On Monday night in Oakland, the nation got to see—thanks to a nationally televised game on ESPN—what the beat writers and coaches have been seeing: an undrafted rookie receiver that is making a serious push for playing time.
In his debut, Rod Streater had six receptions for 66 yards playing with the No. 2 offense and accounted for more than half of Matt Leinart's completions.
Streater signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Temple after weighing offers from Green Bay and Tampa Bay. Streater ultimately chose the Raiders, partly because of the opportunity he would get in Oakland and partly because the Raiders were his favorite team growing up.
How did this rookie gem slip past 32 teams more than seven times? The answer is simple enough: Streater had just 19 receptions his senior year at Temple. Streater didn't do much better his junior year, either, with only 30 receptions. Streater was such an unknown, he produced his own YouTube highlight videos in college.
It's understandable how a guy with only 49 career receptions in college could slip between the cracks. Streater's 4.37 second 40-yard dash at 6'3", 200 pounds and history as a high-jumper at his junior college, Alfred State, made him an intriguing athlete and worthy of at least a camp invite. He also had a 11.2' broad jump and 37.5" vertical jump at his pro day, which certainly turned the head of a few scouts.
Reggie McKenzie recognized Streater's ability and was in constant contact with Streater's agent, D.S. Ping, before, during and after the draft, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. Perhaps Ping convinced McKenzie to look a little closer at Streater and his 49 receptions because he produced 882 yards with his limited opportunities, good for 18.0 yards per reception.
Streater is capable of making big plays. During his senior season at Temple, Streater had 21.1 yards per reception, and nearly 16 percent of his receptions went for a touchdowns. It was enough for McKenzie to bring him in despite a stable of young receivers in Oakland.
You would expect Streater to be a raw, physical prospect that needs a lot of work on his routes, blocking and beating press coverage. While Streater is hardly a finished product, he has shown the ability to run clean routes, block and beat the press. It's a rare trio of traits you don't often find in a college receiver, particularly one that wasn't drafted.
Streater's blocking was mostly developed at the college level, when he blocked for Bernard Piece, Matt Brown, Chris Coyer and the rest of the Temple Owls. Temple was a run-heavy team in 2011 with 627 rush attempts for 3364 rushing yards compared to just 166 passing attempts for 1,648 passing yards.
Blocking was one area where Streater had already refined his game, and it comes as good news to the Raiders because they are deploying Greg Knapp's outside zone scheme that requires the receivers to block.
It would not be surprising to see Streater receive snaps with the No. 1 offense strictly to block. The Raiders might be able to use a three-receiver set as a running formation with Streater on the field. Blocking will not be a reason Streater losses snaps, and he's doing everything he can to earn more.
As with many young receivers, route running might be a concern, but Streater has proven to be a quick study and he has already impressed his head coach.
"I think he's a little bit of the same type of player (as Moore)," Dennis Allen said. "He's a good route runner. Not unlike Denarius not a lot of people knew a lot about him and he came in here and did a nice job and caught a lot of people's eye and that's what this kid is doing." (via Vic Tafur, The San Francisco Chronicle)
Perhaps Streater has carried over good study habits from college at Temple, where he was an honor roll student in 2011.
Beating press coverage is often quoted as the primary concern for college receivers that don't face much press coverage, and Streater has taken the advice of his agent and started jujutsu. He's a white belt and his agent also happens to be his instructor.
"Some define jujutsu and similar arts rather narrowly as unarmed close combat systems used to defeat or control an enemy who is similarly unarmed." (via aikidojournal.com)
Jujutsu even sounds a lot like the battle at the line of scrimmage between a receiver and a defensive back, and Streater is already having good success with the training even though he's only recently started.
As evidenced by his six receptions on Monday, Leinart trusts Streater to get open and make the catch, and he has the same trust from Carson Palmer. After Streater uncharacteristically dropped two passes during practice, he came back to make the play of the day with a diving grab over the middle.
"It's called being mentally tough." Streater said of clearing his mind after the two drops. "Carson (Palmer) told me the day before, 'You're going to make plays, I've seen you make plays before, I know you can do it, but you're not going to catch everything. You've got to have a short-term memory, come back and make the next one.' That's what I did."
One of Dennis Allen's many buzzwords during training camp has been "mental toughness," and Streater is demonstrating he's a mentally tough football player.
Streater's progression has been so rapid that offensive coordinator Greg Knapp wouldn't close the door on Streater or Juron Criner being starters.
"We'll see," Knapp said. "They have made some plays that have caught our eye. They're still learning the system, and being assignment-perfect is where they're still growing." (via Vic Tafur, The San Francisco Chroncile)
Streater realizes that playing in the NFL is just as much about the mental game as it is the physical, and he prides himself on knowing his playbook. Streater and Criner room together and will quiz each other on plays and assignments.
Perhaps Streater's rise from junior college defensive back to NFL wide receiver makes him the kind of rare player that is equal parts physical ability and mental ability. He's pushing for significant playing time and can be used in a variety of ways in Oakland's offense.
It might seem like Streater doesn't have a weakness, and that is partially true. Streater is still perfecting his game; he's still making rookie mistakes. He's not yet consistent, but he's shown he can do it all, and there is not a single area you can point to and say he needs a lot of work.
Streater is doing it all now; he's just got to demonstrate he can do it all the time. Receivers in the NFL that can do it all the time are able to dominate defenses, and Streater is not yet to that level, but if he keeps progressing at this rate, he might get there.
It seems like a stretch for Streater to start over Denarius Moore when Moore is healthy, but he hasn't exactly been the model of health since he broke into the league last year. With Moore nursing a sore hamstring, Jacoby Ford has moved from the slot to the flanker position, and Streater became the primary option in the slot.
After a poor performance from Ford on Monday night, it wouldn't be surprising to see Streater shifted outside and Ford back to the slot. If Moore returns, Streater could also continue to see snaps with the No. 1 offense as a slot receiver with Ford dropping down the depth chart.
It's clear from practice that Streater will continue to be heavily involved in the offense, and expanded playing time comes expanded opportunities in the passing game.
Streater appears poised to have a significant role in 2012, and with Moore's injury history and Ford's recent struggles, he could be worth a look in deep leagues or as a late-round flier.
It's been a long time since we've had a Marques Colston in fantasy football, and Streater had the whole package and will definitely push for playing time, at the slot and outside.
The question will be how much Knapp will pass the ball and if he will pass the ball enough to make any of the receivers in Oakland viable fantasy players.
You could do worse than to select Streater as a flier, particularly if you are one of the few who still believes in Carson Palmer.
Christopher Hansen is a Lead Blogger at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisHansenNFL
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