I hope you weren’t expecting me to write about another Jaguar this week. The analysis of James Robinson is simple; if a running back that received all of his team’s carries wasn’t picked up last week then add him. This space is devoted to more nuanced positions and this week that is his teammate, Laviska Shenault.
This rocked up 6’1 227 pound wing back hybrid wide receiver/running back was the Jaguars 42nd pick in April’s draft and was one reason why Jacksonville shipped Leonard Fournette out shortly before the season began. Throughout his collegiate career he put up first round tape, shaking defensive backs in the open field and running over box defenders like a running back. After the catch there wasn’t much debate that he was the best wide receiver in the draft. The most common name thrown around as a comp in spring was Deebo Samuel – and for good reason. If that’s the case then why did he last until the draft’s second day? why wasn’t he buzzed about more in the lead-up to this season? Why was he routinely not drafted in standard re-drafts?
There are a couple of reasons – he came into the league with durability concerns then a core muscle injury at the combine only validated them. There was also a common misconception that the Jaguars were tanking. Why would we target a rookie complementary option on a bad team coming off this abbreviated off-season? It was a fair concern, but at the risk of over reacting from one game this team showed enough to prove its legitimacy. Quarterback Gardner Minshew‘s only incompletion was a drop by Shenault (not a major issue in college) and they showed just enough in the run game to sustain drives. Their biggest issue is their defense, but while that hindered opportunities (just 47 snaps) on Sunday, a poor defense is generally a wide receiver’s best friend in our game. I think that game script makes Shenault more likely to be available to you on waivers than he would otherwise.
He showed on tape all of what the Jaguars expected when they drafted him. He’s still rough around the edges, but his willingness as a blocker will keep him on the field more often than he would be otherwise. He commanded attention from the defense in his debut when the play was designed to go elsewhere, as was the case on D.J. Chark‘s touchdown. All of the August buzz in our game was Antonio Gibson, but there’s good reason Shenault actually net more carries (40) than Gibson (33) as an amateur. The Jaguars lined him up in the backfield and unlike Chris Thompson (just 24% snap count) actually gave him carries. With hindsight we should have seen this usage coming based on the comments made throughout August. Head Coach Doug Marrone commented that they kept adding to Shenault’s (“Viska”) plate and he was handling all of it. Minshew described him as a freak and while beat writers were not permitted to comment on specifics from practice there were more than a few nuggets spilled about his usage in the red zone. With a 62% snap count he was 3rd in the pecking order and based on how he performed it’s only a matter of when (not if) he passes Keelan Cole. This team gave 291 targets to Fournette, Chris Conley, and Dede Westbrook in 2019. There is a big piece of the pie there for the taking and as long as Shenault stays in one piece (there’s that if!) he’s going to take a giant hunk of it.
I was not banging the table for him leading up to Week 1 because I was skeptical that he’d be a playable option early in the season. I saw enough out of him in the Jaguars victory to correct my mistake. He is this week’s #1 waiver wire option even though that won’t be the case for most of your competitors; their blindness is your opportunity.
Flavor of the Week is: A seafood boil bag.
In the unlikely event anyone scrolls back to my Week 1 article from last season, yes, this is the same flavor I used for A.J. Brown. It’s because watching Shenault was very reminiscent of what I saw out of Brown in his debut last year. Brown was a monster on the field, just as Shenault was. There was no doubt Brown was the most imposing specimen on that offense and the same is true for Shenault. The only question now is when the usage will follow. Like Brown, I’m going to stuff all of this Shenault in a bag until he’s ready but I will be there when the actual breakout comes.