One of the things I like to look at before we head into NFL free agency is the projected opportunity for each team in the NFL in the upcoming season. Like all Fantasy football activities in March, this is an inexact science that will need to be updated throughout the offseason. What you'll find below is a spreadsheet showing every team's projected available running back rush attempts and team targets, with the available targets split out by position.
How do I determine "available targets"? The number of targets the team had last year minus the number of targets for the returning players. This is, admittedly, still a bit of a guessing game but for now any unrestricted free agent is considered gone. Most restricted free agents are projected to remain with the team. When someone like Chris Godwin gets a franchise tag, I'll update the spreadsheet
I've also included the share of each team's targets that went to running backs, tight ends and wide receivers in 2020. This is obviously more relevant for teams who have continuity in the coaching staff.
What makes this offseason even more interesting is the salary cap pinch many teams find themselves in. The Packers are a perfect example. They not only have 502 potential opportunities to replace (see chart below), the most in the league. They also have to shave money off the roster to get under the cap even if they re-sign none of those players. This won't be another 2020, but it will be another remarkably interesting offseason.
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Before we get to all the numbers, here's a quick word on the three teams will the most potential opportunity at running back, wide receiver and tight end:
Green Bay Packers (343 rush attempts, 123 targets)
As I wrote in my running back projections, the Packers have a tough call to make with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. A.J. Dillon makes the decision a little easier, but the team will need a pass-catching back to pair with Dillon at the very least. Williams will be far cheaper than Jones, and that's currently my best guess how this gets resolved. That could make both Dillon and Williams top-25 PPR backs.
Atlanta Falcons (295 rush attempts, 65 targets)
The Falcons grace this column for the second year in a row with an even more interesting twist. Yes, they have a ton of opportunity assuming Todd Gurley and Brian Hill are gone. They also have a new coach in Arthur Smith. Smith's Titans were fifth in the NFL with 521 running back opportunities in 2020. The Falcons also have one of the worst salary cap situations of any team on this list, so they may have to bring in a back through the draft.
New York Giants (285 rush attempts, 71 targets)
This is where this methodology can get a little wonky. Hopefully, Saquon Barkley returns and fills this entire void, and then some. The one thing you can take from this is that the Giants don't currently have an experienced backup on the roster. Considering Barkley is coming off of a major injury, whoever lands behind him in New York should become a popular handcuff.
Detroit Lions (269 targets)
There is a wide chasm between the Lions and everyone else in this regard. Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are all slated to be gone. There has been some talk about Golladay getting slapped with the franchise tag, possibly as a precursor to a trade. To be honest, I'm not even sure how to feel about this team after the additions of Dan Campbell, Anthony Lynn and Jared Goff. Regardless, if someone like Corey Davis or Will Fuller lands here as a No. 1 they would have massive target upside.
Jacksonville Jaguars (158 targets)
A new No. 1 to go along with Trevor Lawrence? It's possible. If the Jaguars don't make a major splash at wide receiver, expect a ton of sleeper/breakout hype around Laviska Shenault and Collin Johnson.
Chicago Bears (157 targets)
It would be nice to know who the quarterback is in Chicago before we get too excited about any receiver going there. It's possible they ride it out with Darnell Mooney and Anthony Miller, playing Tarik Cohen more in the slot. If that's the case then Mooney and Cole Kmet (assuming they cut Jimmy Graham) will be very popular.
Los Angeles Chargers (110 targets)
Replacing Hunter Henry will be no easy task. Re-signing him doesn't look very easy either unless they're ready to cut Mike Williams. Donald Parham is a fun Round 20 Best Ball dart until the Chargers sign someone.
Jacksonville Jaguars (102 targets)
There's no way to get Kyle Pitts to Jacksonville with Lawrence, right? Jacksonville is one of the teams that has no salary cap concerns, so they could make a move for Henry if they're comfortable with their wide receivers.
Tennessee Titans (85 targets)
If Jonnu Smith leaves and the Titans don't make another major addition, Anthony Firkser could be a very interesting deep sleeper. The Titans also have a ton of wide receiver targets available, with Corey Davis possibly gone and Adam Humphries reportedly released.
Here's the full first run of the 2021 Opportunity Index. It will be updated as news comes in.