With the season past the halfway point, we are highlighting some prospects the Raiders may consider in the upcoming draft. You can take a look at all of our previous prospect reports here. Who would you like to see highlighted next week?
It’s become increasingly clear week-by-week that the Raiders need to upgrade the receiver position. In a recent poll, fans voted receiver position as the Raiders’ second greatest need behind linebacker. Luckily, there’s a metric ton of quality receivers in the 2020 draft.
Laviska Shenault Jr. officially declared for the draft on Dec. 3 and would bring a versatile big body to the Raiders offense that could open an abundance of creative avenues for Jon Gruden to explore. At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he’s built light a freight train running back with thick, muscular legs and a chiseled upper body.
Over the past two seasons, Colorado has had two different head coaches in Mike MacIntyre and Mel Tucker, and both have lined him up all over the field. Using Sports Info Solutions tracking data, we can see that Tucker has lined him up less often at tight end and slot receiver this season and much more out wide.
Placing him out wide makes sense, considering that Shenault is a prototypical X receiver due to his size, suddenness, natural hands and ability to beat press off the line of scrimmage. But he can line up anywhere, often being used as a blocking tight end in split zone concepts and running beneath routes off play action that scheme him open.
What he does as a playmaker with the ball in his hands makes him a fully dynamic talent. Get the ball in this guy’s hands and he’ll turn into a downhill power back in the open field.
Laviska Shenault declared tonight and I grabbed my popcorn because I knew I'd be getting a show. I'm like 10 plays in and he didn't disappoint. pic.twitter.com/IK9UMIeehK— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) December 4, 2019
Because he’s been moved around the offense so much, Shenault’s route running in unrefined. He’s not sharp in and out of breaks and doesn’t often create separation with speed. He finds an advantage with his route savvy, diagnosing defensive coverages mid-play and sitting down in open zones. While he doesn’t often create separation with crispy route discipline, Shenault is the type of receiver who is open even when he isn’t.
He posts up defenders like a power forward and high-points to routinely make contested catches with dexterity. He tracks the ball downfield naturally and when the ball comes his way, he plucks it out of the air with strong, soft hands. He’ll suffer from the occasional concentration drop, but also makes the ‘wow’ plays that make you think he could make acrobatic catches in his sleep (he probably can).
His speed is merely average for an NFL receiver, but that doesn’t limit his run-after-catch ability whatsoever.
THIS JUST IN: @Viska2live To Declare For 2020 NFL Draft.— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) December 3, 2019
"Laviska Shenault represented our relentless culture and was one of the most dynamic, dominant and versatile players that I have ever coached." ️ @Coach_mtucker
His post-up prowess has been hampered a bit this season as he’s dealt with a lingering abdominal issue that many athletes wouldn’t be able to play through. That speaks to his competitive fire, perhaps my favorite quality about him. It shows up in all phases of the game and permeates through the locker room as he inspires teammates to bring that same edge.
His fire shows through as a receiver, runner and even blocker. On stalk blocks on the edge, Shenault overwhelms defensive backs and often completely takes them out of the play. This could benefit the Raiders outside rushing attack as they could basically use him as a lead blocker off the edge on certain plays.
With Mike Mayock looking to bring in players who establish a certain locker room culture, Shenault could be an ambassador of the Raider way.
In Gruden’s offense, Shenault could usurp Tyrell Williams at the X position, but may work even better as the Z receiver, motioning every which way and forcing the defense to account for him on every play. He would open up the offensive playbook tremendously as he can be used in the backfield, as a move-tight end, on quick-hitting gadget plays and as a deep threat.
Shenault will likely be available with the Raiders latter first-round pick due to the sheer volume of talent at his position this year. If he can refine his route running and his coach is willing to utilize his versatility at the next level, Shenault could become one of the premier offensive weapons in the NFL.
Draft Range: No. 10 to No. 40 overall