Jacksonville Jaguars fans are generally excited about what rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. brings to the table on offense. One area in which the second-round pick especially excels, at least while he was in college at Colorado, is running curl routes.
Seth Walder, analytics writer for ESPN, recently examined each of the 16 rookie wide receivers taken in the first three rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft (ESPN+ access required). Walder looked at each prospect’s “best, most productive routes over the past two seasons in college and how those routes fit into their new units.” He determined this by yards per route relative to other receivers in the 2020 draft class and other college football players during that span, while also considering how often the receiver ran that particular route.
Here is what Walder had to say on Shenault’s curl routes. Disclaimer: There is a lot of praise here for Shenault, but not such kind words for starting quarterback Gardner Minshew:
What stands out about Shenault’s numbers on the curl route is the efficiency. He caught 34 of 38 curl route targets that he received over the past two seasons, including all 17 that came against zone coverage. That’s what led him to 4.9 yards per curl route run in that same span, tops among all qualifiers. Part of the value of the curl is getting Shenault the ball in a spot where he can use his physicality as a runner to extend the play.
While Jacksonville’s offense didn’t specifically run an abnormal amount of curls last season, Gardner Minshew II’s air yards per target is below average, so Shenault’s best route ought to be in the second-year QB’s comfort zone. Unfortunately, Minshew’s completion percentage over expectation is poor overall and even worse on passes under 10 yards, so Shenault is hardly stepping into an ideal situation.
Shenault caught nearly 90 percent of his curl route targets over the past two seasons, and was especially lethal against zone coverage. It will be interesting to see exactly how new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden uses Shenault and his versatility as both a receiver and runner, but based on this data, calling Shenault’s number on a few curl routes per game seems like a safe bet.
If you need a refresher on Shenault’s skillset, you can see what he can do on curl routes and much more in the video below:
Other notable rookie receivers and their best routes, according to Walder: