The next ‘Slash’ out of Colorado? Laviska Shenault Jr. eager to be an NFL playmaker

Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. carries the ball against Arizona State.
Laviska Shenault Jr.’s versatile skill set has the Colorado playmaker in the mix to be a first-round pick in a deep wide receiver draft class.
(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

Charting how wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. went from the 73rd-ranked prep prospect at his position to one of the top college playmakers in the nation started with a conversation he had with his Colorado coaching staff after his freshman season.

The Buffaloes knew what they had in Shenault, the three-star recruit they snuck out of DeSoto, Texas. He had caught just seven passes his first year, so they decided they would come up with a way to make sure he got the ball.


“Coach was like, ‘We’re going to do wildcat,’ ” Shenault recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah! Let’s put that in now!’ ”

Shenault stormed into the spotlight his sophomore season in 2018 thanks in part to turning 17 direct-snap carries from the quarterback spot into five touchdowns. USC fans might remember his 49-yard sprint in the Coliseum and the Trojans chasing his trademark dreadlocks all the way into the end zone.

Shenault also led the country that year with 9.6 receptions per game and was the only player nationally with at least five touchdowns apiece receiving and rushing.

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

April 17, 2020

And yet, that wasn’t enough action for Shenault.

“I definitely wanted to throw the ball, but they never let me,” he said. “Because I can throw. Being in practice, that’s all we do, throw the ball around to each other. We throw the ball 40, 50 yards, so throwing a deep pass was nothing.”

With his college career behind him, all Shenault can do is hope some NFL offensive coordinator will give him the chance to show everything he can do. His tantalizing skill set has him in the mix to be a first-round pick in a wide receiver draft class that could end up rivaling the 2014 class — which included Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry and Brandin Cooks — in star power.


While Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb are projected to be the first receivers off the board, Shenault believes he has his own strengths that no player can match.

“I think I stand out in ways that they don’t,” Shenault said. “I think this is one of the best groups since Odell’s group. I think we’re talented across the board, check a lot of boxes. It’s definitely going to be a legendary class.”

Staying for his senior season at Auburn and the birth of his son has helped defensive lineman Derrick Brown grow into a top NFL draft prospect.

April 13, 2020

Shenault can play an outside receiver position, but his route running isn’t as polished as that of Jeudy, Lamb and some of the other first-round-caliber receivers. He said most teams have talked about him operating out of the slot, where modern NFL offenses can make easy use of a player with his speed and power in the open field.

Shenault might not get the chance to throw a pass with his next team, but he would be almost offended if he didn’t get a chance to do everything else, including those wildcat runs that made him famous.

“My versatility is a good thing,” Shenault said. “I don’t want to be in one spot. Then I wouldn’t get that many balls or attempts. I want to be able to move everywhere. I want to be able to create mismatches.”