The Laviska Shenault hype train is full steam ahead entering the dog days of summer -- and don't count on it slowing down anytime soon.
From turning heads in each voluntary practice during organized team activities to earning high praise from former veteran receivers, Shenault's stock has taken quite a jump in recent weeks. A jump that likely doesn't surprise considering Shenault's place in head coach Urban Meyer's offense.
"Yeah, he’s one of our best playmakers on offense," Meyer on Tuesday said when asked about his early impressions of the No. 42 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Shenault's blend of power, speed, explosion, and body control stands out every time he hits the field, whether it is in OTAs, training camp or on Sundays in the regular season. With the Jaguars needing to quickly improve upon an offense that finished 30th in points per game and 27th in offensive DVOA, few players are as important as Shenault.
"He’s a guy that’s right, in the right position, at that age gap. I love who he is, I love the way he practices, he’s been there every day," Meyer said. "He’s a great puzzle piece for us to have on offense, plus his attitude every day is fantastic.”
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 a few games with injuries, but the first-year receiver was still a big part of an otherwise middling passing game when on the field.
Shenault impressed even despite the Jaguars' limited usage of him as a rookie. The Jaguars' offensive scheme pigeonholed him into multiple roles as a gadget-like player, resulting in him having among the lowest average depth of target (6.2) of any receiver in the NFL, with only six receivers seeing targets closer to the line of scrimmage on average.
That should be expected to change to a degree this season. The Jaguars drafted Clemson running back Travis Etienne at No. 25 overall in April's NFL Draft, with Etienne expected to be utilized as both a receiver and rusher all over the formation, similarly to how Shenault was used last season.
In addition to the drafting of Etienne to fulfill the Jaguars' "slash" role in the offense, the Jaguars already had plans of unleashing Shenault in a more receiver-focused role in 2021. Considering this is a much better fit for Shenault's skill set since he is an explosive downfield threat, it makes sense why the Jaguars and receivers coach Sanjay Lal are excited about Shenault.
"First of all, when you see him in person, this guy is a specimen. He's a true physical specimen," Lal told Jaguar Report about Shenault in April. "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."
Shenault has the backing of the Jaguars' coaching staff and he so far has answered the bell when called upon to make a play in practice. Now, it very well could be time to see just how high Shenault's star can rise.