Each week during the 2021 season, we’ll examine our NFL draft steal of the week — a younger player whose NFL success has surpassed where he was drafted. We’ll try to look back at the why and how of where they were selected and what we thought of that prospect prior to the draft.
Las Vegas Raiders
5-foot-10, 175 pounds
2019 NFL draft: Round 5, No. 149 overall
In warmups before the Las Vegas Raiders’ Week 3 game against the Miami Dolphins this season, a mic’d-up Hunter Renfrow delivered a message to Raiders defensive coordinator: “Hey, I can play safety.”
It was understated, befitting of the soft-spoken, often overlooked Renfrow who has been defying the football odds since he first walked on at Clemson years before. The boldest statement he’d be captured saying that day? “Hey, they can’t stop us.”
Renfrow was right. He caught five passes for 77 yards that day, including a 12-yard TD pass in the third quarter that would give the Raiders the lead for the first time after trailing 14-0. The Raiders eventually would prevail in overtime, 31-28, racking up 497 yards of offense and
He didn’t play safety that day, nor has he since — not really, anyway. But Renfrow did his best safety impression the following week against the Chargers. Standing back at his own 15-yard line, awaiting a punt, Renfrow keenly noticed that the Raiders had only 10 men on the field for the return team.
Suddenly, it wasn’t a punt … but a fake. That’s when the diminutive returner went to work, making one of the more stunning plays of the 2021 NFL season.
Bradley was impressed, calling it “a perfect strike zone tackle.” Renfrow, who played some DB in high school, seemed less so.
“We didn’t have a guy out there, and I was kind of in between,” he said in early October. “I didn’t know if I should play the return or go down and play the receiver. So,…