The 2020 wide receiver class has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory with likes of Tee Higgins, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and Justin Jefferson all with a realistic shot of going in the first-round. Laviska Shenualt needs to be a part of the first-round discussion as well. The Colorado prospect certainly has the “big wide receiver” frame at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 220 pounds. However, his production profile needs some context.
Primarily a basketball player growing up, Shenault had grown his hair out into dreadlocks to honor his late father. His basketball coach would not change his policy on hair being longer than shoulder-length, so Shenault gave up basketball. His family struggles are already well documented, leading to a reserved and quiet personality that seems to be at odds with what we usually think of when we consider top-tier wide receivers.
Shenault was a three-star prospect from DeSoto, Texas, using 247Sports Composite Rankings. He had offers from Alabama, Oklahoma State, and Louisiana State to name a few. That’s an impressive list on its own, but becomes even more of an accomplishment when you consider Shenualt played just two years of football in high school. He finished his senior year with 825 yards on 46 receptions and nine touchdowns, leading DeSoto to the Texas Class 6A Division II state title. Despite visiting Alabama and LSU, Shenault signed with Colorado in February of 2017.
Shenault played as a 19-year-old true freshman in 2017, though his impact was minimal, catching just seven passes for 168 yards. His 2018 season, however, immediately stands out. He played just nine games but was dominant, leading the Buffaloes in every receiving category. If you’ve read any of my Returning Dominator articles in prior seasons, you know that’s where I’m headed with Shenault. A 0.46 dominator rating is very impressive, especially in his second season. His breakout-age of 20 is also encouraging.
Shenault played through injuries in 2018 and the corresponding off-season surgeries (labrum, toe) forced him to miss spring practices. He missed two games again due to injury and split the majority of Colorado’s receiving workload with Tony Brown, a Texas Tech transfer. That drop in production for his 2019 season is a bit discouraging. Our research at RotoViz points to final year production as a major piece of the evaluation puzzle. Maintaining a dominator rating near 50% for multiple seasons is a lofty goal so some regression is expected but Shenault took a slightly bigger step back in production than we’d like to see.
Shenault has a projected draft position of 22.5 according to Grinding The Mocks. Again using our BoxScore Scout, we get an interesting list of comparables.
A.J. Brown, N’Keal Harry, and Michael Thomas are encouraging, though both Brown and Thomas faced more competition for production from their teammates than Shenault. JuJu Smith-Schuster is an intriguing comp as he saw a similar final year drop-off.
Another positive for Shenault also comes from Anthony’s breakout age regression tree work:
Career WR rushing yards shows up as an important split.
The delineation point is career rushing yards greater than 122. Shenault cleared that in his final year alone, posting a career mark of 42 rushing attempts for 280 yards and seven touchdowns. While we tend to see more rushing production from smaller, fast wide receivers — think Parris Campbell — Shenault was used as a legitimate run threat, especially when the Buffaloes were in the red zone as the “Wildcat” quarterback. Shenualt fits the mold of the typical big outside receiver, but with versatility beyond that role.