During the process of preparing for free agency and the NFL draft, one of our first tasks is to determine the primary needs for each of the league's 32 teams. From there, we can speculate as to which players make the most sense for each squad. The voids are often filled during the offseason, but occasionally a few slip through the cracks. Below is a look at five unfilled voids, where opportunities are open for certain players to excel in fantasy football this season.
The legend who is Steve Smith Sr. retired, and Kamar Aiken signed with Indianapolis, which leaves Baltimore with uncertainty at the wide receiver position. The team did nothing to address the void during offseason activities, passing on priority free agents and not spending a single draft pick on the position. That leaves Mike Wallace, Perriman and Michael Campanaro atop the depth chart. Wallace has finished six of the past seven seasons as a top-25 PPR wide receiver, but he turns 31 years old this year, and his targets and production faded down the stretch last season. Campanaro is an undersized 26-year-old slot man.
Perriman is certainly the most intriguing here. He's entering his third professional season at age 23 and stands 6-foot-2, 218 pounds with 4.24 wheels. The 2015 first-round pick missed his entire rookie season with a PCL injury and struggled with efficiency as a situational deep threat last season. He has huge upside and is now positioned for a gigantic role in an offense that passed on two-thirds of its plays last season (fourth-highest rate). Moore, meanwhile, was the team's fourth-round pick last year. At the very least, the 23-year-old speedster will work as a deep threat, but there are obviously snaps here for the taking.
Ryan Mathews remains on the Eagles' roster, but he's fully expected to be released once he recovers from a neck injury. So, with Mathews and Kenjon Barner (signed with the Chargers) out of the mix, the team is left with Smallwood, Darren Sproles and rookies Donnel Pumphrey (fourth round) and Clement (undrafted) as its only tailbacks.
Smallwood was a fifth-round pick last season and averaged 4.1 yards per carry on 77 rookie-season attempts. Smallwood doesn't have a ton of size (5-foot-10, 208 pounds) or power but was dominant as a workhorse back during his tenure at West Virginia. His efficiency was terrific, and he also showed well in the quickness drills at the combine. The 23-year-old is currently positioned as the team's best option on early downs, though Clement, a 5-foot-10, 220-pound plodder out of Wisconsin, is also in the mix. Clement's FBS efficiency and combine performance were unimpressive, but the Eagles' void at the position leaves him with an opportunity to earn touches.
Pumphrey, by the way, is a highly intriguing prospect, especially in PPR formats, but keep in mind that he's a Sproles-ish 5-foot-8, 176 pounds. Pumphrey was a workhorse at San Diego State but simply won't be asked to handle more than scatback duties at the pro level. He's a good bet to play a role this year but certainly not as the team's primary early-down and goal-line back.
The Julius Thomas experiment failed miserably, which led the Jaguars to trade him to the Dolphins during the offseason. The team then signed the free agent Rivera to team up with 33-year-old Lewis, leaving Jacksonville with one of the league's most underwhelming tight end situations. Lewis hasn't eclipsed 25 receptions since 2012 and has scored three touchdowns during the past three seasons, but he'll be asked to play a significant role by default in 2017.
Rivera has had a decent career for a sixth-round pick but doesn't offer much as a blocker and is a pedestrian receiver. His best season was a 58-catch, 534-yard campaign with Oakland in 2014. Nonetheless, he's the team's top receiving threat at the position and is a sleeper in leagues that start two tight ends.
The Saints traded Brandin Cooks to New England earlier this offseason, leaving the door open for them to pounce on a wide receiver early on in April's draft. They didn't go that route, leaving Ginn as a natural fit to replace Cooks as the Saints' primary lid-lifter. The Saints spread the ball around often, which will limit the target ceilings of Michael Thomas and Willie Snead, while also positioning Ginn well for 5-7 targets per game in one of the league's best offenses. Ginn is now 32 years old but has little competition for the role. Target him in the late rounds of your draft.
If Ginn flames out, Coleman, who is still only 24 years old and stands 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, would be a good bet for an increase on his 22 snaps per game from last year. Return man Tommylee Lewis and undrafted rookie Travin Dural are also worth monitoring.
Void: running back handcuffs -- Bears, Bills, Chargers, Rams
Primary beneficiary: Benjamin Cunningham, Jonathan Williams, Branden Oliver, Malcolm Brown
Sleepers: Tarik Cohen, Mike Tolbert, Andre Williams, Justin Davis
This one is for those of you in deeper leagues. Several teams entered the draft with a solid lead back but lacked quality depth and/or a clear and reliable No. 2 option. Many of those franchises were able to address the position via what was a deep running back class, but a few others missed the boat.
Chicago found a gem in Jordan Howard during last year's draft, but if he goes down with an injury, Cunningham, Todd Gurley's former caddy, is positioned for a significant offensive role in a run-first offense. He'll spend the offseason competing with Ka'Deem Carey, Jeremy Langford and Cohen. Cohen is a name to watch, but he doesn't have feature-back size at 5-foot-6, 179 pounds.
Mike Gillislee signed with New England, which means 2016 sixth-round pick Jonathan Williams is LeSean McCoy's new handcuff. McCoy turns 29 years old this year and has missed at least one game during five of the past seven seasons. In the event of a McCoy injury, Williams' primary competition for snaps would be Tolbert and Joe Banyard.
Melvin Gordon showed that he's a capable workhorse last season, but he has now missed at least two games due to injury during each of his two NFL seasons. Danny Woodhead signed with Baltimore, which leaves Oliver and Barner to compete for passing-down/change-of-pace duties. Oliver racked up 196 touches as a rookie in 2014 but missed all but eight games over the past two years due to turf toe and a torn Achilles. Keep an eye on Williams, as well, who struggled mightily during his time with the Giants but looked explosive during an 18-carry, 87-yard Week 17 performance for the Chargers last season. He's only 24 years old and a freak athlete who dominated during his time at Boston College. Kenneth Farrow is also in the mix but struggled with 3.2 YPC when called upon last season.
Finally, we have the Rams' running back situation. Gurley is the lead man, and Lance Dunbar was signed to act as a situational passing-down option. If an overworked Gurley goes down, 2015 undrafted free agent Brown is currently positioned as the next man up. Brown has registered only 26 touches in his brief career but has been impressive during each of the past two preseasons. If not Brown, Aaron Green and athletic undrafted rookie Davis will compete for the gig.