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Laviska Shenault is headed to the NFL: Where he fits best

Henry Chisholm Avatar
December 4, 2019

Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. is headed to the NFL.

The Colorado Buffaloes’ star receiver announced on Twitter Tuesday afternoon that’d he will forego his senior year of college eligibility in favor of declaring for the NFL Draft.

The decision came as no surprise, as Shenault will likely be chosen in the first round of the draft. DNVR’s draft guru Andre Simone has Shenault ranked as the 15th-best prospect in the draft and the fourth-best wide receiver.

Most mock drafts have Shenault falling to the bottom of the first round, primarily due to the injuries he sustained throughout the 2019 season. However, a strong showing in the pre-draft process—namely his pro day and the NFL Combine—seems likely given his athletic abilities and Shenault could climb back up draft boards.

Here’s where Shenault would fit best in the NFL:

DENVER BRONCOS

Let’s just get this out of the way.

I know this probably isn’t what is best for Shenault. The Broncos’ offense isn’t good and hasn’t been good, and to be quite honest it takes quite a bit of projection to see it becoming good anytime soon.

But the fit isn’t as bad as you might think.

Hear me out:

If Christian McCaffrey is a blend of Le’Veon Bell and Julian Edelman, then Laviska Shenault is a blend of Julio Jones and Kyle Juszczyk.

Shenault fits best in a power scheme, not a speed scheme. Teams like the Chiefs and Saints want to spread out the defense and get the ball into receivers’ hands so they can run. Shenault is good at that.

But what Shenault is great at is lining up and wailing on defenders. So put him in a scheme where he gets to be mean.

The Broncos often line up in heavy personnel with multiple tight ends, multiple running backs, and sometimes even multiple fullbacks. They play power football.

Every one of Shenault’s talents would be put to use in Denver. He could work outside, out of the slot, at H-back and at fullback. The Broncos have used misdirection constantly in the running game and would be able to get Shenault the ball out of the backfield.

What it boils down to is this: Shenault’s value doesn’t come from being targetted downfield six times per game. Sure, he’d take advantage of those opportunities but Shenault’s true value comes when the ball is in his hands 10 times per game and he has a chance to work.

The biggest concern is whether Shenault could stay healthy with extra work out of the backfield. He struggled to stay on the field against college defenders and NFL defenders are, of course, bigger, faster and stronger. The beating that comes with the role I’ve described could be his undoing.

Here’s the thing though: Shenault’s route-running isn’t elite in the NFL, his speed isn’t elite in the NFL, his hands aren’t elite in the NFL. What Shenault has is pure strength.

Other teams may be able to scheme him open downfield and give him a chance to duck out of bounds before contact, but that would be neutralizing Shenault’s most valuable asset. If that’s your plan, slap a fourth-round grade on him.

Either Shenault will stay healthy doing what he does best or he won’t. Bubble-wrapping him will only make him a worse football player, maybe not even one worth putting on the field. Either draft him and let him be himself or don’t draft him. Don’t half-play him and expect results.

The second concern is that the Broncos aren’t good and the offense, in particular, has been at fault. That alone could get Shenault’s career off to a poor start.

But on the other hand, Shenault staying in Colorado would make me, personally, very happy.

And what could be more important than that?

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Where do you even start here?

I’m not sure, so I’m just going to start listing stuff:

  1. Incredible team
  2. Incredible quarterback, who will be around for years
  3. A system that plays to players’ strengths above all else
  4. A system in which players have found success in Year 1

I’m not really sure what more Shenault could ask for.

My favorite part, as is the case with most of these teams, is that Shenault would be used creatively. This era of Chiefs football is known much more for its speed than its strength, but there’s one massive reason to belive head coach Andy Reid would be able to fit Shenault in.

That’s Travis Kelce.

Kelce and Shenault aren’t all that similar size-wise—Kelce is 3 inches and 40 pounds bigger than Shenault—but there is plenty of overlap in what they can do on a football field, primarily out of the H-back spot.

Look at how the play below pulls the defense hard to its right then hard to the left, creating a running lane in the middle for Kelce who catches the screen.

Imagine Shenault taking Kelce’s role in this play. Kelce runs that play out of the tight end spot, but having take a couple of steps back into and H-back spot wouldn’t have changed all that much.

The H-back role is one of many that Shenault could fill in Kansas City, but it’s the one where he could rack up some easy touches and be more than just a wide receiver.

Kansas City just gets the ball into its playmakers hands and lets them work. That’s what Shenault needs.

Plus, rookie wideout Mecole Hardman has already put up 467 total yards this season, only 150 less than Tyreek Hill and 90 less than Sammy Watkins. The Chiefs found a way to make Hardman an important piece of their offense immediately, and would likely do the same with Shenault.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Shenault would fit with the Packers for two big reasons:

  1. Aaron Rodgers may be the best quarterback in the NFL
  2. The Packers need receivers

It was only a few years ago that Rodgers’ arsenal was packed with names like James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and more. Then Davante Adams took over, but there isn’t much depth behind him.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been solid in his second season. Allen Lazard is coming off the first 100-yard game of his career, and is also in his second season. Equanimeous St. Brown is missing his entire second season due to injury.

Any of these guys could pan out.

Any of them couldn’t.

With Rodgers’ time winding down, the Packers may be willing to take another shot at wide receiver, this time early in the draft.

Of all of the top landing spots for Shenault, Green Bay would likely use him as a true wide receiver the most. I don’t think that is the best use of Shenault’s talents, but having Rodgers at quarterback would likely make up for that.

The other factor that makes Green Bay a top-tier destination is Davante Adams.

Adams, in his fifth year, has a lot of similarities to Shenault in his game. They’re both big-bodied receivers who can make plays downfield. Not only would Adams, an All-Pro, pull the defenses attention from Shenault, but he’d also serve as a near-perfect mentor.

BALTIMORE RAVENS

The idea of Laviska Shenault in the Ravens’ offense is exciting through the same line of thinking that allowed me to justify throwin Denver on this list: It’s easier to get the ball to playmakers who are closer to the quarterback than those who are far away, the Ravens keep a bunch of players near the quarterback and Laviska Shenault needs a lot of touches.

That’s the idea, at least.

The Ravens run the pistol offense, which means the quarterback lines up halfway between under-center and in the shotgun. Pay attention to what happens with the WR 1:30 into this breakdown of the Ravens’ pistol offense from The Ringer:

That’s exactly what Shenault is built for.

Right now, it’s typically Marquise Brown who is used in the WR role in plays like the one above. Brown, for those who haven’t been following the best offense in the NFL, is a bite-sized, speedy rookie. Shenault wouldn’t be nearly as fast but would be a much more physical runner. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t fit in the play, it just means the look would be different.

That’s the key to the whole thing here.

Laviska Shenault isn’t a fullback, but you can throw him into a fullback’s spot. Shenault couldn’t fulfill all of the typical fullback duties—he’s not an ideal lead blocker—but there are a whole bunch of new twists that he provides that a true fullback just can’t. The option becomes more threatening, as does a designed run, and obviously he’d be a much better receiver out of the backfield.

Shenault doesn’t have to fulfill the typical duties. That wouldn’t be his job. His job is to be a wrinkle to every position he lines up in. You can move him all over the formation and provide so many different looks.

Go five-wide, then motion Shenault and Brown into the backfield and run the option against a light box. Line up heavy, then shift Shenault outside and try to find single-coverage. You could even throw him in the wildcat.

The possibilities are limitless.

This is my favorite fit.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Shenault as a Saint just makes sense.

First of all, we know how good he looks in black and gold.

Second, Sean Payton is the most creative offensive coach in the NFL.

Third, Drew Brees.

New Orleans feels like the safest option for Shenault.

The Saints’ offensive attack may not be as splashy this year as Baltimore’s, but Brees and Payton have had it clicking for years. That’s not to say the Ravens won’t be able to run it back next year with the same success—I’m a diehard believer in everything they’re doing—but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a great offense take a major step back in Year 2.

The Saints have found a rare combination of creativity and consistency.

Plus Michael Thomas, like Davante Adams, would draw defenders away from Shenault while also providing strong mentorship. Obviously, working with a quarterback like Brees would do wonders for Shenault long-term.

But Brees is the reason the Saints fall behind the Ravens.

There isn’t too much left in the quarterback’s tank and any season could be his last at this point. Once Brees is gone, who knows how far this offense will drop off. That type of question mark is too big to ignore, even if Shenault will likely play out the first half of his contract with the sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.

FINAL RANKINGS

What’s best for Laviska?

  1. Ravens
  2. Saints
  3. Chiefs
  4. Packers

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12ish, probably. Broncos

What would be coolest for me, personally?

  1. Broncos
  2. Ravens
  3. Saints
  4. Packers

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32. Chiefs

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