The Raiders drafted Hunter Renfrow in the fifth round of this year’s NFL Draft, and the expectation has been that he will step in as the team’s slot receiver. That has become a specialized role these days that not every receiver is well-suited for, but Renfrow fits the mold to a T. Even so, the Raiders aren’t content to pigeon-hole Renfrow in that manner when he exhibited so much playmaking ability and versatility at Clemson.
“I like Renfrow because he’s productive. He plays his best football in big moments. He’s instinctive. He’s got a lot of natural qualities that are hard to find. The big thing for Hunter is, he needs to understand we are going to move WR Antonio Brown around a lot, and if we move Brown a lot that means he’s got to be able to move around and do a lot of things. Not just line up in the slot and be a slot every single down. He’s going to have to move to the right, to the left, inside, outside, go in motion, do it all; and that’s something we are going to have to find out as we move on,” said Raiders head coach Jon Gruden at the Raiders rookie minicamp on Friday, when asked about Renfrow’s potential role within the Raiders offense.
The Raiders’ embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver spot means that they can move receivers around inside and outside to exploit matchups. Antonio Brown can most certainly play the slot, and if Brown or Renfrow get lined up on a linebacker in coverage, that’s a matchup Derek Carr would surely look to take advantage of.
Renfrow also does not see himself as solely a slot receiver, but a player who can do it all as a receiver.
“Obviously, when you have great receivers, then you want to get them the ball. We have Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, so just being able to get them the ball as much as possible and me just factoring in around them. If one of them wants to come into the slot and I have to go outside, or if they go outside and I have to go into the slot. My whole thing is I’m a receiver. I’m not a slot receiver, I’m not an inside receiver, I’m just a receiver. It’s kind of like playing in the backyard, you’re just expecting to go catch the football. That’s kind of the mentality that I have,” said Renfrow.
A lot of analysts had Renfrow pegged as a potential target of the New England Patriots, because of the way coach Bill Belichick has traditionally been able to utilize smaller slot receivers effectively, such as Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. Renfrow certainly fits that mold, and he will make sure defenses cannot key in on the Raiders’ outside receivers without having to worry about Renfrow underneath. If Brown lines up in the slot, defenses will have to respect Renfrow deep. It’s just one more thing for opposing defensive coordinators to lose sleep over and one more way for the Raiders to outmaneuver defensive secondaries. The Raiders’ WR corps was already one of the league’s best on paper, but with an effective Renfrow it can be absolutely lethal.