While the Las Vegas Raiders 2020 offensive rookies capture the headlines, Hunter Renfrow is due for a favorable sophomore campaign. Sin City’s inaugural season should feature a high dosage of the former Clemson Tigers wide receiver.
In the 2019 NFL draft, the Raiders traded up in the fifth round to acquire one of the most clutch wide receivers in NCAA football history.
Championship Moments #3
Deshaun Watson & Hunter Renfrow
Watson tosses a TD pass to star receiver Renfrow to beat Alabama in the 2017 title game. pic.twitter.com/QFfth7iC5D
— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) August 1, 2019
Most late-round draft picks are not viewed as focal points of gameplans in their rookie seasons. Like Clemson, the Raiders leaned on Renfrow when times seemed dire last season. His clutch component made a seamless transition to the NFL level, and Las Vegas should be quite pleased with the outcome.
Hunter Renfrow coming in CLUTCH yet again! The former @SHSBravesSports hauled in the game-winner tonight in a 31-24 win for the @Raiders. He led the team in receptions w/ 6 for 54 yards and his second score on the season pic.twitter.com/JDIqqbFdlW
— Kacy Hintz (@KacyHintz) November 4, 2019
Not only did he come through with crucial late game catches, the South Carolina native was one of the league’s most explosive players on third down as well.
Players with multiple 50-yard receiving TDs on third down in 2019:
— Raiders PR (@RAIDERS_PR) December 23, 2019
As he enters his second season in Jon Gruden’s offense, signs point toward an big increase of production in 2020.
First Down Slot Machine
Per Pro Football Focus, Renfrow played 71% of his offensive snaps from the slot receiver position in 2019. Of his 206 total snaps from the slot, the second-year player managed to nab 33 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, he consistently moved the chains on the most vital down in all of football.
Been looking into Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow's third-down numbers over his 12 games played this year and, as you'd expect, they're pretty good. @renfrowhunter has 21 catches for 301 yards, 3 touchdowns and 16 first downs on 30 third-down targets.
— Scott Bair (@BairNBCS) December 27, 2019
As the Raiders have added more playmakers at the outside receiver positions, the former fifth round pick will presumably have more space to maneuver in the middle of the field.
Lowest percentage of routes run beyond the sticks in 2019
Hunter Renfrow pic.twitter.com/Qlm7yrYks9
— PFF (@PFF) May 10, 2020
Despite his lack of vertical routes, it is clear that he is a steadfast option on cross, drag, and slant routes from his natural slot position. It is up to Jon head coach Gruden and quarterback Derek Carr to shift opposing defender’s focus to the outside. Otherwise, the team will see defender’s cheating on third down routes like the play below.
— BENGALS TALK (@BengalsTalk) November 19, 2019
Reluctantly, Las Vegas have three receivers that will keep opposing defense’s honest.
The New Outside Wide Receiver Trio
The Raiders selected Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III with their 12th overall selection in last month’s draft. While pundits may question the pick, Ruggs’ ability as an outside vertical threat proved to be beneficial for his teammates that operated between the hashes.
In honor of Irv Smith Jr. getting drafted
“Irv looking like the best receiver in Alabama history and he a tight end!!!!” pic.twitter.com/nJBHCYIlEd
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) April 27, 2019
In the play above above, there are two defenders that have the presence of mind of where Henry is located on the field. The safety has coverage over the top while the cornerback is playing shallow/underneath. This vacates the middle of the field for the tight end to make a clean catch and then make an impressive touchdown run after the catch. Renfrow frequently operates between the hashmarks as seen in the play below.
— Kris Wysong (@KrisWysong) September 10, 2019
While Renfrow will benefit from Ruggs’ speed, a physical rookie outside receiver will pose as another threat.
SoCar WR Bryan Edwards is lost a bit among a loaded class at the position. Here he runs a nice comeback route, snatches the ball and runs through a tackle attempt. His catch radius is another big plus. #SnapScout pic.twitter.com/aw6pwZa1NC
— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) February 11, 2020
The Silver and Black utilized one of their third round selections on Bryan Edwards. The South Carolina product will likely take the defense’s attention away from Renfrow in the slot as a physically imposing player on the boundaries. Carr’s favor for big bodied wide-outs also bodes well for the career trajectory of the former Gamecocks receiver.
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) October 5, 2017
Last but not least, a healthy Tyrell Williams should be a difference maker opposing defensive back’s will account for.
Tyrell Williams, 6 rec, 105yds, 17.5 avg, 1 TD pic.twitter.com/BTw4mLVS7D
— Gipsy's Alt Account (@SGafety) September 14, 2019
There is a good chance Renfrow becomes one of the NFL’s premier slot receivers in 2020 with proper game planning.
For a late round draft pick, the Raiders have found incredible value in Hunter Renfrow. His ability to contribute immediately as a rookie is only the beginning of a promising career with the Raiders. For someone of smaller stature, his impact with the team moving forward has potential to be colossal. His football I.Q. and fond connection with Derek Carr should ultimately lead to a substantial jump in production in his sophomore season.
The Silver and Black have a phenomenal talent at the slot receiver position, 2020 is the year to maximize his skillset.
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Top Photo: Heidi Fang / The Las Vegas Review-Journal