Daniel Dopp, Liz Loza and DJ Gallo talk life, fantasy football, pop culture and everything in between in a new weekly "fantasy improv" column, which runs every Friday throughout the NFL season. Joe Kaiser serves as the moderator and attempts to keep things on track.
Liz: Good Friday morning, fantasy friends! Hope you Browns fans enjoyed this week's game more than last week's! As for you Steelers fans ... as much as you miss T.J. Watt already, you should be thrilled with the addition of George Pickens. Even if the rookie's awesomeness didn't show up in the box score.
ESPN's own Brooke Pryor tweeted about Mitch Trubisky vowing to get the rookie more involved. True to his word, the team's current QB targeted Pickens a career-high seven times. The duo only connected on three for 35, but that stat line is an unfair representation of Pickens' emerging talent and potential. My dude laid out for a one-handed grab that is harbinger of things to come. It wasn't a mistake-free effort, but the breakout is clearly nigh. He needs to be rostered in more than 40% of ESPN fantasy leagues.
DJ: If only the Steelers had a young quarterback with a ton of upside who was actually drafted ahead of Pickens and showed a connection with him in the preseason. That kind of combo could be really dynamic! And by the way, I am of the opinion that Diontae Johnson's catch in overtime of Week 1's win over the Bengals was just as good if not better than the one Pickens reeled in last night.
Kaiser: Once again, the conversation is all bout the receivers. This whole drafting WRs over RBs thing didn't exactly lose any steam in the past week, did it?
DJ: Yeah, the running back position is a disaster. Through two weeks, not a single back has posted even 17 fantasy points in both weeks. (Although please take that stat with a grain of salt. I saw some rando post it, so it may be wrong.)
Daniel: Another way to rephrase that: D'Andre Swift is the only RB in the NFL to have at least 16 fantasy points in each of the first two games. As a Lions fan I like my stat better, but Field's is a better representation for how bad the RBs have been to start the season. When I look at the teams where I took Jonathan Taylor, Christian McCaffrey or Austin Ekeler over Cooper Kupp I get this flushed sick feeling and my skin gets hot and I feel a strong sense of anger and regret.
DJ: Frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of Lions fans always gloating about their dominance.
Liz: Only three RBs cleared 25 fantasy points in Week 1. That number dropped to two in Week 2. Meanwhile, seven WRs managed the same output in the season opener and nine finished above that threshold this past week (Kupp and Stefon Diggs were the only players to do it both weeks). Interestingly, scoring was down across the board in Week 1. The books adjusted accordingly in Week 2. Six contests cleared 50 total points but, overall, bettors who stuck with the under were more likely to cash in. The teams that did smash the over were helmed by, yes, Lamar Jackson ... but also Tua Tagovailoa, Carson Wentz, Joe Flacco and Jared Goff (not Joe Burrow, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers).
Kaiser: Okay, let me put you on the spot. If you could redraft today, knowing what you've seen through two weeks, who makes your top 3 rankings in PPR leagues?
Kaiser: Sticking with JT at numero uno ... Curious if Daniel and DJ go the same route. Actually, pretty sure Daniel has two Lions in his top 5.
Daniel: 1. Kupp, 2. Taylor, 3. Jefferson, 4. Diggs, 5. Ekeler. Three WRs in my Top 5 because these guys are game-breakers with their target share and the quality of their targets.
Liz: Yeah, I'm not going to overreact to Taylor's Week 2 too much given that Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce were absent. The volume was concerning (particularly the lack of targets) but there were extenuating circumstances, for sure.
DJ: Kupp, Jefferson, Taylor for me. I'm not even sure I'd take Ekeler in the first round anymore. Dating back to Week 6 of last season, he's broken 20 touches in a game just twice. It's really hard to produce elite fantasy numbers consistently with that kind of workload. I guess I should have mentioned this before the season. Sorry!
Liz: I'm just relieved to not have the Ekeler vs. McCaffrey debate again.
Kaiser: A name missing from the two top 5s is Christian McCaffrey. But Ekeler makes the top 5 for Daniel and Liz. What's Austin showing that Christian isn't? (Sorry Liz)
Daniel: It's not that CMC isn't showing it, it's that Baker is keeping his eyes downfield rather than trusting the superstar RB he has wide-open in the flat. They're not giving him the same passing game opportunities, and that's what made CMC ... CMC.
Kaiser: I always find this to be a fascinating and opportunistic part of the fantasy football season. As we mentioned, there are some big names who haven't done much the first two weeks (Taylor, McCaffrey, Kyle Pitts) -- guys whose fantasy managers may be more willing to unload than they were a week ago after just one bad game. Which star-caliber slow starters do you think make the best to go after in an early season blockbuster deal?
DJ: So you're saying that after Baker Mayfield ended Odell Beckham Jr.'s days as fantasy superstar, now he's done it to Christian McCaffrey, too? Mayfield needs to be tried in international court for crimes against fantasy. As for a struggling big-name player to target in a trade, I'd go for Pitts among that list (Taylor, McCaffrey, Pitts). Taylor went 1-1 and managers will ask a lot for him. McCaffrey isn't producing much ... but at least he's healthy for a change, and anyone who drafted him will probably hang on for that reason. But Pitts? Only 10 targets in two games and still just that single touchdown in 19 career games. I think you can find people willing to let him go. The only question is if you think the Falcons ever let him go make plays.
Liz: I'm DJ. Pitts is the grab for me. I predicted a slow start but this is the turnabout spot. Seattle gave up 7 of 11 balls to a cadre of Broncos TE in the season opener. They followed that up by allowing Ross Dwelley (who ran a whopping 10 routes) to score on his lone target in Week 3. Arthur Smith is a former TEs coach. He's had to design looks for Pitts' game-breaking talent -- after dropping two in a row -- in an exploitable matchup. If it doesn't happen then just burn the whole thing down.
Allen Robinson II isn't a star-caliber starter, but it was heartening to see him receive an uptick in targets. The man is recording a 90% snap share and running close to 35 routes per game. He's also drawn red zone looks in each contest. Let him get a few more brunches at the SoHo House under his belt and he'll start to ROI with WR2 production. That said, his Week 3 matchup against Byron Murphy is less than inviting so I'm ranking him outside of my top-30 this Sunday.
Kaiser: This talk about trading has me thinking about some of the best and worst deals I've made in recent years (ie. I shouldn't have traded Kupp in that keeper league before the 2021 season!) Are there any like that which stand out for you, either good or bad?
Liz: In the spirit of transparency ... I'm a horrible trader. Don't like to do it. The haggling makes me crazy. I draft the guys I drafted and I either stick with them or I dig for value on the waiver wire (which I legit enjoy). For that reason, I've never made a bad trade. Just don't do it enough.
My last blockbuster was in a dyno league ahead of the 2021 season. I gave a team in win-now mode Nuk Hopkins (pre-injury and suspension, obv) and Alvin Kamara in exchange for Austin Ekeler (coming off of a 10 game effort in 2020), a first-round pick (that turned into Ja'Marr Chase) and a third-round pick (that I scooped Gabe Davis with). Heading into 2022, I did promise myself to be a more open and proactive trader. We'll see how October shakes out.
Kaiser: Judging by that trade, Liz, you should trade more!
Liz: I like drafting. So I trade for picks. Not as fun as inheriting someone else's. Have no problem giving trade advice to others though!
Daniel: I traded Field Yates Lamar Jackson and Javonte Williams (rookie season) for Derrick Henry and some other pieces in our dynasty league together, and two weeks later King Henry gets hurt and my all-in bet for the season was less than successful ... I feel like Mike McDermott [Matt Damon's character in "Rounders"] when I say that I don't remember any good trades that I've made that have helped me, but I remember all of the dumb decisions that I've made on the trade market.
Kaiser: Lots of similarities with poker bad bets and sports/fantasy bad bets, for sure.
DJ: I'm like Liz in that I'm trade averse. The idea of a player I drafted (in my infinite wisdom) putting up big numbers on another team scares me away from most trades. And I'm the opposite of Daniel in that I pretty much only remember my good trades. But I do remember that Derrick Henry trade Daniel made with Field, because Field was shopping Henry around and had offered him to me a few days earlier. I said I'd think about it and get back to him. I didn't get back to him and then the trade notice came through, meaning I didn't land Derrick Henry a few days before he got hurt. The lesson being: Procrastination always pays off.
Kaiser: This seems to be a recurring theme but let me get back to you on that.
Kaiser: Imagine yourself with no place to be and no other obligations ... go ahead, I'll give you some time. Okay, you've rolled up five hours before the game to tailgate. Who's one person you've never met who you want at your tailgate, what food are you eating and what music is playing? Set the scene.
Liz: I'm not a Titans fan but I've always vibed with Nashville's live music scene and would kill to smash some (extra hot) wings with Dolly Parton.
Kaiser: Liz and Daniel, who do you have for Lions and Bears against the spread this week?
Liz: At +2.5 I'll take the Texans to cover, but this could be a sneaky good game for fantasy so I'm feeling the over (40.0).
Daniel: Lions are getting +6 against the Vikings? I'll take that all day.
Follow Liz Loza (@LizLoza_FF), Daniel Dopp (@DanielDopp) and DJ Gallo (@DJGalloETC) on Twitter. Liz Loza and Daniel Dopp's fantasy football rankings appear every week during the season.