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Shenault: "That's how I live my life, being tough…"

Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (2) in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (2) in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

JACKSONVILLE – He's big, versatile and productive.

He also plays as big as his build with a heavy dose of aggression – and the Jaguars' newest wide receiver unquestionably takes pride in those characteristics.

"That's how I live my life, being tough – and I take it to the field," Laviska Shenault Jr. said. "Anytime you see me, you'll see me being tough."

The Jaguars on Friday selected Shenault Jr., a wide receiver from the University of Colorado, with the No. 42 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft – and the on-field attitude was part of an overall package that the Jaguars believe will allow him to play a productive, immediate role in new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's offense.

"He's very athletic and he can run really well – especially for his size," Jaguars Director of College Scouting Mark Ellenz said shortly after the selection. "He' strong. He shows a lot of ability in RAC (run after catch) – not only speed but with strength and he's a highly competitive kid.

"If you see him in person, he looks like a linebacker."

Shenault (6-feet-1, 227 pounds), who forewent his senior season to declare for the draft, caught 149 passes for 1,943 yards in three seasons at Colorado. He played in 32 career games.

He caught 56 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in an injury-shortened season this past fall after catching 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018.

"His statistics were down a little bit, but off of last year (2018) he probably would have been considered a Top-10 pick," Ellenz said.

Shenault also was hurt in the predraft process by a difficult performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash there, which may have hurt his draft stock. He said during a videoconference with Jacksonville media Friday that he ran while rehabilitating and needing core surgery – and that his real 40 time is between 4.39 and 4.44.

Jaguars wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell spoke to shortly after the selection, saying "We got better in our room today" and lauding Shenault's combination of toughness, talent and confidence – and playmaking ability. Shenault had more broken tackles – 44 – the past two seasons than any other player in the draft according to Pro Football Focus.

"When he got the ball in his hands, it took the whole team to bring him down," McCardell said. "I was amazed at how many people it took to bring him down. He's very seldom tackled by one player. He has an ability to break tackles any time he gets the ball in his hands."

McCardell called Shenault a "Swiss Army knife."

"They had him everywhere," McCardell said. "I saw him in the backfield. I saw him at quarterback. I saw him at outside receiver. I saw him at slot receiver. I like the fact that he's been moved around and he has really good football IQ."

Ellenz said that versatility factored into the Jaguars' evaluation, partly because of the potential to fit into Gruden's offense. Shenault scored six rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, and Ellenz said he can be effective as a runner on jet sweeps and reverses at the NFL level.

"That's how we see him," Ellenz said. "You can use him in different alignments to try to get some mismatches on safeties and linebackers. … It's something Coach Gruden, with our discussions with the coaching staff, was talking about.

"He kind of fit the mold of some of the things they want to do offensively."

And make no mistake:

The Jaguars' newest wide receiver doesn't lack confidence. He talked in a Players Tribune article of being a combination of elite receivers such as Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald and Jarvis Landry.

"He has big expectations of himself, which I love," McCardell said. "I always say, 'Bet on yourself.' I think he's betting on himself. He's got a lot to prove. He was a little disappointed with how he did at the [NFL Scouting] Combine [in February]. It kind of knocked him down, but knocked him down to the right situation, I think. He fell right to a great team. He's here to help us. This kid has that type of potential.

"It's going to be an awakening for him but I think he's going to hit the ground running. One thing you can't knock is his physical presence when he's out on the field. I love the confidence. At that position, you have to have great confidence."

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