A Slight Increase In Opportunities Might Push Hunter Renfrow Through The Roof
Image Credit: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Hunter Renfrow.

As much as I love Hunter Renfrow these days (it took time for me to get there, believe me), I can’t lie to you in assessing his rookie season. Renfrow was a good first-year wide receiver, but he was far from a world-beater. In fact, Renfrow (133.5) couldn’t even beat his teammate Tyrell Williams (143.1) for the most PPR points in the season, even playing the same number of games.

It was the same story for Renfrow among rookie wide receivers. He finished 2019 with the eighth-most PPR points in his 13 games played. He trailed the leader, A.J. Brown, by 83.6 PPR points.

This is how Renfrow’s first pro season looked overall in a set of different metrics provided by our NFL Stat Explorer:

That chart alone is not going to convince you of buying any Renfrow share, but keep in mind that many of those numbers are raw, not shown on a per-game basis, and include rankings among all wide receivers, not just rookies.

Renfrow entered the season with an ADP of around 233, which means he was falling to the 20th round in drafts before the season, if he was being drafted at all. Based on that information, he clearly outperformed his price.

Since Renfrow missed three games, if we look at his actual production per game instead of the total season numbers, things start to look nicer for Renfrow:

While Renfrow could only average 10.3 PPR per game, he did finish the season with positive fantasy points over expectation (FPOE), a good sign for his future outlook.

If there is a major red flag, it’s Renfrow’s age. Age matters a lot when it comes to wide receivers. Renfrow is the second-oldest rookie among 2019 WRs, which means he has history going against him. Will he buck the trend and become a second-year (and more) breakout candidate? Let’s explore.

Historical Comps

Given Renfrow’s unique combination of age, draft position, and actual stats, it was always going to be hard to find close comparables. Using a combination of inputs such as volume, production, efficiency, size, games played, and those already mentioned, we can find a few interesting comps with the RotoViz Screener.

If you’re not a football nut, you probably don’t know some of the names shown in the table, or at least don’t have them in high regard. Not that it should be surprising, though, as I already warned you about the uniqueness of Renfrow’s profile and how he will need to beat the odds to become a household name in the NFL.

Austin Collie was out of the league after five seasons (he played just one game in his fourth, though). Jarius Wright is still active and on the Panthers roster logging games weekly without much impact. Denarius Moore played 56 games before calling it quits in 2015. There are two much more promising comps in the table, though:

  • John Brown was also 24 years old when drafted. It’s been an up-and-down career for the Florida native, but he’s shown flashes of true quality on the field during his now six-year career, including two 200-point seasons in his career with two more over 140 points.
  • Doug Baldwin retired last season at age 30 but truth be told he could have stayed on the field for a handful of extra seasons had he wanted to. A top-tier producer for the Seahawks and an important part of their 2014 Super Bowl run, Baldwin has three 200-point seasons to his name, with four more scoring 140-plus points.

That’s a mixed bag, so it’s better to look at how all of those five comparable rookies did in Year 2 to know what to expect from Renfrow from a historical point of view.

How Did They Do In Year 2?

As you totally predicted, both Brown and Baldwin thrived. Or did they? Turns out, that wasn’t entirely the case.

While John Brown indeed performed better in his second season than he did as a rookie (3.8 PPR/G improvement), Baldwin finished below his rookie-season average. Collie went off the charts and finished with a massive 19 PPR, but he played only nine games that season, and it’s important to remember he was catching passes from Peyton Manning. Moore entrenched himself in the Raiders offense and finished the year as WR39. Jarius Wright … let’s say he never found his place.

Renfrow’s 2020 Outlook

The most probable player to man the pocket for Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 is and will remain Derek Carr, unless Tom Brady loves some torrid desert heat. Carr is a veteran and productive player throwing passes in an offense that generated the 20th-most PPR last season (18th if you remove PPR points accrued by running backs). The problem for Renfrow, though, is that he only logged an 18% target share. The good news is that if we split those numbers by the first and second half of the season, he saw a decent bump from the first half (14%) to the second half (22%).

His opportunities trended upward all season and peaked in the last week of the season at a monster 18.6 expected points against Denver.

That last bit of information is what makes me believe the most in a potential breakout season from Renfrow in Year 2. Even after missing time due to injury in the second half of the year, he came back for the last two games and thrived.

Renfrow finished the year on a high note playing back-to-back games as a WR1 and logging more than 19 PPR points for the first time in his short career.

It’d be foolish to think he can maintain that production over a full season. Of the top-tier 2019 rookies mentioned at the start of the article, only A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel, and Terry McLaurin had more than two games of 20-plus PPR points. On the other hand, Renfrow was one of only five rookies to log 16-plus PPR in four or more games.

As long as Carr and the Raiders can feed Renfrow on a weekly basis, he will undoubtedly produce big numbers. He already did as a rookie. Although history suggests the odds are against him going forward, Renfrow looks primed to become an outlier.

Image Credit: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Hunter Renfrow.

Antonio Losada

Freelancer and FSWA Football Writer of the Year Finalist. Reach me @chapulana
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