Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden made five trades over the three days of this year’s draft — but only one to move up.
In the fifth round Saturday, Oakland jumped nine spots to select Clemson receiver Hunter Renfrow at No. 149 overall, sending pick Nos. 158 and 218 to Cincinnati.
Renfrow played in the college football title game, which Mayock scouted, and the Senior Bowl, which the Raiders’ staff coached. He apparently caught Mayock’s eye long before, though.
“Boy, I’ve loved his game — last few years,” Mayock said.
Renfrow had some of his best games on big stages. In the 2016 national final, he had seven catches for 88 yards and two scores in a loss to Alabama. In the 2017 rematch, Renfrow caught a game-winning TD throw from Deshaun Watson with one second left as Clemson won its first national title since 1981.
Entering the draft, there were questions about Renfrow’s size (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) and lack of elite speed (4.59-second 40-yard dash). But while scouting Clemson’s top defensive prospects, Mayock said he started wondering if teams were overlooking a receiver who totaled 186 catches for 2,133 yards and 15 touchdowns over 53 college games.
“You’d put their offensive tape and go, ‘Why don’t people talk more about Renfrow?’” Mayock said. “Then we saw him up close at the Senior Bowl, and when I would go to the South (team) practices I’d be like, he has an innate feel for the game as far as separation, how to get open.”
No position on the Raiders has changed as much this offseason as receiver, where they added Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, J.J. Nelson and Ryan Grant. Mayock, though, illustrated how Renfrow might help.
“The great quarterbacks love somebody who can win quickly when there’s pressure,” Mayock said. “I’ve talked to these guys over the years and they’ve all said the same thing — give me a quick guy that can win in the middle of the field immediately when we get pressure.
“I think Derek Carr is going to love this guy.”
Carr might already be a fan. After Renfrow’s game-winning catch against Alabama in the 2017 championship, the quarterback wrote on Twitter: “Andddd Hunter Renfrow is awesome…”
On a conference call Saturday, Renfrow said he saw the tweet while sitting on Clemson’s team bus after the win.
“I was like, ‘Derek Carr tweeted me. This is the Derek Carr,’” Renfrow said. “I was so excited.”
Renfrow went to Clemson as a walk-on and said he’ll carry that mentality into the NFL.
“I think I’ll forever be a walk-on,” Renfrow said. “I know I’m not the biggest, I know I’m not the fastest. My whole career, that’s kind of going to be the knock on me. So I’m looking forward to proving it wrong and just going out every day and earning it.”
Oakland used the No. 106 pick Saturday to draft Eastern Michigan defensive end Maxx Crosby, then traded back from No. 109 to 129, where the Raiders picked Houston cornerback Isaiah Johnson.
They acquired pick 135 in that deal with Indianapolis and traded it to Atlanta for No. 137 and 230, using the first on LSU tight end Foster Moreau and the latter on their final pick, Prairie View A&M defensive end Quinton Bell.
Renfrow was the third Raiders draft pick from Clemson (also Clelin Ferrell and Trayvon Mullen) and fourth (with Alabama’s Josh Jacobs) who played in this year’s national championship game. The Raiders also drafted four players who attended the Senior Bowl — safety Johnathan Abram, Johnson, Moreau and Renfrow — all of whom were on the 49ers-coached South team.
“At the end of the day, we won’t know how we did for a couple years,” Mayock said. “But we couldn’t feel better today because I think we stayed consistent with our philosophy, we drafted the kind of guy that we wanted to bring into this building.”