Laviska Shenault Jr. is Ready to Erupt
The saying “Opportunity is king” is one of the age-old adages for all fantasy discussions. It’s an inevitable summary when looking for value. When you’re looking at the wide receiver position, that opportunity is usually assessed by the number of targets a player is receiving. Rarely do we get a wideout who is versatile enough to be taken seriously as a threat out of the backfield as well. But in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Jaguars took just the player to fill that role. His name is Laviska Shenault Jr. The rookie is seemingly making one splash play after another to start the season and coming off a career-best game. It’s time for season-long fantasy managers to take him as seriously as the dynasty guys who have been hyping him all offseason.
A product out of Colorado, Shenault truly broke out early as a sophomore putting together an 86/1,011/6 line as a receiver while rushing for 115 yards with an additional five rushing TDs. He led the PAC-12 in receptions that year. He could have had more prolific numbers in college had he not suffered from some poor QB play, injuries, and if the Buffaloes could have offered something else on offense aside from Viska.
Shenault is the type of player you’re going to get a lot more out of by watching his film rather than analyzing his workout measurements. He ran a slow 40 at the combine (4.58 seconds), but anyone that has seen him play wouldn’t worry much about that. He still can kick it into gear at the second level, and with above-average size at 220 lbs, he is a chore to take down. He’s one of the most physical wideouts we have seen in recent years but offers the same versatility as a prime Steve Smith or Percy Harvin type of player.
State of the Offense
Despite looking like they were headed for a full-blown rebuild, the Jags offense has been able to operate at about league average thus far in most categories. They’re top-10 in passing attempts and yards so far this season, which bodes well for their receivers to see some volume with their rushing attempts ranking bottom-five. So we have a healthy, pass-friendly offensive system here. Shenault is tied for second on the team with 20 targets so far, and his nine rushing attempts are third on the team behind James Robinson and Gardner Minshew. Shenault doesn’t see a full complement of snaps just yet considering his 61% snap share, but he has seen at least four targets and one rushing attempt in every game.
The Jags are still trying to establish a hierarchy in the receiving corps. We know D.J. Chark is the top dog here, but the question remains who will operate as the predominant WR2? Keelan Cole has threatened a resurgence early in the season, while Chris Conley has also risen to the occasion both last season and early this season. If I had to pick one player out of this bunch, though, it would be Shenault by a landslide.
The versatility and toughness Shenault brings is unique. The team had talked about finding creative ways to get him involved since day one, and they have done just that. He saw five carries out of the backfield in Week 2 and has seen six targets in each of the last two weeks. Getting a player with this much touch diversification is rare at the WR position, and I have a good feeling his snap share, and touch totals will continue to grow as his on-field impact becomes more and more realized each week.
Shenault is owned in just 26% of fantasy leagues entering Week 5, but he currently ranks as the WR33 in PPR leagues. That’s every-week Flex value just sitting on the wire, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of his big play ability. He could be in line for a big game in Week 5 against Detroit, who currently allows the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs according to our matchup calendar. Considering that Shenault hasn’t completely broken out yet, you can still probably get him at a value with your FAAB budget, which would be reasonable somewhere in the 20% range.
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