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Raiders want Hunter Renfrow to be more than slot receiver

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Hunter Renfrow knows who he is and who he’s not.

He’s not the largest wide receiver. That was confirmed at the combine when measuring 5 feet 10 inches and 184 pounds with 29¼-inch arms and 7⅞-inch hands. Physically, he is not the fastest or strongest, either. Other numbers support that, too.

Renfrow is someone who found success at Clemson making do with the tools he has.

That means becoming as versatile as possible for the Raiders in 2019.

Renfrow, selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft, took to the practice field Friday for the first time during the club’s three-day rookie minicamp. He has a clear understanding of what the team expects of him. His path to playing time is to master the playbook, not just the slot position — his primary role on offense — but others as well.

Coach Jon Gruden likes to move his wide receivers around the field.

Tyrell Williams is the primary “X” receiver. Antonio Brown is the main “Z.” There will be times, though, when either could work in the slot for a given down. Renfrow must be comfortable enough in the offense to accommodate that fluidity.

Martavis Bryant drew Gruden’s ire last season when struggling to learn other positions.

Similar struggles would be a surefire way for Renfrow to do the same.

“Obviously, when you have great receivers, you want to get them the ball,” Renfrow said. “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.”

Renfrow is one of three players from Clemson’s national championship team whom the Raiders drafted. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell, the No. 4 overall pick, and cornerback Trayvon Mullen, the No. 40, were the others.

Ferrell entered college as one of the nation’s top 150 prep prospects. Mullen, ranked No. 18 overall according to ESPN, was a four-star commit who participated in the U.S. Army All-American game.

Not Renfrow. He was a walk-on.

His skill set, like a mastermind carpenter who might not rock the SAT, surfaces in less obvious areas, such as quickness in and out of his breaks, sound hands and an understanding of leverages, coverages and other concepts that are instrumental to a receiver’s success.

He totaled 186 catches for 2,133 yards and 15 touchdowns in four college seasons.

Renfrow showed instinctive play with “his best football in big moments,” Gruden said Friday.

“The big thing for Hunter is he needs to understand we are going to move Antonio Brown around a lot,” Gruden said, “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.”

Renfrow seems up to the task.

“I’m not the biggest guy out here,” he said. “I’m not the fastest, 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. You have to be able to play, definitely, but you have to be able to outthink people, outwork people.

“A guy who knows what he’s going to do before he does it is a lot more dangerous than a guy out there big and fast but has no clue what’s going on.”

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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