The word "versatile" gets thrown around a lot when discussing football. In some cases, it isn't exactly justified because while a player wears multiple hats, he may not excel in any.
But in other cases, a player lives up to the billing of being called a multi-dimensional threat who can add versatility. They are truly able to impact the game in a number of ways, and the entire team benefits because of it.
So, which category does new Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault, who the team selected No. 42 overall in this year's draft, fall under? Taking a look back at his college days, and how the Jaguars plan to deploy him, gives a clear answer.
Whether it was taking short passes all the way to the house, winning as a deep threat, taking reverses, or direct handoffs, Shenault did it all for the Colorado Buffaloes. He wasn't just a wide receiver. Instead, he was simply a playmaker.
“I think I’m an athlete. I think I can move around everywhere and do anything that’s at task, you know, and dominate in different places, do what everyone loves," Shenault told local media after he was drafted.
For the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was Shenault's multitude of traits that made him such an enticing pick at No. 42. They badly needed to add firepower to surround Gardner Minshew II on offense, and the hope is Shenault will do so in a number of ways with the same success he did at Colorado.
"I think with a player like Laviska Shenault Jr., we feel there are multiple areas where he can make plays," Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said Friday night after the team selected the 6-foot-1 Shenault.
"You may not have known about him before, but you may have saw a couple of highlights they showed where he was a Wildcat quarterback and lined up in the backfield as a running back and moved all over. He is just a tough guy. He does not run out of bounds. He breaks tackles. He can really do a lot of things. He is physical, he is fast. The guy is a definite playmaker."
In three seasons at Colorado, Shenault recorded 149 catches for 1,943 yards (13.0 average) and 10 touchdowns. He also added on 42 carries for 280 yards (6.7 average) and seven rushing touchdowns.
Simply put, he made plays for Colorado no matter where they lined him up. Receiver, running back, quarterback, it didn't matter. He can win as a true receiver, but there is simply so much more you can do with him than ask him to run routes, and Marrone is cognizant of this.
As long as the multitude of roles doesn't overwhelm Shenault at this level just like it didn't overwhelm him in college, expect to see more of the same to some variation.
“I talked to him. Obviously, we feel he has the size and the speed to play outside. After we had drafted him and I got on the phone with him, both [Offensive Coordinator] Jay [Gruden] and I had a plan," Marrone said Friday.
"We talked about how we’re going to do it and how we’re going to use him. I told him, I said, ‘Look, we have some plans,’ and you can put him in the backfield, he can play Wildcat, you can put him as the F-tight end, you can do a lot of things with him. You see it on his tape in 2018 and 2019. That’s one of the things that we looked at; we went back there, and I said, ‘Look, we can do all those things, but the whole key is going to be how well you grasp it, how well you pick it up.’ Because if he can, make no mistake about it, we want to be able to do those things.”
If there is any single season to point to when advocating for Shenault and his transition to the NFL, it is his sophomore season from 2018. He was a first-team all-conference selection after being the only player in the country to have five rushing and receiving touchdowns, catching 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns and also adding 17 carries for 115 yards and five touchdowns.
Injuries hampered Shenault in 2019, resulting in a regression in every stat but carries and rushing yards. But despite a down year, the talent was still obvious. In fact, his lack of top production in 2019 could be the main reason the Jaguars were ever in a position to draft Shenault to begin with.
"By the time summer comes along and the next college season starts, we’ll already have grades on probably about 400-500 guys in next year’s draft. Coming out of this time last year, he was our highest-rated receiver," general manager Dave Caldwell said Friday.
"Obviously he had the skill set and like we said off of his ’18 film, we thought going into the season he would have been in the mix with Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb and the [Henry] Ruggs of the world. He still had a very good season, it was just a step down from ’18. And then with the receiver class as big as it was, I just think he kind of fell by the wayside a little bit, but we’re happy that he did and we’re happy to make him a Jag.”
Shenault will have to prove his durability isn't a concern at the next level, though the Jaguars feel as if he currently now has a clean bill of health. Heading into 2020 without any setbacks will be key if Shenault hopes to serve in a variety of roles in the offense, but it appears as if he is on the right track presently.
"He’s fine. He’s cleared now. Our team doctors and our training staff have a good grade on them," Caldwell said. "He had a very minor procedure done after the Combine that a lot of our players have done at the end of seasons and stuff like that, so he’s good. He’s running routes. He’s out there moving around and, in speaking with people around him, our doctors felt that this procedure he had really is going to make him right, make him whole and correct a lot of his underlying issues that he may have had throughout the season.”
While not all players earn the label of being tabbed a versatile playmaker, Shenault did enough at Colorado to justify it being attached to his name. If the Jaguars are going to get their offense heading in the right direction with Minshew at center, it will take Shenault's versatility translating to Jay Gruden's offense.
But ask anyone within the Jaguars' brass if they think he can do it, and the answer will be a simple and resounding yes. After all, he has done it all before.