Ask ITB: Is Shenault Worth a Shot in the First Round?
Updated: Apr 15
(Former University of Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault has first-round talent but recently underwent core muscle surgery and has an injury history).
Question from InsideTheBirds.com: Love the pod and the new site guys. Do you think the Eagles will be in or out on Laviska Shenault? I love the talent (unfair expectations but reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald), but I think his injury history may scare the Eagles off.
Adam Caplan: His spot in the draft is going to be fascinating.
Without the injury issues, I feel strongly from talking to coaches and personnel execs that he would go in the first round (I did say on Twitter a lock first rounder without the injury concerns).
In reality: no matter what anyone thinks, no one is given the answers before the draft (meaning it's not a certainty of where he'll go), so we can't discount the possibility of him going in the first. But due to the injury concerns and the fact teams can't work players out, a team would have to feel pretty secure in their jobs to take a risk on him. I could see him going late in the first with a team that doesn't feel the pressure to play him right away.
With that being the case, Shenault is the most unique WR for this draft. I asked NFL Films Greg Cosell about Shenault last week about him and he mentioned that he had "Terrell Owens" type of traits. Cosell rarely goes out of his comfort zone on a player (meaning he doesn't get overly excited), but I was blown away by what he told me on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio recently.
And I knew what he meant. Coaches I've spoken so far are fascinated with him and what he has the potential to do at the next level. He could be an "X" WR who can also be moved all around the formation. I really hope he stays healthy at the next level because he has a chance to be special.
When it comes to the Eagles and this player, based on what we've been hearing, it's unlikely they're going to take a shot on players with injury concerns in the first round simply because of their situation currently at the position. As of now, DeSean Jackson will start at one spot, Greg Ward would be their slot WR, and the other outside spot is open. Jackson, who turns 34 in December, missed almost all of last season. And let's not forget Alshon Jeffery is coming back from a significant injury and when he'll be available to play this season is still uncertain. But if they did draft Shenault, I would trust HC Doug Pederson would use him in the right way. Pederson is one of the better player callers in the NFL. We'll look into him more for the Eagles as we get closer to the draft.
I'd love to see the Saints (Sean Payton), 49ers (Kyle Shanahan), Eagles (Pederson), or Chiefs (Andy Reid) draft him, as those guys are some of the most creative play callers in the NFL. He's going to be interesting to watch for the first 2-3 years of his career.
Question from InsideTheBirds.com:Thoughts on (Jaguars WR) Chris Conley as a trade target. Still young, starting experience, JAX is selling and only has one year left on his deal.
Adam Caplan: The Jaguars exercised his 2020 option, so he's under contract for this season. If they didn't want him, they would have declined his option. They can still cut him, but they would owe him $1m based on a guarantee in his contract.
I asked about him and here's what I have: Conley is seen by NFL coaches as a decent backup WR, will block for the run game, decent RAC. #3 WR for them, best as #4 if you have a very deep WR group. Again, as we said during our NFL combine show, Eagles were staying out of the veteran WR group for now. He's also will earn $2.77m this season if he plays in all 16 games.
But I understand the questions about Eagles need to add 1-2 veterans at some point and we agree with those who say based on the current conditions we're all dealing with that it would make sense for the Eagles to add veterans that could come in and contribute right away.
Question from InsideTheBirds.com: What do you guys think about using Greg Ward as our own (Eagles) Taysom Hill type of role. Meaning line him up primarily at WR but give him occasional snaps at QB (played in college) to throw off defenses?
Adam Caplan: Interesting question, but let's keep in mind Hill is way bigger physically than Ward. But I get what you're thinking in terms of a hybrid role.
I actually thought of this when he didn't get drafted. Maybe he could play a few positions, QB, slot WR (which he is now). I wonder if we didn't have the shortened offseason that maybe the coaches would try to expand his role. I wouldn't count out them doing something with him as you suggested in future.
We'll keep an eye on this during training camp (whenever it opens). Good thoughts.
Question from InsideTheBirds.com: Is there anyone we are sleeping on that the staff is expecting to make an impact this year? I.e. where does Genard Avery sit with the coaching staff?
Adam Caplan: Well, this may sound kind of funny (work with me here), Jordan Mailata. He has a shot to be the top backup OT, which is actually a very important role.
He certainly needs the practice reps and it's a shame that he won't get them due to the current conditions that we're all dealing with, but in my 21 years of covering the NFL, I've never seen a player like this.
The guy basically never played football in his life (rugby doesn't count), and has made mostly a seamless transition to learning how to play OT. Really an amazing story, but he has yet to play in a regular season game, so the Eagles would have to take a leap of faith on him if he does wind up handing that top backup role.
This off-season was supposed to be the time to develop Avery (was a priority for the coaches), but without the time on the field in the coming weeks, it's going to be hard as we have no idea when players will be able to practice.
Question from InsideTheBirds.com: I noticed during the Combine that (Eagles WRs coach Aaron) Moorehead was running WR drills, as a 1st yr. coach how did he get that spot and do you see any added value for the Eagles with him having first hand on field work with the rookies?
Adam Caplan: I didn't notice that, but I'll take your word for it.
From what coaches tell me: You can see effort and body language, especially when they aren't on camera.
Any time you can get in front of a player (senior bowl, combine, pro day, pre-draft visit, skype/zoom interview), it's a good thing as long as you understand what it really means. Just don't overvalue it.
BTW, heard really good things about Moorehead from coaches who have worked with him in the past: good command, presence, good teacher. He's the Eagles 6th WRs coach in the last 6 years (Bob Bicknell-2015, 2016-Greg Lewis, 2017-Mike Groh, 2018-Gunter Brewer, 2019-Carson Walch, 2020-Moorehead.
Quick story: There was a first-round projected player that was going to play against Temple years ago in Philly, so I talked to a few personnel execs about the player (QB) and they told me to watch him warm up before the game and how the player wasn't engaged with his teammates.
I did see what they were saying and it was part of the reason why this QB failed (had trouble processing information among a variety of issues).