The Oakland Raiders' aerial attack left a lot to be desired in 2014.
Despite some flashes throughout the season, the passing game was never able to really get going. There are lots of ways to describe just how disappointing the passing game was, but perhaps the most telling is this: Andre Holmes was Oakland's No. 1 wide receiver last season, and he led the team with 693 yards. That left him as the 53rd-ranked receiver in the league.
To put it another way: There were 52 wide receivers across the entire league that were more productive than the Raiders' No. 1 option.
Clearly, the passing game was in need of upgrades this offseason. To address this problem, the Raiders added Michael Crabtree through free agency, and they then took Amari Cooper with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
But while most in the media have assumed that these two will easily win the starting jobs at wide receiver for the upcoming season, there's one player who's been largely overlooked: Rod Streater.
What might have been
While the Oakland wide receiver corps as a whole was underwhelming last season, what's been ignored is that the unit was never at full strength after Week 3. That's when the team's No. 1 receiver, Streater, went down with a season-ending injury.
As an undrafted free agent in 2012, Streater worked his way onto the final 53-man roster. Even so, he was behind Darrius Heyward-Bey (first-round pick), Denarius Moore (fifth-round pick), Juron Criner (fifth-round pick) and Derek Hagan (third-round pick). Playing time was anything but guaranteed.
Yet despite beginning the season as the last man on the depth chart and having to work with limited opportunities, Streater finished the season as one of the top three receivers on the team.
*Rank among Oakland wide receivers (doesn't include tight ends)
He continued to build on this success in 2013, which led to him earning the top receiver spot for 2014. With Derek Carr throwing the passes and consistent help at wide receiver in James Jones, he was primed to truly break out.
But after only nine catches, 84 yards and one touchdown, a fracture in his foot cost Streater the final 13 games of the 2014 season.
The passing game suffered without Streater. The missed time cost him a year's worth of growth alongside his new quarterback.
His absence also led to many people forgetting a player that vastly improved in his second season and was ready to make another leap in production.
What Streater brings to the table
Streater's production in 2013 was mostly lost in what was another bad season for Oakland. And missing all of last season didn't do him any favors in the "What have you done for me lately?" world that is the NFL.
However, his production that season is a key factor in understanding why Streater is so underrated and why he's primed to be Oakland's biggest X-factor in the upcoming season.
*Rank among Oakland wide receivers and tight ends
Streater's performance in 2013 was already impressive given how much he improved from his rookie season. But what made it truly remarkable was that he was able to improve and put up those numbers while catching passes from Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and Matt Flynn.
Unlike Holmes, Streater wasn't the No. 1 receiver by default. He earned it based on his performance.
The fact is that Streater was Oakland's top option in 2014 because of his play. He has good size (6'3", 195 lbs), good speed and excellent hands. He's also an underrated route-runner, which makes him even more dangerous.
While he remains a relative unknown outside of Oakland, Streater is a very real threat on the outside. That's what he was before his injury. And that's what he'll be now that he's returned.
What to expect from Streater in 2015
We'll never know what might have been if Streater had spent significant time as Oakland's No. 1 receiver. An injury cost him the opportunity last season, and the job is all but guaranteed to go to Cooper in 2015.
But what we do know is that he was a legitimate option at the position. And now he's coming back as part of a much more dangerous wide receiving corps.
While most seem ready to hand Crabtree the starting job alongside Cooper, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Streater win the job. In fact, I have previously argued that Streater is the best candidate to be the Raiders' No. 2 receiver.
That's not to say that Crabtree would be a bad choice as the starter. But while Crabtree is much more well-known than Streater, he hasn't been as effective since tearing his Achilles back in 2013. Now, the film shows that Streater is as good, if not better than, the former first-round pick.
Streater has proven that he can be a starter. Having him start alongside Cooper will give the Oakland offense two truly dangerous receiving threats on the field at all times.
Streater was able to catch 60 passes and go for almost 900 yards in 2013 when he had little to no help from his quarterbacks and fellow wide receivers. Now that he'll have Cooper on one side, Crabtree in the slot and a more experienced Carr, there's no telling how much better he can be this upcoming season.
He's still underrated, but Streater has proven that he can be a very dangerous every-down threat. He'll enter the 2015 season as an underrated X-factor. But he'll very quickly show the league just how dangerous and effective he truly is.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats taken from Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Who do you think is the Raiders' biggest? Let me know what you think in the comments section below and on at Twitter @BrianJ_Flores.