Travis Fulgham didn’t come into the league with high expectations. He didn’t come from a powerhouse college team, he didn’t have great production, he didn’t have an ideal combine performance, and ultimately he didn’t get drafted until the 184th pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Since being drafted he’s been cut by both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers before landing with the Philadelphia Eagles on their practice squad. And just 2 weeks after being elevated to the 53 man roster he has taken the throne as the Eagles number 1 wide receiver. How is that possible and where does he go from here? Let’s jump into the film.
The Art Of Always Being Open
While Fulgham may not be the best athlete, he has fantastic size and he knows how to use it. At the combine he didn’t run particularly well running a measly 4.58 40 yard dash and didn’t participate in any of the agility drills. His physical measurables on the other hand were OUTSTANDING. Standing at 6’2.5”, 215 pounds with elite arm length and wingspan, he presents a large catch radius capable of presenting matchup issues vs almost any cornerback. He doesn’t win with speed and quickness, rather he wins with leverage at the catch point. Receivers with Fulgham’s skill set are valuable because they’re always open. Receivers that have large catch radius’s and know how to take advantage of leverage are valuable because they are open even when they are covered. No matter how little separation they appear to have, they will always be able to out reach their opposing defender.
An important aspect of being a leverage WR is being comfortable in traffic. As a bigger slower wide receiver you are not always going to get separation and you will have to rely on your size advantage to makeup for that. On this play Fulgham gets in front of the DB and then proceeds to use his right shoulder to keep the DB outside of the catch point. By doing this he gains all of the leverage and by the time the ball arrives the DB cannot get a hand on the ball as it is out of his reach. This is a text book example of a big, strong receiver knowing how to use his size.
Fulgham lined up in the slot here and gets very little seperation on the out route but it doesn’t even matter because of the chemistry he has with Carson Wentz. Again not the prettiest route. Not super explosive, kind’ve rounds out of his break, but despite all that he still provides a window due to his catch radius. Carson throws it wide and high to the spot where only Fulgham can get a hand on it and Fulgham makes the nice catch.
This is a picture perfect play from Fulgham. He threatens vertically and doesn’t telegraph the outside cut, forcing the DB to flip his hips. Despite all of this the CB makes a good recovery and Fulgham is forced to make a contested catch. However Fulgham makes it look easy. Again boxing out the corner at the catch point and using his catch radius to high point the football. The corner has zero shot at making this play.
Another example of the chemistry between Fulgham and Wentz. Lined up in the slot and runs a short out route. Wentz throws it high and Fulgham plucks it out of the air. Fulgham has natural hands.
As you can see despite being a limited athlete he can still create natural throwing windows for his QB due to his size and understanding of leverage. He’s not gonna blaze past anyone, and he’s not gonna break anyone’s ankles like Stefon Diggs and Odell Beckham JR. But what he will do is create consistent safe throwing windows for Carson Wentz.
Not only is Fulgham a big reliable target, he’s also incredibly physical and gritty as well. He’s a menace in the run game. He won’t stop blocking until his opponent is 20 yards out of the play. He initiates contact both as a blocker and as a receiver and he is a tough task for any DB. This is an aspect that the Eagles WR room has lacked the last few seasons. Confidence, grit, and attitude.
Here he is taking this unfortunate 49ers defender for a ride. Used that grown man as a practice sled.
Another example of his aggressive blocking. Lined up on the top of the screen he could’ve simply just let the play go. He could’ve tossed a soft block, but instead he went straight at him and Steven Nelson wanted nothing to do with it.
This toughness translates to the passing game in several ways such as beating press man, and breaking tackles. Slot defender tries to press and Fulgham takes him to school throwing him out of his way. It presents a matchup issue that not many nickel DB’s will have the size and strength to properly matchup with him.
This is a creative play design by Doug Pederson. Travis Fulgham motions into the backfield and presents himself as a lead blocker before transitioning into a crosser. There he makes the catch and breaks off the tackle attempt from Minkah Fitzpatrick.
But having grit doesn’t automatically make you a good player. Lots of players have the attitude to be great and never become anything. So that leaves us with one final question….
Is He The Answer?
The formula for success with Travis Fulgham relies on Carson Wentz. If the chemistry between Wentz and Fulgham remains high then Fulgham can be a legit contributor in this offense. Fulgham will likely never be a great separator ESPECIALLY against top man corners, however his size and physicality is not a fluke. It will be a good test to see how Fulgham handles the physical group of Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey next week against the Baltimore Ravens. If he can duplicate his performance from this past Sunday, then perhaps the Eagles have found their new number 1 wide receiver.