Matt Waldman’s RSP Film Room WR Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado): Don’t Call Him “Gadget”

Matt Waldman’s RSP Film Room examines 2020 NFL Draft prospect Laviska Shenault, Jr., a do-everything prospect who will not be a ‘gadget player” on Sunday.

When I made my first pass through the 2020 NFL Draft class of wide receivers this summer, I wondered if Laviska Shenault might have more in common with Cordarrelle Patterson than desired. Patterson was one of the best open-field runners I’ve ever seen and when you restrict your viewing of his receiving skills to the catch-point, there appeared to be a lot of promise for Patterson to become a primary NFL receiver.

Unfortunately, Patterson hasn’t demonstrated the skill to learn the intricacies of an offense required of an every-down receiver. As was shared with me before and after his rookie year, Patterson needs a lot more practice repetitions to execute assignments than the average NFL starter.

Remember when Bill Belichick told the media that he promised Patterson in the spring of 2018 that he’d make Patterson as productive as his talent suggests? Although Belichick got production from Patterson, it wasn’t to expectation and Patterson was a Chicago Bear by 2019.

Patterson is a gadget player with elite physical traits. On the surface, Shenault’s film looks dangerously like Patterson’s—his targets consist of a high volume of short passes, running plays from the wing and the backfield, and the occasional vertical routes when the offense can match Shenault one-on-one.

A deeper look into Shenault’s game reveals a promising intermediate and vertical route runner with an above-average arsenal of footwork and hand usage against press coverage. While Shenault’s route tree is limited in Colorado’s system, his ability to sell cornerbacks with his stem work and finish off patterns with sharp breaks indicates that Shenault will become a primary option in an NFL offense within 2-3 seasons.

There are a handful of more refined wide receiver prospects in this class but you can make the argument that Shenault has the best combination of floor and upside of any of his colleagues. It’s why Shenault might not have the highest grade on my board but he might be worth taking as the top option of this heralded receiver class anyhow.

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