Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow large reasons for the Raiders’ hot start

Derek Carr is getting the credit for the Raiders' hot start, but WRs Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow dominated the Dolphins' defense last week.

The Las Vegas Raiders are off to a hot 3-0 start, and much of the credit for their success is going to quarterback Derek Carr, who is leading the NFL in passing yards. However, last week, WRs Henry Ruggs and Hunter Renfrow were crucial pieces in the Raiders’ second overtime victory of the season.

Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow’s box score stats were solid

At first glance, Ruggs’ and Renfrow’s box score statistics against the Miami Dolphins don’t seem particularly impressive. They totaled 78 and 77 yards, respectively.

Although decent enough, they don’t exactly leap off the page. Ruggs and Renfrow didn’t even have the highest receiving total for the Raiders last week, as Bryan Edwards earned 89 yards. Nevertheless, when you dig into the advanced metrics, it becomes clear that Ruggs and Renfrow put together elite performances in Week 3.

The Raiders’ WRs earned some of the NFL’s best advanced metrics last week

To show just how dominant the Raiders receivers were, let’s take a look at the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to evaluate players based on how much they contributed to the creation of their statistics, rather than the statistics themselves.

Ruggs and Renfrow were the first and third-highest graded WRs of Week 3, with grades of 45.62 and 45.39.

Although their traditional statistics might not show it, those grades indicate that Ruggs and Renfrow were among the most effective players in the NFL in Week 3.

The advanced metrics behind Ruggs and Renfrow’s OVM grades

Although the two Raiders WRs earned nearly identical OVM grades, how Ruggs and Renfrow earned those grades differed dramatically.

Ruggs only caught 57% of his targets, which would typically be enough to ruin his grade. However, he performed spectacularly in many other areas.

For example, although his average of 5.8 yards after the catch was merely average, according to the NFL’s projections, that average was 4.6 yards higher than expected, the third-highest differential among all qualifying receivers.

Perhaps most impressively, although Ruggs was given 2.9 yards of cushion from defenders, tied for the lowest distance among all qualifying WRs, he was able to create 4.1 yards of separation — tied for the third-highest.

Renfrow’s metrics, on the other hand, follow a more traditional pattern. He performed exceptionally well in most categories.

His catch percentage of 83% was well above average. He also averaged 7.4 yards after the catch, the fourth-highest among qualifying receivers. However, that was just 0.4 yards higher than expected.

Additionally, like Ruggs, Renfrow created excellent separation, averaging 3.7 yards, the seventh-highest among all qualifying WRs. Yet, unlike Ruggs, he was given 4.6 yards of cushion. That is still an extremely low number, but it pales in comparison to Ruggs’ performance in that area.

A look back at Ruggs’ and Renfrow’s historical performances

To help contextualize the two Las Vegas receivers’ Week 3 grades, let’s look back at how they played earlier in their careers.

During the first two games of this season, both players received grades of around 30. Those are decent enough, but they are obviously far worse than what they earned last Sunday. Of course, that is a minimal sample size, so let’s go further back.

We don’t have much to work with Ruggs, as he only earned two grades during his rookie season. Those were 27.6 in Week 1 and 30.73 in Week 12.

That makes this most recent performance the best of Ruggs’ career by a wide margin.

Renfrow, meanwhile, has a history of success. His overall grade of 34.01 was decent last season. However, back in 2019, he earned the highest overall grade of any receiver (39). Perhaps his excellence early in 2021 is a sign of a return to the form he showed during his rookie year.

The Raiders can go far behind their dominant passing attack

With Carr, Ruggs, and Renfrow leading Las Vegas’ passing attack, combined with an improved defense, the Raiders are looking like a legitimate contender.

And assuming running back Josh Jacobs returns soon, the team might be a Super Bowl threat for the first time in decades. At the very least, they should have a winning record for the first time since the start of Jon Gruden’s second stint as head coach.

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