Laviska Shenault was widely regarded as one of the best – if not the best – wide receivers in the upcoming draft for much of the offseason, and the hype continued well into the regular season.
But analysts (and fans) just kept waiting for Shenault to have another “big game.” And they waited. And they waited.
Before you know it, Shenault’s draft stock started to fall as the 6-1, 227-pound junior just wasn’t putting up the numbers he did as a sophomore. He finished the season with 56 receptions for 764 yards and 4 touchdowns. By comparison, Shenault had 86 receptions for 1,011 yards and 6 TDs as a sophomore.
Aside from a sometimes shaky situation at quarterback, the primary culprit for Shenault’s “down year” could be his injury history.
Does that mean he’s back in the first-round conversation? Maybe, analysts say.
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said in a teleconference with reporters that the receiver’s injury history is probably too great to still be considered for Day 1, “but if he’s healthy, I see a big upside there with Shenault.” Herbstreit went on to call Shenault a sleeper option for Day 2.
“I think what stands out to me about him is he’s much faster than I think people realize,” Herbstreit said, via the Denver Broncos’ website. “He can create. … Because of his physicality, he’s a tough matchup for a lot of defensive backs. And then when you throw on his ability to win with his speed — he’s got a lot of YAC, yards after the catch, ability.”
And Herbstreit isn’t alone in his second-day assessment, as most analysts still peg Shenault as a second- or early-third rounder.
That could work in his favor.
If most teams assume Shenault is going to be available in the second round, then a team in the lower half of the first round may decide to jump the line and draft him on Day 1. Remember, it’s not a question of talent, as Shenault is considered one of the most electric players in the draft.
And to his credit, Shenault has mostly played through all the injuries, including shoulder and toe injuries that required surgeries after the 2018 season. He still managed to play nine games in 2018 and 11 last season, even though Shenault suffered a core muscle injury that required surgery after the Combine. The recovery time was expected to be six to eight weeks, so Shenault is ahead of schedule.
Those lingering issues also could have contributed heavily to Shenault’s less-than-ideal Combine performance in which he ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash.
From Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus:
Laviska Shenault has been the forgotten man in this WR class. I'd still take the chance in round 1 with his physical tools. This ability to stop on a dime is rare for a dude that big and explosive pic.twitter.com/696mDQRKaP
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) April 21, 2020
You can read Shenault’s letter to NFL GMs here.
Jake Rigdon (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.