As we prepare for the launch of the 2023 NFL league year and NFL free agency, it's time for my annual look at who needs what from a Fantasy Football perspective. At the bottom of this article, you'll find a sheet with a breakdown of how many running back opportunities and targets by position each team needs to fill. While many of these needs will be met in the 2023 NFL Draft, this breakdown gives us a good idea of who needs what as we enter free agency.
Here is a breakdown of the teams with the most opportunity available at running back and wide receiver. There are five teams with more than 300 running back opportunities available, five teams with 150 wide receiver targets available. No team has even 100 tight end targets up for grabs so that data is in the chart below but there's not much to talk about there. Other teams could still make additions, but their opportunity will have to come at the expense of someone who is already on the roster.
Miami Dolphins (406) - The Dolphins are the only team with more than 400 combined running back rush attempts and targets to replace from last year. Their piecemeal approach featuring Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Chase Edmonds led to a season where they finished below average in virtually every measurement of the run game.
Assuming they want to stick with a low-cost committee, a pairing of Rashaad Penny and Samaje Perine could be a good combination. Penny has struggled to stay healthy but has been extremely good the last two years when he's been on the field. Perine could spell him on passing downs and looked better than Joe Mixon at times last in 2022.
Denver Broncos (385) - This is a good time to remind you that some of these opportunities could be taken by players on the roster. The Broncos are certainly hopeful that will be the case with Javonte Williams in 2023. But Williams suffered a complicated knee injury involving multiple ligaments, so this could be a J.K. Dobbins situation where we don't see him at full strength until late in the year. Even if Williams is ready by Week 1 as one report suggested, he'll be sharing.
Sean Payton already tipped his hand a bit here, suggesting he'd like Latavius Murray back. Murray finished the year with the Broncos and has a history with Payton in New Orleans. He'd also be an easy guy to push aside if Williams does get to full speed early.
Detroit Lions (372) - I'd like to tell you that D'Andre Swift is going to take over a lot of these touches. But even if he adds 200 touches in 2023 and stays healthy, they'll need someone else. They are a team that throws to their backs a lot and hands off at a high rate.
Miles Sanders could be a great fit next to Swift, who will handle most of the passing downs. Both Sanders and Swift have a high percentage of explosive plays and that's what Ben Johnson values in this role. Sanders doesn't profile as well in short yardage as the recently departed Jamaal Williams, but we'd like to see Swift take that role anyway.
Philadelphia Eagles (345) - The Eagles appear to me to be one of the most likely teams to address this need via the NFL Draft, possibly as late as day three. They already have Kenneth Gainwell, they're choosing to let Miles Sanders walk, and they don't use running backs as much as most teams anyway. Their 12.08% RB target share ranked dead last and Jalen Hurts takes a majority of the red zone work.
If they do choose to add someone in free agency, D'Onta Foreman could make sense. He's cheaper than Sanders but he's shown similar big-play ability in the past year and a half. His lack of work in the passing game wouldn't matter as much with Hurts at QB and Gainwell on the roster.
Carolina Panthers (340) - Frank Reich has run a fairly RB-centric offense in Indianapolis and likes to throw the ball to his back as well. This offensive line was better than expected run blocking last year, leading to monster games in the second half from both Foreman and Chuba Hubbard. In other words, this could be the best opportunity, depending on who the quarterback is.
If I was looking for a feature back who could handle a big role, David Montgomery and Kareem Hunt would be my top two choices. Age would cause me to lean towards Montgomery, who could b a top-12 back in this offense, but the Panthers could be convinced that Hunt is low mileage because he's been sharing with Nick Chubb. Also, don't sleep on the possibility of them just bringing Foreman back.
New York Giants (207) - The Giants are the only team with more than 200 targets to replace at wide receiver and the guys they are replacing were pretty dreadful last year. Isiah Hodgins and Wan'Dale Robinson could grow into bigger roles, but they desperately need a true No. 1 option. Unfortunately for them, there may not be one in this free agent class.
Jakobi Meyers has shown the ability to earn 120 targets in a season and won't turn 27 years old until November. While he's known as a slot receiver he was actually more efficient outside last year. The Giants' staff would be very familiar with him from their days in Buffalo, but everyone should know that he'd instantly be their No. 1 wide receiver.
Green Bay Packers (184) - So this is awkward. We still don't know who the Packers quarterback is going to be. And this is definitely one of those situations where the Packers hope Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs absorb most of those vacated targets. But assuming Jordan Love is starting it would be great to get a veteran like Adam Thielen to work in the red zone and help Watson and Doubs become more complete receivers. Thielen might enjoy sticking it to the team that just cut him twice a year as well.
Kansas City Chiefs (169) - The Chiefs have been on this list before and it absolutely feels like a trap for as long as Travis Kelce is on the roster. They're hoping Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore step into full-time roles as wide receivers as well.
The only free agent that makes a lot of sense for the Chiefs is bringing back JuJu Smith-Schuster. He's already had a year in Andy Reid's offense and he's an excellent run blocker. Neither of those things will get you excited for Fantasy purposes, but they help the Chiefs win.
Arizona Cardinals (167) - The reason the Cardinals are on this list is that I'm projecting a roster without DeAndre Hopkins. There's also a possibility they lose Greg Dortch as well, but as a restricted free agent, I'm projecting Dortch will stick around. Essentially they have Marquise Brown as a No. 1, with Dortch or Ronale Moore in the slot. So adding a No. 2 receiver outside is the priority.
Allen Lazard fits that role as another good run blocker who is more comfortable when someone else is getting most of the defense's attention.
New England Patriots (157) I wouldn't be surprised if new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien is trying to pry DeAndre Hopkins from the Cardinals. If he can't, Odell Beckham could be a nice consolation prize. Beckham is more than a year removed from his torn ACL and has more upside than anyone else in this class. If he is 80% of what he used to be, he can help the Patriots figure out what they actually have in Mac Jones.
The chart below is sorted by how many targets the team has to replace, with the Houston Texans leading the way. And I'm not even projecting a Brandin Cooks trade yet. From left to right are available opportunities. The far three columns are target share by position by team. A team that has a lot of wide receiver targets to replace and throws to their wide receivers a high percentage of the time is a good bet to make that position a high priority in free agency and/or the NFL Draft.