Raiders are in good hands with Hunter Renfrow joining receiving corps

Raiders are in good hands with Hunter Renfrow joining receiving corps

ALAMEDA -- From 2014 to 2017, no quarterback in the NFL suffered more dropped passes by his receivers than the Raiders' Derek Carr.

Upon Jon Gruden's return to Oakland, he set out to address that ugly stat. He sent away the most egregious of droppers, and brought in several new receivers, most notably Jordy Nelson. The overhaul brought about moderate improvement, as the Raiders tied for the seventh-most drops in the NFL in 2018 with 22, after dropping 38 passes the year prior and a whopping 45 drops in 2016. 

Still, there's plenty of room for improvement remaining in that category, and Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have approached the current offseason with that in mind.

First, they traded for Antonio Brown, arguably the top receiver in the league with as good of hands as you'll find.

They followed that up with the signing of Tyrell Williams, an accomplished receiver in his own right that has the size and athleticism to make tough catches look simple.

And, then, in the fifth round of the draft, they selected a 5-foot-9 receiver with the No. 149 overall pick, who had the smallest hands of any pass-catcher at the NFL Combine.

Wait, what?

Not to worry, Raiders fans. Hunter Renfrow has made a habit of playing bigger than he appears.

The same receiver who caught 10 passes for 92 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the 2016 National Championship Game against Alabama, who began at Clemson as a walk-on, has "the best hands of anyone in this entire draft," according to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah.

Over his final two seasons at Clemson, Renfrow was targeted 143 times. He dropped two of those passes.

Renfrow also caught 66.7 percent of his contested targets in the last two seasons, ranking fourth in the FBS, according to Pro Football Focus.

So how does a diminutive receiver with relatively tiny hands rise from walk-on to NFL draft pick? It starts with the parents, naturally.

Renfrow's father, Tim, was his football coach at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But that's not where Hunter gets his great hands from, according to the man himself.

"I like to credit my mom," Renfrow said with a smile Friday at the opening of rookie minicamp. "My dad was my high school coach, but my mom would go out there and throw footballs to me, and they were never accurate. They were up here, they were down there, I'd have to be diving everywhere."

The vast majority of Renfrow's college receptions came out of the slot. That's where his expertise lies, but now with the Raiders, he could be asked to line up elsewhere occasionally.

"The big thing for Hunter is that he needs to understand we're going to move Antonio Brown around a lot," Gruden said Friday. "If we move Brown a lot, that means he has to be able to move around and do a lot of things. Not just line and be a slot receiver every single down. He could move to the right or left, play inside or outside. He'll have to do it all."

Renfrow, to his credit, isn't daunted by that possibility. While he's definitely comfortable in the slot, he doesn't view himself as a specialist.

"Kind of my whole thing is, I'm a receiver," Renfrow said. "I'm not a slot receiver, I'm not an outside receiver, I'm just a receiver. It's kind of like playing in the backyard. You're just expected to go catch a football, and that's kind of the mentality that I have."

It's a good thing Renfrow isn't intimidated by a challenge, because he's about to enter a stiff competition.

[RELATED: Why three of 10 Raiders UDFA signings can make the team]

In addition to Brown and Williams, both Dwayne Harris and free-agent signee Ryan Grant would seem to be locks to make the 53-man roster as receivers. That likely leaves two remaining spots for Renfrow, J.J. Nelson, Marcell Ateman and undrafted free agent Keelan Doss. While the Raiders invested a fifth-round pick in Renfrow, he'll have to put that versatility on display in order to lock one down.

So, how does Renfrow plan to separate himself from the pack? The answer lies in playing to his strengths.

"I'm not the biggest guy, I'm not the fastest," Renfrow admitted. "But I feel like I can outthink people at times. I think that's such a big part of the game that people don't realize. I mean, you gotta be able to play, definitely, but you can outthink people, outwork people. And a guy who knows what he's going to do before he does it is a lot more dangerous than a guy who's out there big and fast, but has no clue what's going on."

Renfrow's relative size and speed disadvantages will only be exacerbated with the move to the NFL, but then again, he's already proven he has the ability to adjust. After being a two-star recruit coming out of high school, with scholarship offers from football powerhouses Appalachian State, Gardner-Webb, Presbyterian, and Wofford, Renfrow departed Clemson with the Burlsworth Trophy, given to the top college football player who began his career as a walk-on.

As the Raiders remain intent on eliminating drops and with Renfrow now in tow, it appears they couldn't be in better hands.

Raiders inactives: Trent Brown will play in Week 11 game vs. Bengals


Raiders inactives: Trent Brown will play in Week 11 game vs. Bengals

OAKLAND -- The Raiders had a scare Friday when right tackle Trent Brown was listed as questionable for their Week 11 game against the Bengals at the Coliseum.

With tackle David Sharpe already listed as out with a calf injury, that would put Brandon Parker in line to start if Brown was unable to play. 

But it looks like the Raiders' offensive line will be whole to start the game as Brown is listed as active. The Raiders' offensive line played their first whole game together in Week 10, showing promised in a win over the Chargers. 

The Raiders also will be without starting slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner who injured his hamstring in the win over the Chargers. Cornerback Nevin Lawson is expected to slide into his role Sunday, with Daryl Worley also potentially seeing time inside. 

The Raiders also designated quarterback DeShone Kizer, center Erik Magnuson, receiver Keelan Doss, defensive tackle Terrell McClain and return man Dwayne Harris inactive. Harris can't seem to get right, now missing his third straight game and seventh in the last eight. He has been dealing with ankle and foot issues most of the year, hindering the kicking game in the process. Trevor Davis has filled in returning kickoffs and punts, and will continue doing so on Sunday against the Bengals. 

[RELATED: Jacobs could have big day vs. Bengals]

The Bengals made guard Alex Redmond, offensive tackle Cordy Glen, quarterback Jake Dolegala, tight end Drew Sample, receiver A.J. Green -- he was ruled out early in the week -- CB Torry McTyer and defensive end Anthony Zettel.

Raiders vs. Bengals live stream: How to watch NFL Week 11 game online


Raiders vs. Bengals live stream: How to watch NFL Week 11 game online

The good news is the Raiders are going up against the worst run defense in the league. The even better news is Oakland has Josh Jacobs.

The Bengals head to the Coliseum on Sunday to face a Raiders team that is favored to win. Cincinnati has the worst record in the league, so that shouldn't come as a surprise.

Quarterback Derek Carr hasn't thrown an interception in nearly a month and is looking like his old successful self.

This is guaranteed to be a fun game for the Raiders and their fans.

Here's how to watch the Raiders-Bengals Week 11 game live online and on TV:

Start time: 1:25 p.m. PT
TV channel: CBS (KPIX)
Live stream: fuboTV -- Get a free trial