The Oakland Raiders made a multitude of moves during the 2014 offseason, but despite dozens of upgrades, general manager Reggie McKenzie was unable to find a No. 1 wide receiver. Instead of eschewing improvement elsewhere on the roster to find one, the Raiders will go into training camp with receiver as one of their biggest question marks.
For what the Raiders lack in a No. 1 receiver they may make up for with a collection of No. 2 receivers. James Jones, Andre Holmes, Denarius Moore and Rod Streater would all be lumped into this category, but only one has a chance to become a No. 1 in 2014.
Rod Streater was an undrafted free agent in 2012, but his draft status doesn’t tell the whole story. He is 6’3” and 210 pounds, and has 4.4-second speed and good hands. Despite a ghastly quarterback situation in Oakland, Streater improved and now has two years of solid NFL production under his belt.
It’s quite possible Streater is the exception to just about everything we know about finding successful wide receivers in the NFL, but he has athleticism and production that can’t be ignored. To become a true No. 1, Streater will have to continue to thumb his nose at conventional wisdom, even though some of it may now be on his side.
A Great Start
History says that rookie wide receivers typically struggle—even guys who eventually become elite receivers need time to adjust.
Anyone who plays fantasy football knows that wide receivers tend to break out at some point in their second or third professional season. That’s precisely why Moore—headed into his fourth season—is no longer considered a future No. 1 candidate despite three years of solid production (130 catches, 2,054 yards and 17 touchdowns in 41 games).
Streater enters his third campaign with 99 receptions for 1,472 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 14.9 yards per reception and 46.0 yards per game. Only three undrafted free-agent wide receivers since the merger have equal or better production over their first two years.
|Undrafted WR with better production than Streater through two years|
|Victor Cruz||24-25||2010-2011||Pro Bowl (2012||82||1536||9||18.7||80.8|
|Alfred Jenkins||23-24||1975-1976||Pro Bowl (1980, 1981). First-team All-Pro 1981||79||1477||12||18.7||52.8|
Unlike Moore, Streater made a big leap between his first and second seasons. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these leaps could be an indicator for a breakout year. Of the receivers who were top five in yardage in 2013, all of them made huge leaps in production during their second or third season in the league.
Streater caught 21 more passes last year than his rookie year, converting them into 304 more yards and an additional touchdown. In all, Streater averaged 19.0 more yards per game last year than his rookie year and his average yards per reception remained within 0.2 yards of his rookie campaign.
Keep in mind that Streater has been able to accomplish this improvement despite downgrading from Carson Palmer to Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. The Raiders are hoping they have solved their quarterback issues, which should be music to Streater’s ears.
The Whole Package
Streater came into the league at 195 pounds, but he added five pounds of muscle last year. Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle that Streater added 10 more and is now up to 210. After two years in an NFL weight-training program, Streater now has a physique comparable to that of a No. 1 wide receiver.
"I want to be able to play more physical and also keep the speed," Streater said, via Tafur.
Streater should still have speed in spades. According to NFLDraftScout.com, Streater ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at his pro day two years ago with a broad jump of 11’1”. Only five wide receivers since 2006 have equaled that broad jump, according to NFL.com.
|Top WR Broad Jumps Since 2006|
|Rod Streater||2012||11'1"||4.46 (Pro Day)|
Streater’s hands have proved reliable as well. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Streater ranked ninth in drop rate in 2013 out of 43 receivers at 6.23 percent. During his rookie year Streater struggled with drops, ranking 78th out of 82 receivers in drop rate at 15.22 percent.
When he entered the league, Streater was coming off a senior year with just 19 receptions. He was light, both in production and in weight, but that’s no longer the case. The arrow just continues to point up on Streater’s young career.
Not only is Streater a great athlete with good size and now reliable hands, but his work ethic and character are going to give him every opportunity to be successful. Raiders.com is littered with photos of Streater volunteering in the community, and he recently launched a foundation to promote healthy lifestyles, technology, culture and the arts through youth activities.
Streater’s work ethic has been almost unmatched in Oakland over the past two years. It’s no wonder coaches have nothing but praise for the Temple University product.
“I think when you’re talking about self-starters and self-motivated people, Rod Streater is that guy in that room to me,” Olson said last August via Raiders.com. “He’s the leader in that room just based upon his work ethic, his preparation and the way he approaches the game.”
It’s a work ethic that has already impressed new Raiders quarterback Matt Schaub.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some guys who have put so much work and effort into their craft, but Rod’s one of those guys early in his career you could really see he wants to be the best, and he works hard at it every day,” Schaub said via Raiders.com in June. “I’m excited to watch him burst on the scene even more this year.”
Don’t be surprised if Streater emerges as Schaub’s go-to guy during training camp. If Schaub still has the arm to get him the ball, the sky could be the limit for at least one of Oakland's young wide receivers.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via Pro-Football-Reference.com.