In what was a wild Wednesday in Chiefs Kingdom that saw the trade of one of the greatest Chiefs of all time to Miami, Brett Veach and the front office are getting to work on reloading at the WR position.
Charles Robinson @CRob5769
Lead Writer – Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus
I don’t know that anyone, including myself, has fully processed what went down yesterday.
Tyreek Hill is now a Miami Dolphin, and the Chiefs have a boat load of draft picks and cap space to try to fill the void left by the most dangerous offensive weapon in the NFL. One player won’t replace Hill on the Chiefs offense, but there are several names being thrown around that could potentially help the KC offensive reload.
Some of the names floated out there early yesterday were familiar in a lot of circles in Chiefs Kingdom. There were questions as to what Seattle would take for DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, or both. They seem to be in a rebuild, so why not kick the tires a little? There were rumblings that the Chiefs would reach out to Minnesota to inquire about the availability (at the right price) of Justin Jefferson. There were even claims that the team had been in contact with the San Francisco 49ers engaging them in talks about all-world everything man Deebo Samuel. How much validity there is to the latter two encounters is undetermined – typically when these types of things happen, every has a “source”, and people tend to throw out scenarios that they’d like to see happen rather than zero in on what’s realistic.
Last night, Nate Taylor published an interesting read in the Athletic. If you haven’t seen it, check my twitter timeline from last night – I made sure to retweet it because 1) I respect Nate’s work, and 2) it shined some light into not only what broke down between Tyreek and the Chiefs, but where they intend to go from here – specifically one potentially exciting young trade target, Jacksonville’s Laviska Shenault, Jr.
I understand some of you reading this will dismiss this notion immediately because it’s not Deandre Hopkins, DK Metcalf, Justin Jefferson, or any of the previously dubbed best wide receivers in the NFL. I get it, we want to replace Tyreek Hill with someone who can move the needle for the offense similarly to what Hill did for 6 years. We have to face the reality as a fan base that the odds of that happening might not be in our favor. So why am I bullish on Shenault Jr?
Well, if you look at his numbers from his first two years in the league, you won’t be blown away. 121 catches, 1,219 yards, and 5 touchdowns (all in 2021) in two seasons with Jacksonville. I would encourage you to think about the situation he has been in with the Jags, though. One season with a rookie Trevor Lawrence and mostly under the train wreck guidance of Urban Meyer, and a rookie season for Shenault with Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton, and Mike Glennon under center. To even muster 121 catches in two seasons with that battery of signal callers getting you the rock is impressive, especially when you consider Shenault’s average reception yardage (2020 – 10.3 yards; 2021 – 9.8 yards) nearly doubled the team’s average yards per attempt (2020 – 5.6 YPA; 2021 – 5.4 YPA). Shenault has been a playmaker in an offense that has been nearly incapable of making plays for various reasons.
Viska’s combine numbers won’t blow you out of the water either. He only posted a 4.58 40 yard dash time, and got 17 reps on the bench press – the only two drills he completed in the 2020 NFL combine (which was held virtually). But here are some of the strengths listed by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein :
- Played all three wide receiver spots at Colorado
- Mixes speed with squat-rack strength after the catch
- Superb combination of size, strength and speed
- Forward lean and early burst into routes
- Eats into cushions faster than cornerbacks expect
- Sudden hands to stab high fastballs on first two levels
- Silky smooth deep-ball tracker with second gear to run under it
- Graceful body adjustments in mid-air for 50/50 balls
- Excellent quickness to gather and squared to QB
- Carves out last-second catch space with instincts and positioning of a rebounder
- Big frame and elite hand strength are made for combat catches
- Effective direct-snap option with power of a big running back
- Versatility could force defenses to spend additional practice time on him
In evaluating Shenault leading into the 2020 draft, The Draft Network highlight the below areas of his game while at the University of Colorado :
- Hands – Flashes the hands late and does a nice job plucking the football, although late flash of the hands can create some chaos and consistency issues at the catch point. Hand strength is tremendous, and he’ll wrestle balls away from DBs with little issue.
- Contested Catch Ability – Explosive skill set allows him to reach and extend for balls most receivers wouldn’t dream of contesting. He’s beaten defensive backs at the catch point on deep targets on many occasions, he’s used to working for favorable position underneath the ball.
- RAC Ability – Rumbles through arm tackles with little issue and can simultaneously hit a head fake and peel back against the grain to break pursuit angles. Will be a monster in a WCO given his ability to make the first man miss before transitioning to speed.
- Football IQ – Can’t tell you how many times he’s seen telling teammates where to line up or who is on/off the LOS. He seems to have a firm grasp on the entire offense. Was prepackaged some specialty plays to manufacture touches but route running in ’19 eases concern it’s necessary in NFL.
- Vertical Receiving Skills – Explosive speed and absolutely zero need to build momentum. He can get pinned into the boundary on occasion and get walled off from stacking vertically. Protects from recovery speed with his burst and staying directly over top of defenders once he’s overhead.
- Change of Direction Ability – His short area twitch, hip mobility and suddenness to hit stop routes, curls or dig/out patterns is unparalleled at this size. He’s actually capable of accelerating through hard angled breaks. Lateral quickness at the LOS is present to force missed punches.
- Speed – Play off coverage at your own risk — he’s blown past defenders playing soft man or even deep third and he’s still gotten half a step vertically. He’s a terror in the open field because he pairs initial burst and quickness to an imposing frame. Quick twitch for days.
- Competitive Toughness – All around effort. Constant hand fighting/battling as a blocker, press of the the line of scrimmage has never waned and he’s a team leader despite being grossly underutilized at the college level: almost seemed to make him more urgent during his touches to make the most of it.
- Blocking Ability – Physical, dense frame and if he gets his hands set against press coverage, he’s going to escort you out of the club. His consistency setting the hook vs. off coverage isn’t quite as regular, but his effort and recovery quickness put him in position to disrupt flow.
- Body Type/Strength: Thick, chiseled, and stoutly built structure that contains plenty of armor in order to fend off defenders during route stems, at the catch point, and the after-the-catch process. First exposure to contact hardly ever effects him and he instantly turns into a running back who doesn’t shy away from contact. His field vision and avoidance are high qualities that enable plenty of YAC (yards after the catch) opportunities. If fully surrounded with nowhere to go, he’s not afraid to bury his head into the crowd to grind out extra yardage.
- Versatility: Outside of offensive line, there wasn’t a position that he didn’t play within the Colorado offense. Treated as if he was an H-Back, he also played out-wide, on the hip of the offensive tackle, running back and even experienced carries as a Wildcat quarterback. His best contributions came when he was treated primarily as a wide receiver. That type of prior experience from multiple spots though will provide an offensive coordinator with a true multifaceted option to utilize from many spots and alignments within their scheme.
These are just a few of the bullet points that 4 of the scouts from TDN listed, I linked the profile above so you can check it out. I understand that with two years of experience in the NFL that scouting profiles aren’t something we should look at as the holy grail, but they’re a good indicator of the type of player Shenault is in an environment in which he can excel.
There are also a couple of factors tying him to the Chiefs. The first, and most obvious, is his alma mater. As a former University of Colorado Buffalo, he shares an alma mater and a place in the Pantheon of offensive players at the institution with Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy. Bienemy is still close to the program, so one would have to expect he’s had an eye on Shenault and an idea of how he would incorporate him in the Chiefs offensive scheme if given a chance for quite some time. During his time at Colorado, Shenault was utilized in numerous facets of the Buffs offense and rushed the ball a ton from both jet sweep and wild cat looks. He is a tough, durable runner with explosiveness in his lower body and game speed that a 40 yard dash number doesn’t do justice for.
One of the cooler, and most heartbreaking, stories I’ve heard about LVJ in the past 24 hours is the story behind his dreadlocks. He hasn’t cut them in years, and will not. So if you have a problem with long hair, he might not be your guy – also chill out, it’s 2022. But he’s hanging on to it for a good reason. When Laviska was 10 years old, he and his parents were coming home from a pool party near DeSoto, TX – the Dallas suburb where he grew up. During the drive home, his mom pulled over to let his dad take the wheel and finish the trip back to the house. That did not go according to plan. While they were pulled over and switching drivers, Shenault’s father was hit by another vehicle and killed instantly. The dreads remain uncut, and will remain uncut, to honor the memory of his late father, with whom he shared a name.
What does that have to do with Laviska Shenault Jr. coming to Kansas City? Laviska Shenault, Sr. was a huge Miami Dolphins fan. His son took after his father and rooted for the team in his childhood as well. This isn’t some Rick Reilly “this is fate” higher power destination spin on a potential personnel move in the NFL. But it could be that Tyreek Hill being traded to the Miami Dolphins is the domino that falls to bring Laviska Shenault, Jr to Kansas City to honor his father’s memory with his dreads, with his play on the field, and to unlock his full potential as a NFL wide receiver in an offense with Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Juju Smith-Schuster that’s called by the greatest player in the history of his alma mater.
Plus, all the team would have to do is take the “Hill” nameplate off of the number 10 jersey and replace it with “Shenault Jr.”. While it will be an adjustment, it would still provide a sort of comfort seeing the 15 to 10 connection live on with a new weapon for Mahomes.
It just so happens his skill set might be a perfect schematic fit that dulls the sting of losing the guy whose most famous play was Jet Chip Wasp.