The internet is abuzz with NFL trades rumors and ideas. Among them is the potential for 2020 second-round pick Laviska Shenault Jr. to be traded.
It's reasonably understandable, at least on the surface, why Jaguars fans would want to trade Shenault and why fans of other wide receiver needy teams would be interested in the talented wide receiver.
During Viska's rookie season, he hauled in 58 of 79 targets for 600 yards with an impressive 73.4% catch rate and five scores. He showed the ability to make an impact in various ways, including rushing out of the backfield. He carried it 18 times for 91 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
But his sophomore campaign in 2021 offered little in the way of development and plenty of head-scratching mistakes. For the first time in his career, professional or college, drops became an issue for Shenault. He dropped ten passes according to PFF, but based on my own calculations, he dropped in between 12-14. Regardless, how does a guy who has dropped about 5% of his career targets suddenly develop stone hands and drop nearly 14% in a season?
Viska also seemingly struggled with the timing and spacing in the Jaguars' offense in 2021. News flash: so did everyone else.
I'm not trying to say you should give Viska a free pass for a disappointing season. I'm saying that maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge a receiver based on one season in which he had the worst head coach in NFL history and a wide receiver coach who didn't get the job done.
And let's not pretend Viska wasn't the most reliable third and fourth down target on the team.
So, Jags fans are chapped about an ugly 2021 season for Viska, while fans from around the league remember more of what they saw from him during his rookie season and in college.
Shenault could have been a first-round pick but for a core-muscle injury. His combination of size, YAC ability, athleticism, and strong hands made him one of the most exciting receivers in college football. He's a versatile offensive weapon that will likely find his way in the NFL.
Moving forward, no matter where he's playing, Viska will need to work on the issues that plagued him in 2021. But I'm inclined to believe that he still has a bright future ahead of him. Sans Urban Meyer, the Jaguars should see improvement from Laviska Shenault.
Now, don't hear what I'm not saying. Shenault should not enter the 2022 season as one of the Jaguars' top two options at receiver, not unless he earns it throughout the offseason. But to give up on him now would be far from ideal, considering what we've seen from him for most of his career. And his value will likely never be lower: I don't believe a WR needy team would offer anything more than a day three pick. Instead, Doug Pederson should attempt to recultivate Shenault's confidence and let him carve out a role this offseason. If Viska looks more like his usual self, then he could enter the season as one of the top 3-4 receivers on the team.
Who else among the Jaguars' current group of receivers, outside of Christian Kirk, offers upside? A 32-year-old Marvin Jones? Zay Jones or Laquon Treadwell? I'm a big fan of Jamal Agnew's game, but he's coming off a major injury and had never been a factor on offense until 2021.
At 23 years old, Viska offers a higher ceiling of play than just about any receiver the Jaguars currently have. Giving up on players with his talent level would signify that these are the same ole' Jaguars. Maybe they are.
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