With the 42nd pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Laviska Shenault Jr., wide receiver from Colorado. The Jaguars’ new rookie wideout packs tremendous character and mindset, along with incredible and diverse on-field skills.
Jacksonville is fully immersed in a rebuild, and the team stockpiled a plethora of young talent in this year’s draft to go along with those players already on the roster. Most wouldn’t consider the Jaguars the ideal NFL destination, and many players have openly asked to be traded away from the team in the past year. But for Shenault, Jacksonville might just be the perfect landing spot.
Laviska Shenault Jr. Background
Shenault nicknamed his football alter ego “Viska2Live.” Indeed, game mode Viska can be seen on countless highlight tapes from both high school and college, making great catches, showing off breakaway speed and demonstrating the keen ability to win as a receiver under tight coverage. While his play is loud on the field, Shenault is rather soft-spoken and reserved off of the gridiron. He grew up in DeSoto, Texas, playing the Madden video game for countless hours with his father, Laviska Shenault Sr. Sadly, Senior won’t be able to witness any of his son’s professional career.
Shenault’s father was killed tragically in 2009 when getting out of the car on the side of the road to change drivers as the family returned home from a barbecue. Ever since, Shenault has grown out his dreadlocks to honor his dad. He even passed up playing high school basketball because of the school’s demand that he cut his hair. He still struggles to discuss the accident, but continuously dedicates aspects of his life to his father.
His mother, Annie, had her own health scare when she contracted the West Nile Virus. Although she survived, it took almost a year for her to make a full recovery. Shenault is no stranger to personal adversity. His life experiences have like helped him develop the even-keeled mentality that will serve him well as he tries to make it in the NFL. He strives to put his best foot forward in all endeavors and always give his best just as both his parents have taught him.
Shenault’s College Career
Shenault spent three years at Colorado, with his most productive statistical season coming in 2018-19. He surpassed 1,000 yards receiving (1,011 to be exact) on 86 receptions, scored six touchdowns and led the entire FBS with 9.6 receptions per game. He followed that up with 764 yards and four TDs last season. The drop-off was due, in part, to the inconsistent quarterback play of now-Washington Redskin Steven Montez, and the entire Buffaloes offense stepping back as a whole.
In both his sophomore and junior seasons, Shenault showed off his potential to be the focal point of gadget plays as a runner. He had 23 rushing attempts last season for 161 yards (7.0 YPC average) and a pair of touchdowns, a fine encore to the 115 yards and five scores from the season prior.
Final Stat Line and Awards
Shenault’s final collegiate stat line includes 149 catches, 1,943 receiving yards, 10 receiving touchdowns, 280 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns and over 2,200 total yards from scrimmage. He earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors for the 2018-19 season and was also named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s best all-around player. Despite the diminished numbers of his junior year, he still earned second-team All-Pac 12 recognition.
NFL Draft Process for Shenault
The road to the NFL Draft was far from straight forward for Shenault. After being projected by many experts to be worthy of a first-round selection, the receiver’s draft stock was hampered by a core injury that required surgery shortly after the NFL Combine. This was just the latest injury for Shenault, who also had surgeries on his labrum and toe prior to the 2019 season. The 6-foot-1, 227-pound Shenault still performed in a limited capacity at the combine despite the injury, running a 4.58-second 40-yard dash and completing 17 reps on the bench press.
In one of the deepest wide receiver draft classes ever, Shenault wound up as the eighth one off the board, behind only the seven Round 1 selections.
Laviska Shenault Jr. NFL Outlook
Despite having offers from several premier college football programs, Shenault opted for Colorado, with the rationale that he wanted to play somewhere that wasn’t already on the map in terms of sustained success. That sort of mentality not only speaks to the will and character Shenault has, it also suggests that Shenault could be right at home in Jacksonville.
Three years removed from playing in the AFC Championship, the Jaguars have fallen on tough times. The team is focused on rebuilding with young talent. Second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew developed a tremendous connection with receiver D.J. Chark last season. Shenault figures to provide another boost to the Jaguars’ passing attack, thereby lessening the load on running back Leonard Fournette.
The versatility that Shenault brings means that the Jaguars will have to figure out just how they want to use him. He is noted for having incredible speed, burst and strength both when breaking into his routes and after the catch. He has sure hands, with excellent grip strength to snatch balls out of the air. Shenault also possesses the ability to adjust his big frame smoothly and gracefully to balls. Of course, durability and the failure to improve from his sophomore to junior college seasons are both concerns. Pundits also believe Shenault’s route running and blocking both could stand to improve.
If all goes well, NFL defenses could find themselves having to spend extra practice time prepping for the versatile Shenault. Although he may be wearing #10 in Jacksonville, Viska2Live has arrived is ready to take the NFL world by storm.