By Justin Adams

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado Buffaloes star receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. announced on Twitter he is declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft. Shenault’s decision is not surprising as he burst onto the scene with a highly productive sophomore season in 2018, where he was garnered All-American honors.

Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Colorado Buffaloes carries the ball for a 73-yard touchdown catch against the USC Trojans in the third quarter of a game at Folsom Field on Oct. 25, 2019 in Boulder.

Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Colorado Buffaloes carries the ball for a 73-yard touchdown catch against the USC Trojans in the third quarter of a game at Folsom Field on Oct. 25, 2019 in Boulder. (credit: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Drew Lieberman, former Rutgers University football coach and current CEO of The Sideline Hustle, a digital platform created to teach athletes and football fans the nuances of the wide receiver position, held a training session with Shenault in the last offseason and spoke about the reasons why he’ll be a first-round pick.

Elite Physical Ability
Shenault is rated as the No. 20 overall player in the CBS Sports NFL Draft prospect rankings and it’s not hard to see why. He stands at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and is rarely tackled by one defender.

Laviska Shenault, Jr. of the Colorado Buffaloes celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Folsom Field on Oct. 6, 2018.

Shenault at Folsom Field on Oct. 6, 2018. (credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

“The biggest thing to me is physically he can do everything,” Lieberman said. “He’s limitless and can run every route in the route tree. He also has strong hands. The first time I met him he was with seven other Colorado receivers, and they have a bunch of really good wide receivers, but his ability to explode just stood out a lot.”

Once the ball gets into Shenault’s hands, he moves down the field like a physical running back. If you don’t believe me, look at how he ran over this defensive back during the Buffs 16-13 win over Stanford.

It’s his ability to gain the extra two or three yards after contact which will make him a coveted draft pick.

“I don’t know too many guys that are like him with the football in his hands at the wide receiver position,” Lieberman said. “As a route runner I think he’s fluid, I think he’s explosive. I think once the details continue to be cleaned up he’s going to be as good as anybody but he’s a real force with the ball in his hands.”

Shenault’s versatility is one of the best parts to his game. Colorado used him in a myriad of ways as a short yardage running back in the wildcat formation, running jet sweep plays from the slot or catching passes as a wideout.

Shenault carries the ball against the Washington Huskies on Nov. 23, 2019 in Boulder. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

He caught 149 passes for 1,943 yards and 10 touchdowns during his career, but he also rushed the ball 42 times for 280 yards and seven touchdowns.

All-Pro Potential
Despite the enormous numbers Shenault put up, he still has room to get better and that should excite NFL general managers.

“I didn’t think he was incredibly detailed in his knowledge of the game and his knowledge of route running,” Lieberman said. “When I would ask him, ‘Why did you do this, why did you do that’ he really didn’t know, he was just being an athlete. I think he has a lot to learn to maximize his abilities, but he’s not out here acting like he’s better than anyone else or that he has all the answers. He’s a humble enough kid where he wants to be coached.”

Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Colorado Buffaloes is tackled after a catch by Isaiah Pola-Mao of the USC Trojans in the second quarter of a game at Folsom Field on Oct. 25, 2019 in Boulder.

Shenault is tackled after a catch at Folsom Field on Oct. 25, 2019. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Questions about Shenault’s size and lack of technique could have him fall into the 2nd Round like D.K. Metcalf did last year. But if a team takes the time to work with Shenault, then they could have an All-Pro caliber player on their roster.

“A lot of times the fluid, savvy route runners like Keenan Allen and Davante Adams, those are the desired guys now days,” Lieberman said. “But if you can put that mentality into a guy like Laviska you end up with Julio Jones. A guy with that much athletic ability who also understands the craft, you end up with someone who’s pretty much unstoppable in the sport like Julio is.”

Pro Comparison: New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas, Retired WR Anquan Bolden

Shenault’s physical play have drawn comparisons to the likes of New Orleans Saints receiver Mike Thomas or Anquan Bolden. Lieberman sees Shenault’s career potentially going like Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker, who was a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

“I would think his ceiling is a Pro Bowl player,” Lieberman said. “You look at a guy like DeVante Parker, who just now is coming on in his fifth season and finally producing somewhat consistently. His potential kind of reminds me of that kid. He was a top-15 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Everyone expected him to be a superstar and it took him a while to figure it out.

Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. of the Colorado Buffaloes against the Colorado State Rams on Aug. 31, 2018.

Shenault on Aug. 31, 2018. (credit: Joe Mahoney/Getty Images)

“That’s kind of how I think Laviska could end up but with a quicker learning curve. I think he might not be an overnight success. He might not show up and light up the league on fire, but I think once he figures things out he has the ability to be a Pro Bowl player for sure.”

The last time Colorado produced a first-round pick was in 2011 when Nate Solder was taken 17th overall to the New England Patriots and Jimmy Smith was drafted 27th overall to the Baltimore Ravens.

The 2020 NFL Draft will be held in Las Vegas from April 23-25.

Justin Adams


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