Top Receivers in NFL Draft: Laviska Shenault

Bill Huber

Colorado’s Laviska Shenault checks in at No. 8 in our ranking of the top receivers in the NFL Draft.

Laviska Shenault’s long hair tells a story he’d rather keep to himself.

When Shenault was 10, his father – Laviska Shenault Sr. – died in the most horrific of fashions. On July 17, 2009, Laviska Sr. was driving southeast of Irving, Texas, when he pulled over the car so his wife, Annie, could take over the driving duties. He slipped on the pavement and was struck by one car. And then another. And another.

It was a horrendous scene witnessed by his wife and their five children. “It swiped him and spun him around, and he was starting to get up,” Annie Shenault told NFL.com. “I tried to get out of the car and my door wouldn’t open; I was grabbing at the handle so fast. By the time he started to stand, this truck comes and hit him straight on -- we saw him on the hood. It almost caused a big pile-up. You [remember] it in slow-motion. Big trucks were swerving, an SUV spun around when they saw him in the road.”

Laviska Shenault Jr. saw the whole thing.

It’s not something he likes talking about, especially in front of a few dozen strangers at a podium at the Scouting Combine.

How did he persevere through the incident?

“I’m the type of guy that’s going to keep everything inside, anyways, and just keep growing as a person. I mean, I don’t think it’s kept me down. I just look at it as everything happens for a reason and just figure it out, keep moving on.”

What would his dad say?

“He’d be proud and (tell me to) remain tough and just keep rising.”

Laviska Shenault Sr. didn’t cut his hair. Now, neither does Laviska Shenault Jr. When told by his freshman basketball coach that he’d have to cut his hair, he quit. Basketball was his first love – it was the sport that his mom starred at during a record-setting career at the University of Dubuque – so he turned his attention to football, instead.

In three seasons at Colorado, he caught 149 passes for 1,943 yards and 10 touchdowns and added 280 rushing yards and seven more scores. In 2018, he led the nation in receptions per game (9.6), finished the year with 86 catches for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns, and was the only player in the nation with at least five touchdowns receiving and rushing. In 2019, his production slipped to 56 receptions for 764 yards and four touchdowns. However, while the raw numbers dipped, his excellence still showed up. According to Sports Info Solutions, he averaged 7.6 yards after the catch. According to Pro Football Focus, his broke one tackle for every 3.73 receptions, the third-best rate among our top 32 prospects.

Now, he’s on the verge of reaching the NFL – potentially as a first-round pick. It will be a happy ending to a difficult journey. Not only did he lose his dad, but Annie Shenault was hospitalized for weeks and couldn’t walk upright for a year after contracting West Nile virus.

“I think it would mean the most to my family. My dad, I know he'd be proud,” Shenault said. “It would mean the most to me because it wasn’t easy. I had a very long, bumpy road. I had to get everything the hard way, nothing came easy. And I had to put the time and the grind in. So, it would mean a lot to go first round.”

What we like

In a deep group of receivers, Shenault is unique. At 6-foot 5/8, he weighs 227 pounds. He’s like a running back lined up at receiver. That’s why he’s so difficult to tackle. According to PFF, he led the nation with 44 missed tackles over the last two seasons. He’s got strong hands, can help in a gadget role as a running back and seems to enjoy blocking.

What we don’t like

Shenault has a lengthy injury history. As detailed by NFL.com, “a core muscle injury cost him most of one game, all of another, and lingered thereafter. A knee injury hampered him in the second half of CU’s win over Stanford. He also entered the season coming off surgeries to repair labrum and toe injuries sustained the previous year, from which recovery forced him to sit out spring practice.” After running a disappointing 4.58 in the 40 at the Combine, he elected to have core-muscle surgery. He expected to be ready for the offseason practices; alas, there will be no offseason practices. As a receiver, he’s not a great route-runner. Most of his production was created by Colorado’s scheme. 

Bill Huber’s Top Receivers

No. 1: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy

No. 2: Alabama’s Henry Ruggs

No. 3: Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb

No. 4: LSU’s Justin Jefferson

No. 5: Baylor’s Denzel Mims

No. 6: Clemson’s Tee Higgins

No. 7: Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk

No. 8: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault

No. 9: USC’s Michael Pittman

No. 10: Texas’ Devin Duvernay

No. 11: Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool

No. 12: TCU’s Jalen Reagor

SI.com: The New Receiver U.

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