Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Larry Fitzgerald and Julio Jones. That was the answer Laviska Shenault gave when recently asked who he likes to mirror his game after. "Viska" is a modern day, young Larry Fitzgerald. A brain-twister, sure. What I'm saying is Viska Shenault is built like a young Larry Fitzgerald, and has the same toughness. However, he has been used like a modern day wide out - get him the ball with space to work.
Colorado Career Stats (2017-2019)
Shenault has a solid three-year career at the University of Colorado, although the vast majority of his productioncame in his final two seasons. In 2018 and 2019, Shenault hauled in 142 passes for 1,775 yards and 10 TDs. He also carried the ball 40 times for 276 yards and seven additional scores. Shenault is the modern day flex position -- a guy that can get open running routes, catch the ball well, and in addition, carry the ball on sweeps effectively. With NFL coordinators looking for creative ways to get their play-makers the ball in space, Viska can be the answer.
Tail of the Tape
Versatility & RAC
Watching his game tape, Colorado lined Viska up all over the field. He was also used in the backfield as a wide out. It reminded me of how the 49ers have leveraged Deebo Samuel's skill set this season. With the ball in his hands - Shenault runs like a back; hard nosed and with a purpose. Time and time again in college he continued to drive his legs in a small pile, fighting for the extra yardage. He has also shown the Golden Tate-like ability to break tackles on short passes, and take them for 40+ yards.
Shenault's ability to find the lapse in a zone and sit past the sticks is intriguing. Countless times on 2nd-and-medium or 3rd-and-long, he found the soft spots in a zone coverage and sat, waiting for the pass. Viska also had a ton of experience with the scramble drill, as his QB would continually break from the pocket, looking for receivers down field. Having a wideout like that would be great for Carson Wentz, since he makes so many of his best plays outside of the pocket.
Size & Speed
At 6'2 220, Viska is a specimen at the WR position. He has also shown the ability to burn past defenders at the LOS. As mentioned before, he has the ability to take short passes to the house every time thanks to his size and speed combo. Shenault drew multiple PI penalties 30+ yards down field against Oregon, because the defenders could not keep up with him.
Shenault consistently attacked the ball with his hands, rarely dropping passes. Also, for all of the carries he had, he only fumbled the ball twice in 20 games.
The main knock on Shenault is that he is not a polished route-runner. Too many times he would take in or out cuts up the field, allowing for defenders to close. Given his other abilities to get open, and create plays with his speed, the potential is still high enough for him to continue to polish his route-running.
Inconsistent High-Point Catches
This could have been due to the PI penalties against Oregon, or bad QB play, but it reared its ugly head in other film as well. Shenault does not seem to be consistent in making the 50-50 ball catches. Against Oregon in the 3rd quarter, the ball was slightly under thrown, but Shenault didn't seem to make a solid effort back towards the ball. However, against UCLA on a post route - Viska made a great catch while climbing the ladder.
Desire to Block
I believe this to be another inconsistency in his game. Shenault was not consistent in his blocking, and appeared disinterested at times. This may have been due to injury, because in the UCLA and USC games, he blocked well. However, against Oregon, with a core injury, he seemed flat out disinterested.
Shenault's durability has been drawn into question. He suffered a toe injury in 2018 and a core injury in 2019 that forced him to miss a game.
Shenault will most likely be a mid-1st round draft pick in April. While he does need to work on his route-running, the upside to the rest of his game allows his high floor. I do see a young version of Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin here. If he falls to 21, I would highly suggest Howie makes the call for "Viska" to put on a midnight green jersey.