Background: Everyone has something that’s of significance to them. To Shenault, it’s his family and his hair. His dreadlocks symbolize something of a deeper sense and story. He wasn’t allowed to play basketball at DeSoto High School (TX) because he would be forced to cut his hair. He wanted to keep his hair and for good reason. His mother played basketball at Dubuque (IA) and she still owns single season school records for points scored (25.4) and rebounds per game (15.2). Both marks were set during the 1991-1992 season. His father, Laviska Shenault Sr. legacy is remembered through Laviska's hair.
A summer day in 2009 (July), the family of eight was headed on the road in the middle of Irving, Texas towards their family vacation trip location and they wanted to stop in order to switch drivers because his dad had began to become tired from the road. While switching, his father walked around the family car, but slipped and he was struck by an oncoming pickup truck and ran over by another car soon thereafter. It's a memory that Laviska was bound to never forget. Since that moment when he was 10-years old, Shenault has let his dreadlocks flow down the back of his jersey in honor of his fallen father.
Even though he played in all 12 games during his freshman season, his production was minimal as he only caught seven passes for 168 yards. He’d experience a breakout year as a sophomore though. His numbers made a tremendous climb – finishing with 86 catches for 1,011 yards and 11 touchdowns. A first-team All-Pac 12 selection, he was the first Colorado offensive player to earn the honor since Paul Richardson in 2013. Shenault also led the country in receptions per-game (9.6) in 2018. The standout receiver put up prolific numbers all while nursing a turf toe injury that resulted in surgery (Dec. 2018). The injury forced him to miss three games in 2018.
Voted as team MVP, he became just the fifth sophomore to earn those honors (Joe Romig in 1959, Eric Bieniemy in 1988, Darian Hagan in 1989 and Jashon Sykes in 1999). Shenault battled some injuries prior to his final season as he had surgery on a torn left labrum in his shoulder (Feb. 2019) and also toe surgery. Seeing action in 11 games during his junior season, he started nine of those contests. During his final season, he collected 52 catches for 721 yards and four touchdowns while adding another 136 yards and two scores on the ground.
Scheme Fit: Outside X-Receiver with Slot Versatility
Round Projection: Late 1st-Round
Body Type/Strength: Thick, chiseled, and stoutly built structure that contains plenty of armor in order to fend off defenders during route stems, at the catch point, and the after-the-catch process. First exposure to contact hardly ever effects him and he instantly turns into a running back who doesn’t shy away from contact. His field vision and avoidance are high qualities that enable plenty of YAC (yards after the catch) opportunities. If fully surrounded with nowhere to go, he’s not afraid to bury his head into the crowd to grind out extra yardage.
Versatility: Outside of offensive line, there wasn’t a position that he didn’t play within the Colorado offense. Treated as if he was an H-Back, he also played out-wide, on the hip of the offensive tackle, running back and even experienced carries as a Wildcat quarterback. His best contributions came when he was treated primarily as a wide receiver. That type of prior experience from multiple spots though will provide an offensive coordinator with a true multifaceted option to utilize from many spots and alignments within their scheme.
Hands: Fully capable of catching the ball away from his body and doesn’t rely on catching the it with his chest or pads. Shenault has adequate enough body control in order to adjust and match the direction of the ball in order to snag it out of the air. He has a wide catch radius that’s on full display no matter the amount of traffic that he’s contained within. Shenault has a high awareness level of being able to make catches and then immediately protect himself from safeties scraping over the top seeking to dislodge passes. There are some struggles when his body is moving away from the path of the ball though.
Explosiveness: A big play waiting to happen, he led the nation during the 2018 season – averaging 9.6 catches per game and 10.9 scrimmage yards per play. Those averages shed light light on just how much of a catalyst and explosive playmaker that he is.
Route-Running Polish: Due to being treated as a do-it-all player within the offense and wearing multiple hats, his details as a route runner have suffered. An average technician overall, his sense of angles and route directions are dull. That’s a result of not really having a home as a player prior to his junior season. There has been gradual improvements shown since a coaching change following the 2018 season.
Repertoire of Release Plans: Because of his physical nature and well above average speed, he opts to speed release against press coverage. Meaning that he immediately runs to the sideline in hopes that his tempo and strength will eventually allow him to run past the outside hip of the defender. There’s slight flashes of using his hands to win at the line, but those instances are widespread.
Off-Ball Effort: In his role, Shenault was often asked to block from different types of angles and platforms. When treated as an offset wing tight end or slot receiver and asked to block, the effort was minimal in spurts. Hesitancy and lack of physicality at the point of attack were shown when not involved.
Angles: On out-breaking routes, most of his patterns continued to climb up-the-field instead of snapping them flat. Slight stutters at the top of routes allowed the opposition to remain on his hip, which is a habit that he will need to be eliminate. These are minor details that could improve with continued reps with detailed routes and a greater focus on strictly becoming an overall better runner of them strictly in that role.
Future Projection: 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.