The more I think about it, cover it, and analyze it, I realize the NFL is all about opportunity. Yes, simply, opportunity. It’s not a by-the-book meritocracy.
Sometimes, you don’t get your shot, or enough of a chance to prove yourself in camp, or in a preseason game, or during in-season practice, you don’t play on Sundays, and everyone assumes you just aren’t good enough.
Packers need to call on WR Travis Fulgham
But that can’t be true. Chargers wideout DeAndre Carter, who went undrafted out of Sacramento State yeah, Sacramento State is on his ninth NFL team, and looks to finally be part of a regular receiver rotation.
He caught a touchdown in Week 1 from Justin Herbert. Nice diving one, too. He followed that up with three catches for 55 yards on Thursday night against the Chiefs.
Carter’s first career score came in 2021 in Washington four years and eight teams into his professional career. He didn’t suddenly become significantly better. He just got a genuine opportunity and is now showing out.
Another example: Practice Squad Power Rankings alum Juwan Johnson wasn’t drafted in 2020, hopped from the Saints’ practice squad to the 53-man roster for the first two years of his career and is now, rightfully where he should be — as New Orleans’ TE1.
I banged the table for weeks and weeks in 2020 about wideout Jauan Jennings. He can be a YAC monster for you, Kyle Shanahan, I wrote.
Over and over. Finally, after becoming a voracious PSPR reader, Shanahan called up Jennings often in 2021, and the former seventh-round pick caught 24 passes on 38 targets for nearly 300 yards with five scores, including six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the damn NFC title game! Now he’s the full-time No. 3 in San Francisco. And he hasn’t changed.
Still the same Jennings I had a blast watching at the University of Tennessee.
Dane Jackson was a PSPR mainstay in his rookie season of 2020. He had six pass breakups in six contests a season ago. Now, with Tre’Davious White still sidelined, he’s Buffalo’s top cornerback and snagged and interception and defended another pass in the Bills’ statement win over the Rams in Week 1.
Sure, development happens. But I think these cases are much more about opportunity than anything else. Thrust these unheralded, overlooked players into key contributor roles, let them make some mistakes like any player does keep them on the field, and they’ll eventually get comfortable and prove they can hang with the big boys.
Not in every situation. But in many more instances than we’re led to believe by the constricted game day rosters that, frankly, need to be larger.
And no one in the NFL is a more shining example of a player simply needing a legitimate opportunity to prove himself than Travis Fulgham.
He’s the former sixth-round pick out of Old Dominion the only Division I program with the nickname Monarchs, for all you college football trivia nerds like me out there who spent time on the Lions’ practice squad as a rookie, jumped around the league a bit before landing in Philadelphia.
Sixth-round picks from Old Dominion aren’t exactly at the top of the pecking order when it comes to receiving authentic opportunities.
Until the Eagles had no choice. Riddled with injuries, poor play elsewhere at receiver, and coronavirus designations, Fulgham found himself as Philly’s No. 1 wideout in 2020, and guess what, he led the team in receiving yards with 539 on less than 50% of the snaps. And, yes, he too has “Former Practice Squad Power Rankings Member” on his football resume.