2020 NFL Draft Profile: Strengths, weaknesses, best Fantasy fits for Laviska Shenault

Laviska Shenault's production record is among the best in the class, though questions persist about his injury history as well as why his numbers tailed off in his junior season. Shenault's a stockier receiver who broke out with a huge sophomore campaign at Colorado, but a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and a scheduled core muscle surgery before the Draft underscore what are likely to be concerns for NFL teams about his durability. 

Numbers to Know

Date of Birth: October 5, 1998 

Height: 6 feet 1 inches

Weight: 227 pounds

Prospect Stats

2019: 11 games, 56 receptions, 764 receiving yards (30% share), 23 carries, 161 rushing yards, 6 total TD

Colorado threw for fewer than 3,000 yards in Shenault's final season, but Shenault maintained a high percentage of the team's offense after his breakout sophomore campaign. Colorado also used Shenault as its wildcat running back to get him additional touches, and he delivered solid rushing numbers. 

2018: 9 games, 86 receptions, 1011 receiving yards (46% share), 17 carries, 115 rushing yards, 11 total TD

Shenault's relatively weaker final season masks a truly remarkable sophomore campaign where he accounted for a whopping 46% of both his team's receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns in the nine games he played, while adding another five rushing scores. 

Career: 27 games, 149 receptions, 1943 receiving yards (29% share), 42 carries, 280 rushing yards, 17 total TD

That Shenault declared for the NFL Draft after just three seasons is a positive note in his profile.

Known Injury History

  • Toe surgery, 2019 offseason
  • Shoulder surgery, 2019 offseason
  • Core muscle surgery, 2020 offseason

Strengths

Shenault's after-the-catch ability stands out when you watch his highlights, and it's clear why Colorado used him out the wildcat. But while he's a relatively heavy and not particularly tall wide receiver who is best closer to the line of scrimmage, Shenault also made plays down the field, showing off the versatility to win at all levels that explains how he was able to rack up such an impressive share of the Colorado passing game as early in his career as his sophomore season. Pro Football Focus notes both his broken tackles and contested catch numbers as strengths, further indicating his ability to use his size to his advantage when needed.

Concerns

The biggest concern in Shenault's profile is the history of injury, though it's worth noting he mostly played through nagging issues and opted for three offseason corrective surgeries over the past two years. Whether he continues to be hampered by health concerns could make or break his success at the next level. 

There's also a slight concern about his final-year production, though Colorado's lack of a productive passing offense should cut him some slack. His three-year career is somewhat reminiscent of JuJu Smith-Schuster's, with a dominant breakout sophomore campaign before a step back in his junior year in worse circumstances, though Shenault's raw production doesn't quite live up to that of Smith-Schuster. One note about his junior season was more outside usage — he dropped from 204 slot snaps in his sophomore year to just 66 as a junior, per PFF.  

Chris Trapasso's Take

No. 5 WR

I've repeatedly referred to Shenault as a horse in the open field, and at 6-2 and 220 pounds with twitchy movements and tremendous acceleration, I'm sticking with that human-to-animal comparison. Imagine trying to tackle a horse in an open field. Not happening. 

With average quarterbacking, Shenault racked up 142 catches for 1,775 yards (12.5 per) and scored 10 total receiving touchdowns in his last two years at Colorado. He also reached the end zone seven times on the ground. Because of his running back like juking skills and plus contact balance, his coaching staff utilized him as a wildcat quarterback and on more end arounds and straight handoffs than any of the other top receivers in this class. Shenault accumulated 276 yards on his last 40 carries for the Buffaloes (6.9 yards per), so the team that drafts him will be adding that element its offense. 

Fantasy Comparison

The closest comp at PlayerProfiler is A.J. Brown, and it makes sense in terms of physique and age-adjusted production. Brown was a notch up as a prospect for me given he dominated a passing game that featured multiple other future NFL players like D.K. Metcalf and Dawson Knox, but early career production like Brown or Smith-Schuster is certainly not out of the question for a player with Shenault's track record. 

Perhaps a productive prospect and NFL slot receiver like Tyler Boyd is a better Fantasy comp. If Shenault doesn't wind up in a great situation, it may take a couple of years for him to reach his potential, much like Boyd. But I'd expect a player with Shenault's track record of production to find a way to be a successful WR2 in Fantasy at some point. 

Favorite Fantasy Fits

The ideal scenario for a player who can dominate production like Shenault is somewhere where he could legitimately contend for No. 1 targets in Year 1, much as Brown did in Tennessee. The Raiders tend to like size-speed freaks at wide receiver, but if they were to make a move on Shenault, it would likely indicate they view him as a true No. 1 on the outside, and he could contend with Darren Waller to lead the team in targets in 2020.

An early career slot receiver role would also be a positive. Landing in the NFC North as Aaron Rodgers' new Randall Cobb or Matthew Stafford's new Golden Tate would be nice fits.

Fantasy Bottom Line

Shenault's a physical, productive receiver who can break tackles and win down the field when need be, but his absolute ceiling is a bit up for debate, as is his ability to stay healthy. A potential first-round pick in the NFL Draft, he'll be a later first-round rookie pick so long as he doesn't fall outside the top two rounds in April. With a production record like Shenault's, there's certainly potential he's a relative sleeper in Fantasy circles early in his career, and he'll be worth considering in the later rounds of 2020 redraft leagues if he lands in a good situation. 

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