The 2020 season is over and the Jacksonville Jaguars and the rest of the NFL are moving onto the offseason. The new goal for 31 teams is to knock off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the next few months will play a major role in that endeavor.
But what will also play a big role in the advancement, or decline, of each team will be the development of the 2020 rookies. The Jaguars had one of the largest rookie groups in the NFL thanks to 12 draft picks and numerous undrafted free agents, so few teams will lean on their second-year players as much as the Jaguars will next season.
With this in mind, we are going to go through each of the Jaguars' 12 draft picks from 2020 and examine the ups and downs of their rookie seasons.
all stats via Pro Football Reference.
- 58 catches on 79 targets (73.4% catch rate)
- 600 yards
- 10.3 yards per catch
- Five touchdowns
- 33 first downs
- 7.6 yards per target
- 18 rushes for 91 yards
- 298 yards after catch (5.1 yards after catch per reception)
- Eight broken tackles
- Three drops
What Went Right
When given the opportunities to shine, it is hard to say Laviska Shenault didn't meet the lofty expectations that were set for him as a rookie. He mostly played on the outside for the Jaguars but also had reps in the slot, in the backfield, as an H-back, and as a Wildcat quarterback. Not many players on the Jaguars' offense had more on their plate than Shenault, and nobody else replicated his role in the two games he missed.
"Laviska does some special things. You put him in the backfield, you can do some wildcat things, and you don’t do that with anybody else," Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said during the season.
"He’s getting all those reps, the reverses and all that stuff. Some other guys we can get out in space and do somethings, but Laviska’s a different cat and calls for a different type of play."
Shenault thrived in each of these roles to a certain degree. He was Jacksonville's second-best rusher behind James Robinson for much of the season by default, but he showed serious ability to generate yards between and outside the tackles.
As a pass-catcher, things rarely went wrong when the Jaguars tried to get Shenault involved. He wasn't asked to get behind the defense often but he did score on a deep post in Week 16 against the Chicago Bears. Otherwise, he showed good hands to bring passes in against contact and away from his frame, giving the quarterbacks a safe target on third downs and near the sidelines.
Shenault's most exciting trait as a rookie was his yards after catch ability. He was a force with the ball in his hands thanks to his blend of power and speed. He was often the team's best option to pick up yards after the catch, which led to the Jaguars making him the centerpiece of their screen packages.
All in all, Shenault showed as a rookie that he can be used to attack defenses in multiple ways. He has areas he needs to improve in, but combine his physicality with his natural tools and it is easy to get excited for his NFL future.
What Went Wrong
In terms of what went wrong during Shenault's rookie season, there aren't many aspects of the down periods that are squarely on Shenault. Overall, he did what the Jaguars asked of him and kept the mistakes mostly to a minimum.
The issue was the Jaguars didn't ask Shenault to do enough as a pure receiver. Sure, they asked him to wear a lot of hats and perform multiple roles in the offense, but they limited his ceiling in the passing game due to their usage of him.
Only 10 of Shenault's 79 targets were 15 yards or further from the line of scrimmage, which shows how limited his role was in the Jaguars' offense. Most of his routes were shallow ones, behind the line of scrimmage, or squarely in the middle of the field. The Jaguars used him like a running back who could play wide receiver in many ways, rarely asking him to attack downfield despite him showing the capability to do so.
Shenault's 6.2 average depth of target was the lowest on Jacksonville's roster among receivers and was the 11th lowest among all NFL receivers last season. For better or worse, the Jaguars limited Shenault's potential impact by not asking him to venture further from the line of scrimmage.
There is also the aspect of the team's quarterback play. Shenault was never able to build a rhythm with any of the team's quarterbacks due to the constant cycling of them, not to mention the overall ineffectiveness of each of the team's starting quarterbacks in 2020.
Shenault also needs to be on the field more moving forward. The Jaguars leaned on him when he was healthy, and he did appear in every game but two, but he dealt with injuries throughout the season. Due to the injuries, he played just 56% of the team's offensive snaps. By comparison, DJ Chark was on the field for 68% of the snaps and Keelan Cole was on the field for 76% of the snaps.
Shenault should be one of the happiest players on the team following the hirings of Urban Meyer and Darrell Bevell. Bevell has shown the willingness to let players test the deep areas of the field on a frequent basis, and both he and Meyer have experience in dealing with swiss army types like Shenault.
Shenault will also see an upgrade at quarterback, likely in the form of Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. With a better scheme and a better trigger man getting the ball to him, it isn't hard to project Shenault to improve upon his rookie numbers.
The biggest thing with Shenault moving forward will be his usage and his health. As long as he can stay on the field, and as long as the Jaguars unlock his full abilities, then he has a bright future.