had at least 25% of the team’s receiving production in every game that season, a rare feat that shows how integral he was to their success and his ability to produce as the top receiver in an offense. His 82% catch rate was equally impressive and he had at least nine targets in all but one game that year. Perhaps the most remarkable stat is the fact that Shenault totaled 11 touchdowns despite just one of those occurring on a red-zone pass. Five others were receptions from 20-plus yards out and the remaining five were rushing touchdowns on various sweeps, backfield runs, and wildcat formations.
It turned out Shenault played part of 2018 with a torn labrum, which should have sidelined most players, but he played through and had surgery during the offseason. Last season featured some regression in the Colorado offense, which impacted Shenault. His catch rate declined by 10 points, down to 72%, but that was still 12 points better than the other Colorado receivers, showing that it was more a result of the quarterback situation than Shenault. He failed to reach 1,000 yards and did miss a game midseason, but he showed more big-play ability with 20% of his receptions going for 20 or more yards. He did add 161 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns, showcasing his versatility for an offense that needed it.
A core muscle injury kept Shenault from participating in offseason activities. Luckily, it just required rest, not surgery, and he should be healed by now.
The Jaguars Offense with Laviska Shenault
If there was one position on offense where the Jaguars have some depth, it is wide receiver. D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Chris Conley all had at least 90 targets last season despite the upheaval at quarterback and a run-first mentality for the Jaguars. They all return for 2020 along with Leonard Fournette, who had an additional 100 targets last season. So the question is, where will the targets Shenault gets, come from?
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The first, most obvious answer, comes from Fournette. He had never reached 50 pass targets prior to 2019 and with the 263 carries, the Jaguars will likely look to spread the love around to other options. Also, with Shenault’s ability to play in the backfield and as a wildcat quarterback, the team seems willing to manufacture touches beyond just the passing game.
As for the wide receivers, all three played over 70% of the snaps in 2019 and Keelan Cole played nearly 50% of the snaps down the stretch. Cole will take a back seat while Westbrook seems vulnerable as well, he only played 70% of the snaps once in the last four weeks of the year and saw 76% of his overall snaps in the slot, the likely spot for Shenault in most situations. Considering the team played 85% of their pass plays in three-plus wide receiver sets according to Sharp Football, Shenault will have plenty of chances if he leaps Westbrook on the depth chart with opportunities alongside him if he can’t.
Laviska Shenault has some real hurdles to overcome on the depth chart along with a fairly conservative offense short-term.
- His upside for 2020 is limited, but the team seems to be infatuated with the prospect of Shenault providing some offensive creativity, giving him some best ball appeal but extreme weekly volatility to put into lineups regularly.
- 50-60 overall touches seem within reason with at least a quarter of those coming via rushing attempts. That ceiling could rise if injury strikes or he overcomes Dede Westbrook and/or Chris Conley on the depth chart.
- Shenault’s early post-NFL Draft ADP in redraft leagues is around 134, making him a late 11th to early 12th round pick in 12-team leagues and the WR52. 4for4’s Never-Too-Early Rankings have him a bit lower at WR66. Either way, Shenault is a dart throw for 2020.
- In dynasty, I have him as the 53rd ranked dynasty asset and WR30 overall. He is my 12th ranked rookie but he has been sliding into the early to middle second round of many rookie drafts, representing a bargain.