When ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit thinks about a healthy Laviska Shenault, one of the first things that comes to mind is the former Colorado Buffaloes receiver's start to the 2018 season.
Over a six-game span, Shenault burst onto the national scene with 780 receiving yards, 87 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns, which made him a hot NFL prospect as he entered his junior season.
"Boy, that guy," Herbstreit said during a conference call on Monday. "Remember two years ago, the whole college football community was talking about him after the first five or six weeks of the season."
As Shenault prepares for his jump to the NFL, though, his injury history has raised questions during the months leading up to the draft. He had offseason surgeries on his shoulder and toe following his sophomore campaign, and after the Combine, he had core-muscle surgery.
However, on Monday morning, he told ESPN reporter Josina Anderson that he’s 100 percent healthy just five weeks into a timeline that estimated a six-to-eight-week recovery period. The doctor who performed Shenault's surgery also reportedly sent a letter to every team detailing Shenault's progress.
"I know because of injuries he kind of leveled off," Herbstreit said, "but if he's a healthy I see a big upside there with Shenault."
What makes Shenault, who had been projected by many as a first-round pick during his junior season, such a tantalizing talent is his play-making ability that stems from his speed and strength.
"I think what stands out to me about him is he's much faster than I think people realize," Herbstreit said. "He can create. … Because of his physicality, he's a tough matchup for a lot of defensive backs. And then when you throw on his ability to win with his speed — he's got a lot of YAC, yards after the catch, ability."
Though Shenault's injury concerns may be too great for him to be drafted in the first round, Herbstreit said he could sleeper option for teams Day 2 of the draft.
The Broncos could be one possible landing spot for Shenault, considering wide receiver appears to be one of their larger needs heading into the draft. If they wait to draft one in the second round with the 46th-overall pick, Shenault should be one of the best prospects available.
"... In a year where there's a ton of receivers, he's a guy that's got to be — if he is healthy — has got to be someone NFL people that are sitting there [are] thinking about: 'There's a guy that we can get and maybe we can get him in that second round, a lot of people aren't necessarily thinking about him.' I think a lot of that comes down to their one-on-one interviews with him, how he did when he was able to work out for the NFL and if he is, in fact, 100 percent healthy."
If that's the case, the Shenault that fans saw stun the college football world early in 2018 could be doing the same thing in the NFL this fall.