Raiders Notes, Hunter Renfrow

Raiders WR Hunter Renfrow: Your ’23 AP Comeback Player of the Year?

Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow did not have his best season in 2022, hitting career-lows in multiple categories. The fourth-year receiver, coming off a sizeable contract extension thanks to Las Vegas Raiders general manager Dave Ziegler, suffered some injuries. Additionally, Renfrow made some mistakes that even the most casual football fans would recognize.

It’s amazing how things can change over the course of a year, right?

It was not long ago that Renfrow was the unsung hero of the Raiders. Despite last year’s debacle, not all is lost. There’s plenty of hope and statistical evidence that Renfrow could have a phenomenal 2023 season. It could be so phenomenal, in fact, that he could be a dark horse candidate for the AP Comeback Player of the Year Award.

What went up, came down for Hunter Renfrow and the Raiders…

The 2022 NFL season under new head coach Josh McDaniels started on the wrong foot for Renfrow. During the Week 2 contest against the Arizona Cardinals, he fumbled twice, both times being in the overtime period. One of those fumbles was returned for a touchdown to seal the Cardinals’ win.

Renfrow sustained a concussion during that play and landed on the injured reserve list. The injuries did not stop there; he later suffered an oblique injury. The ‘21 Pro Bowl receiver would finish the season playing in only ten games, with one start. Renfrow’s lack of availability would end his season with career-lows in receptions (36), targets (50), receiving yards (330), and average yards per reception (9.2). The only statistical category where Hunter achieved a career-high number was fumbles, with three total. In previous seasons, he never had more than one.

A combination of injuries, lack of availability, and ball security doomed his 2022 season.

Stepping up to the plate…

Prior to the 2022 campaign, however, Renfrow was in a different situation entirely.

The Raiders were 3-2 to start the 2021 season until head coach Jon Gruden resigned. They stood at 5-2 heading into Week 8 until wide receiver Henry Ruggs III was released. The Raiders were in a strong position, but a receiver needed to step up and fill the void. Renfrow rose to the occasion and stepped in as the Raiders’ number one option.

Renfrow had never amassed more than triple-digit receiving yards with the Raiders. He delivered an epic performance, boosting Las Vegas to a season record of 10-7. The Raiders also earned a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. This achievement was partly due to Renfrow’s 1,038 receiving yards and career-high nine touchdowns. It was obvious that the Silver and Black had themselves an up-and-coming star in No. 13. In fact, the Clemson alum’s creative route-running and innate ability to get open caught the attention of the rest of the NFL.

Looking back, you can see why the Raiders’ new incoming regime made sure to keep Renfrow around with his contract extension.

Is there a case for Hunter Renfrow as a “comeback” candidate?

Las Vegas’ receiver dubbed ‘Slot Machine’ was injured and somewhat unavailable in 2022. He also made several mistakes that drew the unwanted attention of his coaches, fans, and teammates. Those two statements can be true, but they do not change several others.

Renfrow is still an elite route runner and one of the best slot receivers in the NFL—a bona fide playmaker. He may not have made the best first impression last season, but he has a new quarterback that can help create a new appearance. Jimmy Garoppolo is not the deep ball king of NFL quarterbacks, but he excels in short, intermediate passing. Who better for “Jimmy G” to throw to than Hunter?

The former Clemson Tiger could theoretically see a career-high in targets with Garoppolo seeking open receivers in the middle of the field and the flat within his accuracy range. In training camp, reports indicate that Renfrow is getting a significant amount of attention from his quarterbacks. Renfrow is reportedly “flourishing” and having fun at the same time.

It would not be inconceivable to see Renfrow thrive in McDaniels’ system with Garoppolo under center. A couple of things would need to happen for him to realistically be in the running for AP Comeback Player of the Year: he’d need to stay healthy and at least match his 2021 output. Neither is beyond the realm of possibility.

Perhaps this is the year we see “Third and Renfrow” make an epic return to grace.

*Top Photo: NBC Sports Bay Area

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