Raiders general manager Mike Mayock wasn’t being facetious when he revealed his concern about Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow running a 4.59 at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“I did not even really care what he ran,” Mayock began, “he ran faster, and I was almost — to be honest with you — I was almost disappointed he ran in the 4.5s at the combine because I did not want any people noticing him anymore … his production on the field was outstanding. He has an innate ability to separate.”
Renfrow’s natural ability and unheralded production is what made Mayock and Oakland trade up in the fifth round to snag the Tiger wideout. On measurables alone – 5-foot-10, 184 pounds and 7 7/8” hands – Renfrow profiled as a seventh rounder or priority free agent, but a dissection of his game tape shows a snake-like wideout who slithers through defenses, strikes surprisingly fast and finds the open spots to make critical grabs.
“You’d put their offensive tape and go, ‘Why don’t people talk more about Renfrow?’” Mayock continued. “Then we saw him up close at the Senior Bowl, and when I would go to the South (team) practices I’d be like, he has an innate feel for the game as far as separation, how to get open.”
Renfrow is a prototype slot receiver that can work the middle of the field. However, he also has the skillset to test the boundaries and truly spread defenses thin. Joining a wide receiver group, which includes the scintillating Antonio Brown, the freakishly tall and fast Tyrell Williams, Renfrow is cut from a different cloth.
Renfrow is the ideal receiver in head coach Jon Gruden’s offense and one that quarterback Derek Carr will come to love. While he isn’t going to blow the top off an NFL defense, Renfrow will drive opposing defensive coordinators mad with the way he sees the field, understands the offense and provides a safety blanket for the QB in even the most intense instances of duress.
“The great quarterbacks love somebody who can win quickly when there’s pressure,” Mayock said. “I’ve talked to these guys over the years and they’ve all said the same thing — give me a quick guy that can win in the middle of the field immediately when we get pressure. I think Derek Carr is going to love this guy.”
All this with the smallest hands by any receiver in the draft.
“He’s got the smallest hands at the Combine,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said during the draft. “He’s also got the best hands of anyone in this entire draft. Look at these catches outside his frame. The acrobatic catches he’s made for this Clemson football team.”
Brown and Williams are there for the wow-splash plays while Renfrow can carve an equally significant role as chain-mover. The consistent and dependable underneath route runner who tires a defense laterally, but has enough burst to make them gasp vertically. It was the role occupied by the much speedier and taller Seth Roberts. However, the aforementioned doesn’t have the hands like the neophyte possesses. Renfrow simply makes defenses rue gameday. There are few with a chip on their shoulder as big as he carries.
“I think I’ll forever be a walk-on,” Renfrow said. “I know I’m not the biggest, I know I’m not the fastest. My whole career, that’s kind of going to be the knock on me. So, I’m looking forward to proving it wrong and just going out every day and earning it.”
While he may have only accounted for 2,133 yards and 15 touchdowns on 186 career catches in his four years at Clemson, Renfrow wasn’t asked to be the No. 1 wideout. He was asked to be the reliable pass catcher and he always came up big in the biggest moments – just look at that game-winning snag against Alabama in the 2017 National Championship Game.
Tell me you can’t see Gruden running that same play with Carr moving right and hitting Renfrow for a similar touchdown?