In our annual 32-part Summer Sleeper series, DLF scribes identify a lightly-touted player on each NFL roster who may be worthy of your consideration. Our subjects all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but each merits a bit of in-depth discussion here in the Premium Content section.
To help everybody along, we are going to be categorizing our sleepers under one of three headings:
- Super Deep Sleepers – Players who aren’t roster-worthy in 12-team leagues, but are still worth keeping an eye on.
- Deep Sleepers – An end-of-the-roster player who is more often than not on the waiver wire in 12-team leagues.
- Sleeper – A likely rostered player who makes for a good trade target. Their startup ADP puts them out of the top 175 or so.
Because we aren’t going to give you mainstream sleepers, most of these players will undoubtedly fizzle. All we are asking is for you to keep an open mind and perhaps be willing to make room for one of these players on your bench. You never know when the next James Robinson is going to spring up. Feel free to add your own thoughts about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own in the comments below.
Few teams have gone through more of an overhaul from 2020 to 2021 than the Philadelphia Eagles. They traded previous franchise quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts, leaving them with 2020 second-rounder Jalen Hurts as their new starter. They also fired longtime head coach Doug Pederson, and they hired Colts’ offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni to replace him.
Of course, given Wentz’s horrific 2020 season and Pederson’s issues with the front office, these moves could very well be upgrades. However, change is always dangerous for fantasy football, even if it seems positive on the surface. Additionally, the Eagles’ changes during this off-season go beyond the quarterback and the coaching staff. They finally cleared out their two stalwart veteran receivers, moving on from DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. And while they haven’t yet traded tight end Zach Ertz as of this writing, he will almost certainly play on a different team in 2021.
The Eagles attempted to acquire some receiving weapons to replace all those veterans, although they have a somewhat thin cast in their receiving room. They drafted DeVonta Smith in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft to complement Jalen Reagor, who they picked in the first round last year. However, they failed to add any other receivers or tight ends.
The other primary receiving weapon they managed to acquire was fifth-round running back Kenneth Gainwell. Gainwell may serve as a receiving complement to starter Miles Sanders. However, I’m not sure how much Hurts will throw to the running backs. Sanders struggled as a receiver in 2020, so that pick made sense.
Overall, Hurts doesn’t have many proven weapons to work with in 2021. Tight end Dallas Goedert is his only proven pass-catcher, given Reagor’s mostly lost rookie year. Therefore, I believe there’s room for a potential sleeper in the Eagles’ offense, especially given his performance last season. Let’s jump into…
Travis Fulgham, WR
Category: Deep Sleeper
Fulgham has one of the more bizarre NFL career paths of any younger player. He wasn’t a significant NFL Draft prospect, as he played his college ball at Old Dominion in Conference USA.
Chart courtesy of Sports Reference CFB.
After redshirting his freshman year, he struggled in his first three college seasons. Future Colts’ depth receiver Zach Pascal easily outshined him in 2015 and 2016, and Fulgham failed to break out once Pascal left after 2016. However, out of nowhere, Fulgham broke out as a fifth-year senior in 2018, although he didn’t even lead the team in receptions.
Even though Fulgham had a horrible college profile with an extremely late breakout, the Lions decided to take a chance on him in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Unfortunately, he made zero impact behind their top receiver trio of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola. He played in three games, saw three targets, and he caught none of them.
After 2019, the Lions decided they’d seen enough from their sixth-round pick, and they eventually released him during 2020 training camp. The Packers picked him up off waivers, but they cut him after only nine days. Finally, the Eagles added him to their roster, although he failed to make the final 53-man roster, landing on the practice squad.
Fulgham didn’t see any game action until week four when injuries to other receivers and more struggles from JJ Arcega-Whiteside finally allowed him to play. Suddenly though, he took the league by storm.
From weeks four to eight, he dominated, scoring at least 12 PPR points in every game. After his strong five-game stretch, he broke into the top 100 of dynasty ADP in November with an ADP of 96.25.
Unfortunately, these five games seemed to be somewhat of a mirage. After the Eagles’ week nine bye, they appeared to move away from Fulgham, and he never produced again.
Chart courtesy of DLF Player Scoring History App.
He never had more than five PPR points throughout the rest of the season, providing no floor for his fantasy managers. The Eagles’ offense spiraled into a disaster, and eventually, they benched Wentz for Hurts. Fulgham seemed to see slightly more involvement with Hurts than with Wentz, but it still wasn’t good.
Chart courtesy of DLF Snap Counts App.
Essentially, the Eagles stuck by Fulgham in weeks 10 and 11, and then they immediately benched him after two poor games in week 12. He saw a slight bounce in the final three games, but he became a backup to uninspiring options like Greg Ward. It’s hard to explain Fulgham’s 2020 season, especially given the tumult at quarterback and head coach the Eagles went through.
Looking forward, Fulgham will have an opportunity to prove himself in 2021. The Eagles have a new coaching staff under Sirianni, so it’s not clear they will stick with their base 12 personnel like in the past. Additionally, once they trade Ertz, they have zero proven tight ends on their roster behind Goedert. So their best option will be to return to 11 personnel, using Smith and Fulgham as their outside receivers with Reagor in the slot. I also expect Goedert to become an every-down tight end in that base offense.
Last year, Reagor looked like a bust, and Fulgham far outproduced anything Reagor provided. The Eagles stuck with Reagor as a starter because they had significant cap troubles after trading Wentz, so they couldn’t afford to bring in a star veteran receiver. If Reagor fails once again, Fulgham could have a path to targets.
Additionally, he comes at a very low price in current dynasty startups. In June’s ADP, he was the final wide receiver selected at WR115 and 287 overall. I’m not saying that Fulgham will be a star or even a reliable fantasy option, but I’m fine adding him off the waiver wire in any leagues where he’s out there. At that point in drafts, you want players with a chance to flash, and Fulgham provides just that.
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