Projecting how an NFL Draft will shake out is like predicting the stock market these days. From injury concerns, to a player’s locker room presence, to even his wonderlic score, there are so many variables that effect a prospects stock that it’s impossible to accurately predict when that player will be selected and by which team.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has been offering his projections for over 35-years now. Tuesday, the draft guru released his 2020 NFL Mock Draft 4.0, projecting the first two rounds of next week’s virtual event. And one Colorado Buffaloes player was noticeably absent; wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.
From Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy to Texas’ Devin Duvernay, Kiper’s latest mock draft had 12 receivers being taken in the first two rounds. Despite having Shenault currently listed as the eighth best wide receiver prospect in this year’s class, the 6’1”, 227-pound DeSoto, Texas native was not in Kiper’s latest two-round mock. In fact, with a week to go before the NFL’s annual event, you’d be hard pressed to find a mock draft that includes Shenault being selected in the first round.
“I think a Laviska Shenault without serious injury concerns is a top 15 player in the (2020) draft,” Austin Gayle, associate director of content with Pro Football Focus told the Denver Post. “It’s not just because of the time (missed). It’s because the injuries pop up again and again.”
Shenault burst onto the college football scene as a sophomore in 2018. In nine games, the Buffaloes wideout compiled 86 catches for 1,011 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage. Last season, his numbers — 56 receptions, 786 yards and 6 touchdowns from scrimmage —dipped despite playing in 11 games.
So why the drop in his numbers last fall? Two reasons. Following his breakout sophomore campaign, Shenault was no longer an unknown commodity. Opposing defenses knew to keep an eye on the guy wearing number two in black-and-gold. Secondly, and probably more of a factor, nagging injuries like a torn labrum and toe injury in 2018 and a recently-revealed core muscle injury, forced him to often play through pain or shut it down.
Even during February’s NFL scouting combine, results suggested Shenault was not himself. Despite dealing with the above-mentioned core muscle injury, he ran an official 4.58 40-yard dash which placed him towards the bottom tier of the wideouts in attendance.
Colorado WR Laviska Shenault, who has been dealing with core muscle injury and inflammation of the pubic bone, will have surgery that is expected to sideline him 4-6 weeks, per league source. Despite the injury, Shenault ran a 4.55 at the combine. But with no improvement, surgery— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 29, 2020
Two days after his combine performance, ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter tweeted that Shenault was to have surgery on that core muscle injury and would be out 4-6 weeks. The injury and subsequent post-combine surgery, coupled with weeks of social distancing due to the coronavirus, has put a wrench into Shenault’s ability to up his draft stock. Whether it being unable to participate in Colorado’s pro timing day, in-person interviews, or medical evaluations, Shenault has been fighting an uphill battle. That said, 100 percent healthy, he was one of the most explosive players in college football the last two seasons.
Laviska Shenault Jr has broken more tackles (44) over the past two seasons than anyone in the Draft.— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 6, 2020
A terror in the open field. pic.twitter.com/t60G6RxPiY
In a wide receiver heavy draft, he’s perhaps the most versatile of them all. Whether it’s catching a pass over the middle in traffic, returning a punt for a score, or breaking multiple tackles running the wildcat, there aren’t too many wide receiver prospects that can be used like Shenault. Aside from his dynamic playmaking ability, he’s also a team player, willing to do what it takes to get his team a win, even if that means playing hurt.
While NFL teams may be viewing him as a ‘risk’ because of his durability, just think of the reward Shenault can bring. You won’t be disappointed.