Hunter Renfrow Enjoying A Breakout Amidst Raiders' Struggles

Photo: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Las Vegas Raiders continue to witness their campaign hopelessly sink. Their latest embarrassment occurred on Sunday in what was an uninspiring performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders failed to compete in a crucial contest while battling for their playoff lives. Chiefs defender Mike Hughes scored a touchdown on the opening play of the game and jump-started what would be a first-half rout. The Chiefs were astoundingly up 35-3 at the half, and the final score of 48-9 rightfully reflected how lopsided this game was. It was strikingly similar to their Week 10 meeting. The season series between these two heated foes has now reached its conclusion. The Chiefs outscored the Raiders 89-23 in 2021.

Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and general manager Mike Mayock are forced to focus on the minor victories right now. Somewhat lost in turmoil lies the evolution of slot receiver Hunter Renfrow, who has been virtually unstoppable in recent weeks. An injury to star tight end Darren Waller has unlocked several additional targets in Vegas' passing game and Renfrow has been the main beneficiary. Derek Carr and Co. were chasing the game from the opening whistle. It led to 14 targets for Renfrow, who secured a season-high 13 receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown. It was very much the continuation of what's been the best stretch of Renfrow's career. Throughout his last three appearances, the former Clemson standout has compiled 30 receptions for an astonishing 353 receiving yards and Sunday's nifty touchdown. Renfrow is developing into this generation's Wes Welker or Julian Edelman as he continues to display an elite skill set from the slot position.

Renfrow's upward arc has been hardly surprising given his success at Clemson. The Myrtle Beach, South Carolina native initially showcased a penchant for running short and intermediate routes with extreme precision and craftiness at the collegiate level. When it was all said and done, Renfrow departed Clemson with a healthy 186 career receptions to his name. For what Renfrow lacks in pure athletic explosiveness and vertical ability, he makes up for by being a true student of the game. The devil is in the details, and Renfrow is a master of his craft. Head fakes and well-worked shoulders make Renfrow an incredibly difficult assignment for the opposition as he consistently sells false breaks with ease. It's a skill set that matches perfectly with the slot position that Renfrow occupies. 

That puzzlingly didn't stop general managers from overcomplicating their assessment of Renfrow throughout the predraft process. His abilities were extremely evident, but Renfrow still wasn't drafted until the fifth round, with the 149th selection to be specific. It's absurd to accept that 148 players were drafted ahead of Renfrow. Yes, he possesses a limited skill set, but it's one that was vastly underrated and underappreciated for reasons that truly don't calculate. 

It’s not difficult to see why Renfrow has solidified himself as a crucial piece of Vegas' offense for the foreseeable future despite the potential incoming changes coming at the head coach and general manager positions. A talented receiver with rare and advanced mental traits, Renfrow is an improved pass-catcher in 2021 as his skill set takes center stage in Vegas. An undersized prospect who's been doubted his entire life continues to prove naysayers wrong. It's a hell of a story that keeps getting better.

Written By:

Justin Melo

Staff Writer

Justin Melo is an NFL draft analyst that cut his teeth at The Draft Breakdown and USA Today's Draft Wire. He specializes in interviewing prospects, but also produces big boards, mock drafts, and scouting reports. He also covers the Tennessee Titans nationally for Broadway Sports Media and SB Nation.