With the Raiders receiving corps undergoing a massive overhaul this off-season, almost every receiver Derek Carr will be throwing the ball will be new to the team in 2019. The number 1 and number 2 spots are locked in with All-Pro Antonio Brown and former Charger Tyrell Williams with a firm grip on the starting spots. The 3rd wide receiver is a much more wide open race however with 5th year veteran Ryan Grant and 5th round rookie Hunter Renfrow as favorites to land the job.
The 3rd wide receiver is essentially a starter in today’s NFL which sends more 3 wide formations than ever onto the field. Usually the 3rd pass catcher is a slot receiver but in Gruden’s offense each receiver needs to be able to play each position. This means that whoever ends up being the 3rd receiver can’t be a one dimensional player.
Ryan Grant has the edge going into training camp because he spent 4 years in a Gruden offense. There were multiple reports during Ryan Grant’s time in Washington under Jay Gruden that he was “loved” by the coaching staff for his hard work and route running.
Indeed Grant is a solid route runner who has played inside and outside in his career. He has shown the toughness on film to go over the middle and be a blocker in the run game. The problem with Ryan Grant is he has rarely been a game changer in his NFL career. Despite being healthy enough to play in 78 games he has only started 25 games in 5 seasons. After starting 10 games (career high) in Indianapolis in 2018, Grant amassed just 334 receiving yards and 1 touchdown with Pro-Bowl QB Andrew Luck leading a high powered offensive attack.
Grant’s NFL production has been underwhelming to say the least and absent a few plays in Washington in 2017, he hasn’t been a factor in many winning NFL efforts.
Hunter Renfrow will be pushing Grant for playing time, despite being a late round draft pick. Renfrow is an advanced route runner coming into the NFL from the National Champion Clemson Tigers which has churned out NFL receiver after NFL receiver in the last several years.
Renfrow was asked in an interview about being labeled a “slot receiver.” Renfrow’s response was sure to make Jon Gruden smile, saying he can play every spot and he considers himself a complete receiver. Of course Renfrow will have a steep learning curve adjusting to NFL defenders and schemes but he has shown a knack in his college career to be in the right place at the right time.
Despite not being even close to the most talented receiver at Clemson, Renfrow was still called upon to deliver big catches in big games in quite a few games leading up to the College Football National Championship including the game winner in the 2016 title game.
Other players who could push these two for snaps include the only returning receiver Marcel Ateman, speedy JJ Nelson, and perhaps even undrafted rookie Keelan Doss. The better the depth at WR, the more likely Carr will be able to take advantage of his revamped pass catchers.