Real sports have halted all over the world, but the NFL continues to go about their business like nothing is wrong. The NFL Draft will be conducted from Thursday, April 23, through Saturday, April 25. This will be a virtual draft, so COVID-19 will still be a theme to the draft, particularly many pro days, workouts and medical exams were made impossible because of it.
Three Colorado Buffaloes are expected to hear their names among the 255 selections, plus two others could be late-round picks. This article is a general draft guide for those five players, but we will have in-depth scouting report articles out later this week.
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR
Projected late first to early second round
Shenault may be the most physically gifted receiver in the CU Buffs history, depending how you feel about Cliff Branch and Mike Pritchard. At 6’1, 225-lbs., Viska plays the receiver position like a power-running tailback — he will lower his shoulder to run through you, he catches the ball with full momentum moving forward (not usually recommended), and even without elite speed he can bust open huge gains. His ability after the catch is special talent because of his physicality, elusiveness and balance. He just so happens to be a natural receiver who excels tracking deep passes, has a knack for acrobatic catches, and rarely does he drop passes. Plus, he appears to have the clutch gene.
From a pure talent perspective, Viska should be a no-brained first round pick in this loaded receiver class. However, there are serious questions marks, specifically with his health. Because of how physical he plays, and because teams could only tackle him with three defenders, he suffered numerous contact injuries during his time at CU. Even more concerning, he has multiple muscle injuries, most notably a torn labrum in 2018 and a core injury in the 2020 pre-draft process. There’s a serious chance Shenault falls to the second round because of it, but he shouldn’t fall that far before someone decides to take a risk.
Davion Taylor, LB
Projected 4th or 5th round pick
We all know Davion Taylor’s personal story by now; in short, he’s a freak athlete who only recently started playing organized football, so he’s seen as a high-risk, high-reward pick. NFL teams are looking at him to play outside linebacker, as he fits the modern need for a quick-twitch linebacker who can cover running backs and slot receivers. Taylor is very much a work in progress in regards to football I.Q. and technique. He’s a project draft pick in the same way he was a project JUCO recruit.
Things are starting to click for Taylor. That was quite evident his senior season, as he became Colorado’s best defender mid-way though the year. He fully understood his responsibilities as at the Star position, began to anticipate where the ball was going before the snap, and he improved his mental processing during the play. What resulted was a freakishly fast linebacker who could close ground almost instantly. With Taylor’s work ethic and upside, he is absolutely worth a mid-round pick, especially if he goes somewhere with a track history of development.
Steven Montez, QB
Projected 6th round to undrafted
What more is there to say about Steven Montez at this point? He’s been the unquestioned starting QB three years running, carried the Buffs to three consecutive 5-7 seasons, all with various ups and downs, and yet he still possesses some untapped potential.
At 6’4, 230-lbs. with a cannon arm and 4.68 speed, Montez has the physical profile of an elite quarterback. When he’s having a great game, he can make every throw in the book, create plays outside the pocket, and even outrun linebackers. He had CU’s first ever 300-yard passing, 100-yard rushing performance in CU history, which he did as a freshman at Autzen Stadium. If he could play at his peak every week, or close to it, he would have been a 1st round pick in the 2018 draft.
The issue with Montez is that as high as his peaks are, the valleys are just as low and often more expansive. When things are off, his sole performance can tank the entire offense. If there’s pressure early in the game, he can go scattershot with happy feet and a quick pull trigger; even worse, he will decide where to throw before snapping the ball. As much arm talent as he has, he struggles processing the opposing defense and is easily confused by pre-snap disguises.
I don’t see how the consistency and processing issues improve at the next level, but he has so much natural talent that some team will take a flier on him late in the draft. Hopefully they can get the best out of him.
Tony Brown, WR
Tony Brown is a technician at the receiver position. He’s an excellent route runner, gain separation late, and makes the catch on seemingly every target. The issue is that he doesn’t have NFL athleticism, he’s 6’1, 200-lbs. but has shorter arms and often catches with his body, and there are serious questions if he can create that same separation against NFL-caliber defenses.
If a team drafts Brown, they’re not drafting him to be a number-1 or number-2 receiver. He’s an excellent team player, as he takes pride in run blocking and he runs hard on routes that are designed to get his teammates open. If his route running and feel for the game do translate to the next level, he could be a valuable rotation receiver; comparing him to Alex Erickson doesn’t sound great, but sticking in the league for a number of years would be a solid outcome for Brown.
Tim Lynott Jr., OL
Tim Lynott began his career as a Freshman All-American on the 2016 Buffaloes. He was a standout guard who immediately had the technique and physicality to excel at the college level. Injuries started to pile on, however, and he became a bit less effective playing through the pain over his 45 career starts. It’s difficult to work on your game when you’re overcoming injuries every offseason, as was the case for Lynott.
Lynott is unlikely to be drafted, but there’s hope the 6’2, 300-lbs. lineman can stick in the league. Versatility is the key here, as he started 29 games at guard and 19 at center over his career. Teams are always looking for depth on the interior, particularly players who can fill in at multiple positions. It’s easy to see Lynott having a career like Daniel Munyer, the former Buffs guard who has hung around the league since 2015. He’s got the strength, the burst and the versatility to get a crack at a roster spot.