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Nate Burleson Predicts a Breakout Sophomore Season for Laviska Shenault

The former NFL wide receiver thinks the Jaguars' 2020 second-round selection has already proven himself as a receiving threat, which could lead to a breakout Year 2 for the talented offensive weapon.

Urban Meyer. Trevor Lawrence. Travis Etienne. Even Tim Tebow. These are the names and faces that have dominated headlines when it comes to the Jacksonville Jaguars over the course of the offseason, but one notable name is missing from the national hype machine: Laviska Shenault. 

Shenault, the No. 42 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, battled through some injuries and an inefficient role in the Jaguars' offense to still put up some of the best numbers of any rookie receiver last year. The former Colorado human highlight reel machine flashed over and over again as a rookie and is poised for a big second season.

As a result, it is hardly a shock to see Shenault land at the top of former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson's list of top-5 breakout receivers for 2021 on NFL Network's Good Morning Football. Shenault joined other players such as Kendrick Bourne, Denzel Mims, Jerry Jeudy, and Tee Higgins. 

"I just love the way he plays. I know there are some concerns about him being a full-time wide receiver. Well, he proved he could be," Burleson said. "My dude had 58 receptions, that is no slouch. I wish as a rookie I put up almost 60 catches. He had 600 yards."

In 14 games last season, Shenault caught 58 catches on 79 targets (73.4% catch rate) for 600 yards (10.3 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. He also recorded 33 first downs through the air, 7.6 yards per target, 18 rushes for 91 yards, and 298 yards after the catch according to Pro Football Reference. 

Among rookies, Shenault finished seventh in catches, eighth in receiving yards, seventh in yards per game, and first in catch percentage. Shenault missed some snaps here and there and had to persevere through the Jaguars' refusal to let him run deeper routes, but his rookie season was an unmitigated success considering the Jaguars' 1-15 record and anemic offense. 

That doesn't even go to mention the fact that Shenault's first year in the NFL featured him having to adjust to three different quarterbacks, often on the fly. The Jaguars starting Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon and Jake Luton all at different points during Shenault's rookie year, which placed a cap on his potential production due to both the lack of productive quarterback play and the lack of stability at the position. 

"And think about the starting QBs for the Jags last year. He had Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon, Jake Luton," Burleson said. "You have so many different types of quarterbacks throwing you so many different types of balls, there was no chance for him to catch a rhythm."

Shenault figures to be one of the Jaguars' top playmakers in 2021 and is likely the best current bet to be the team's starting slot receiver. Shenault, 22, has shined throughout the team's organized team activities due to his athleticism and catch radius, bringing down several tough catches throughout Phase 3 of the offseason.

Shenault has earned praise from the Jaguars' coaching staff for his offseason work, with wide receiver coach Sanjay Lal explaining in April that the Jaguars have a detailed plan for the talented wideout and expect big things from the former top-50 pick.

"First of all, when you see him in person, this guy is a specimen. He's a true physical specimen," Lal said about Shenault. "I think his ceiling is unlimited. I really do.

"Obviously he has to stay healthy, be able to practice every day, all the things that everyone else has to do. But I don't really see a ceiling for him. So I'm extremely excited to work with him."