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Raiders training camp primer: Who ascends to the No. 2 wide receiver role?

Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow are the early favorites

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders Press Conference
With his precise route running and soft hands, Jakobi Meyers has a chance to become the Las Vegas Raiders No. 2 wide receiver. But expect him to face serious competition from incumbent Hunter Renfrow.
Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

First came the additions of Jakobi Meyers and Phillip Dorsett at the onset of free agency in mid-March. Then the re-signing of Keelan Cole Sr. and adding DeAndre Carter at the tail end of that month. The drafting of Tre Tucker and signing of Kristian Wilkerson a month later closed it out.

That’s how the Las Vegas Raiders loaded up at the wide receiver position this offseason. Four free agents inked, one re-signed, and another drafted. That brings the Silver & Black wide receiver room count to 11 — just one less than the cornerback room that boasts a dozen players. Both position groups represent the most at one spot on the Raiders roster.

Granted, both the wide receiver and cornerback rooms have different designation — such as perimeter/boundary and nickel/slot — but one can properly surmise the numbers will dwindle (if not severely) at both position groups as the Raiders embark on training camp this month.

Even with bloated numbers, however, there beckons a question at wideout: Who ascends to the No. 2 role this coming season? There’s are two clear-cut favorites to be the second wideout behind elite No. 1 Davante Adams. Let’s take a look:

The contenders

Hunter Renfrow: On cap number alone — $13.126 million this coming season — the Raiders’ slot machine is being compensated like a bona fide top wide receiver. The salary is the fifth-highest cap digit just behind Adams ($14.74 million) and defensive end Chandler Jones ($14.244 million). Perhaps its a Renfrow rebound in 2022? After a breakout 103-catch, 1,038-yard, nine-touchdown 2021 campaign, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound receiver only played in 10 games this past season putting up a paltry 330 yards and two touchdowns on 36 catches. A target hog in 2021 (128), injuries relegated Renfrow to 50 targets in 2022. But with a clean bill of health and presumed starter Jimmy Garoppolo in tow, Renfrow has the opportunity to become a target-heavy option due to his precise route-running and ability to get open and find the holes in the defense, squat, and make himself a reliable target.

Arizona Cardinals v Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders are banking on wide receiver Hunter Renfrow having a rebound 2023 campaign.
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

Jakobi Meyers: A New England Patriots transplant — one of many now wearing Silver & Black — Meyers wasn’t a need but more weaponry isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Able to line up and execute from the slot or outside — like Renfrow — Meyers too is a crips route runner who has soft hands. Bigger at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Meyers has the tools to handle physical boundary and nickel corners and is accustomed to volume targets. He’s coming off a 2022 campaign that saw him snare 67 passes for 804 yards and six touchdowns on 96 targets. Meyers can challenge and high point passes and what will likely separate him and Renfrow is availability. He had three-year run of productive play in Foxboro before landing in the desert. But perhaps Raiders fans will remember Meyers more for his ill-fated lateral to New England quarterback Mac Jones that was instead housed by Jones instead in the wild finish to the Patriots-Raiders matchup.

The maybes

DeAndre Carter: Earning a career-high offensive snaps in 2022 due to injuries decimating the Los Angeles Chargers receiving corps, this journeyman seven-year veteran was productive hauling in 46 passes for 538 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, he smoked the Raiders for 64 yards and a score on three catches in the Bolts’ Week 1 24-19 win last year. But after Los Angeles receivers got healthy, his participation on offense waned. His skillset is awfully similar to both Renfrow and Meyers and the 5-foot-8, 188-pound 30 year old seems destined to compete for return man duties than offensive snaps.

Phillip Dorsett: Another veteran journeyman type, what gives this 30-year-old receiver somewhat of a maybe is pure speed. Despite being older, Dorsett still has the juice in his legs to make for a clear-out deep threat type. But what makes him a borderline longshot to be a No. 2 wide out is his relative lack of production since his second year in the league back in 2016. This past year, he caught 20 passes for 257 yards and a score on 40 targets in 15 games with the Houston Texans. He doesn’t offer much in the return game, so perhaps his speed will get him a look as a depth option.

The longshots

Tre Tucker: The third-round pick may be relegated to gadget/special teams ace in his inaugural year in the pros. Well built at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Tucker can hit top speed very quickly and dust defenders. But with more experienced options ahead of him — listed above — his immediate year one impact is likely a return man/gunner on special teams and occasional gadget play on offense. Once he refines his route running, Tucker has the speed to take advantage of Garoppolo’s quick processing and passing for YAC (yards after the catch).

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Temple
Las Vegas Raiders third-round pick Tre Tucker has game-breaking speed. But Year 1 will likely see the rookie focus on special teams.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Cam Sims: The presence of Scott Turner as the Raiders new passing game coordinator may help Sims (both were in Washington last season as offensive coordinator and receiver, respectively). And the 27-year-old wide out does offer intriguing size at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. However, Sims seems destined to be a special teamer/gunner and occasional red zone target for mismatches. Think the Mack Hollins role. Yet, Hollins did rise to the No. 2 receiver role in 2022 for Las Vegas.

Keelan Cole Sr.: The 30-year-old vet did start three games last season but his numbers were miniscule at 10 catches for 141 yards and one score — although that touchdown helped the Raiders edge the Patriots. His experience as a receiver and ability to pinch in as a return man may get him looks for the 53-man roster, however, he’s merely depth at this point of his six-year career.

Other Raiders wide receivers: DJ Turner (3rd year); Chris Lacy (2nd year); Kristian Wilkerson (2nd year)