Daniel Dopp and Liz Loza talk life, fantasy football, pop culture and everything in between in the 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.
Joe: Daniel, I owe you something. I'm not sure what yet. But I owe you something... the Lions are going to be the talk of the league entering next season!
Daniel: You're welcome for helping your crappy team make the playoffs, Joe! All jokes aside, I'm happy to have played my part in helping the Lions defeat Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau, in a prime-time win-or-go-home situation. Rodgers just endlessly throws shade at the Lions, so this was a very special victory for me as a lifelong Lions fan.
Joe: Moving to fantasy, one thing I did this year (and wish I had done in previous years) is write down young players who stood out to me in the final weeks -- players I want to roster next season.
Brian Robinson Jr. and Tyler Allgeier both jumped out for their tough running style, and as long as both those teams have quarterback questions I have to think they will be feeding the ball carriers a lot in 2023.
DeVonta Smith was just so fun to roster this season, and I see no reason to believe that will be any different in his third NFL season. He can make the long score but is also targeted in the red zone. Garrett Wilson made a move in the week 18 loss to the Dolphins I'm still thinking about. Caught it in traffic over the middle, made one quick adjustment and was suddenly several yards away from his nearest defender. The future is so bright for him.
Liz: The Lions are my second-favorite team in the NFC North and Lovie Smith is my favorite former Bears HC. Which brings me to the QB I'm most excited to draft as soon as our game opens... Watching Matt Nagy try to force Justin Fields to helm an offense built around Andy Dalton's (remaining) skill set was atop my list of 2021 frustrations. When the coaching change was announced -- and noting a dearth of pass-catching options -- I was positive Matt Eberflus would lean into Justin Fields' rushing ability.
That's a big part of the reason why I nicknamed Fields "Baby Jalen" heading into 2022. Fields never attempted more than 28 pass attempts (Week 9 vs. MIA) and he threw for over 250 yards only one time (Week 13 vs GB), but he averaged 10.7 carries (QB2) and recorded over 1,143 rushing yards (QB1) on the season. He showed enough promise as a passer (7.1 YPA, QB17) for me to believe in him making the leap come 2023. It's hard to imagine a healthy third year won't result in a top-five fantasy finish.
Great call out on DeVonta Smith. Philly desperately needed a physical presence like A.J. Brown to off-set Smith's speed and open up the passing game. I wish we talked more about complimentary skill sets in fantasy. I think it helps illuminate how each ecosystem thrives (or crumbles).
Liz: And, Joe while you mentioned Garrett Wilson's spidey-like bendy/stickiness... I was uber impressed with Drake London's ability to make good on his reputation as a contested catch killer. His target share (29.5%, WR5), obviously, ballooned after Kyle Pitts exited but London still converted 69.4% of his targets once Desmond Ridder took over in Week 15.
Daniel: How can i not start with one of the most difficult of all the rookie WRs to evaluate heading into next year, Jameson Williams. He pulled in a 41-yard TD against the Vikings in Week 14, had a 40 yard end around in Week 17 and had a 65-yard TD catch called back due to holding in the season finale against the Packers. His speed is next level, but from a fantasy perspective, how do we evaluate a guy who played 74 offensive snaps for the entire season? This is going to be a really interesting offseason monitoring his hype-train heading into 2023.
I also want to mention George Pickens with the season he had. Nine games with 10+ fantasy points & 5 games with 16+ fantasy points (two of them in the final three games). We saw so much raw talent and ability from Pickens this year. Thinking about a Najee, Dionate, Pickens, Freiermuth led offense sounds pretty sweet as long as Kenny Pickett makes some strides heading into year two. Have all those same concerns with Allgeier, London and Pitts!
Liz: Love that you brought up Williams! It felt very much like DJ Chark was a one-year Band-Aid until Williams was healthy enough to get on the field. If Chark isn't resigned and reports out of camp are even lukewarm then I'm going to lean all the way into Williams' upside. I feel like he could be one of the sneakiest values in next year's draft.
Joe: Lots of good names here... what about players you're swearing off of for 2023?
Liz: I'm hoping I never again have to temper an eye roll when someone wants to stump for Chase Edmonds. How many jobs does he need to lose before the last remaining passengers hop off the hype train to nowhere? One player I was woefully wrong about was Elijah Moore. That six-week stretch from October to December of 2021 -- with a variety of QBs under center -- completely wowed me. I was definitely blindsided by his second-year regression. If the Jets are double/triple/quadrupling down on Zach Wilson then it'll be tough to invest in any pass-catcher not named Garrett Wilson.
Daniel: Gabe Davis post-hype resurgence in 2023 anyone?! I think I wrote off too many players this year and I'm over correcting pretty hard next year by "trying to be the Clay." Essentially, putting my emotions aside and let the numbers tell me that everyone is a value at some point. Except Aaron Rodgers.
Joe: Fair enough. Another thing I've been thinking about is who is going to have the guts to spend a first-rounder on Jonathan Taylor? That's the question I have.
Liz: Broken record here... but I'm not drafting an RB in the first round. Depending on draft order, I might wait until the third?
Thomas will probably go at the end of the first/top of the second. Depends on the level of hype delivered by the offseason media churn... and, of course, how many Best Shape Of His Life IG vids he posts.
Joe: I wonder how many fantasy managers who rostered him this season why land him again next season. When a No. 1 overall flops that's hard, it is very difficult to compete and I can't imagine many fantasy managers giving him another shot, even though a rebound year is not far-fetched at all.
Liz: Is CMC the exception?
Joe: He was probably in a similar boat, but also he missed more games. Taylor did miss games but wasn't ruled out until later in season, meaning he was still being plugged into the starting lineup much of the season. CMC came back after a few injury-plagued seasons and delivered, but I'm guessing he did so mostly for fantasy managers who didn't have him during those down years. Any way you paint it, it's gonna take a good 'ol fashion Bob Ross bravery test to roll with Taylor as your main guy next year.
Let's talk strategy. What did you learn this season and what adjustments are you making for next season? If us three are in the same salary cap league, are we going to bid up Travis Kelce to $100 or what?
Liz: I am way too cocky about my tight end streaming abilities to ever use a first (or second) round pick on the position. Kelce was rostered in over 40% of ESPN fantasy teams still playing in Week 17. He's a proven winner. But my toxic trait is throwing darts at SPARQ monsters. I'm already writing Chig Okonkwo blurbs in my head.
Joe: While others are trying to spell and say Chig Okonkwo, you've got blurbs prepared. Impressive.
Also, it's worth mentioning that we have started publishing our way-too-early rankings. Field Yates has Cooper Kupp No. 3 overall in his "first round mock" and Karabell has him as his third non-QB in his Flex rankings. Reaction?
Daniel: I noticed that as well in the latest Field Pass and I'm not sure I disagree all that much. My top three right now are Austin Ekeler, Justin Jefferson and Kupp, and I think it's justified. Prior to getting injured in Week 10, Kupp lead WRs with 24.8 FPPG, had a 33.2% target share (first amongst WRs) and was top 5 or better in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. I'm a little worried about the Sean McVay/Matthew Stafford offseason and what this Rams team will look like in 2023, but it's hard to go against a guy who's floor game was 16.4 fantasy points this year.
Joe: That's the concern for me with Kupp, too. Who is going to be his QB? He had such an amazing connection with Stafford the past two seasons. That said, I traded McCaffrey for him straight up in a keeper league, which tells you I still believe Kupp can be elite next season as he returns from injury.
Liz: For all of the reasons indicated by Daniel (and some mild, but real injury concerns) Kupp is likely to fall outside of my top-five overall players. That, of course, could change by August but right now I'm higher on Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase and probably even A.J. Brown.
Joe: It will be interesting to see how things shake out with Rams this offseason.
Liz: Same for Miami, right? Tyreek Hill averaged the third-most fantasy points per game (20.4, behind only Kupp and Jefferson). He's proven to be QB-proof, but the Tua Tagovailoa situation doesn't inspire confidence.
Joe: Last thing before we wrap up the first season of the Fantasy Improv, which I enjoyed immensely so thank you Liz and Daniel and all of our readers... We have some intriguing free agents out there. Lamar Jackson, Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, Miles Sanders, Geno Smith, etc. Which ones are you most intrigued by and do you feel could matter most in terms of fantasy value?
Liz: Not sure if this answers your question, but IF (big one, I know) the Cowboys get out of Zeke's deal then Pollard would shoot up my rankings (and draft boards). From the names you listed, however, Lamar Jackson stands out the most. His late season injury certainly figures to effect the upcoming negotiation process. It's hard to imagine he doesn't stay in Baltimore.
Daniel: I wonder what Pollard would look like if he could average 15 carriers and 5 targets per game. All I'm looking for is 20 opportunities to let him shine! I think he will benefit a ton from getting out of Dallas and finding a team that will make him more of the feature back. He flashed so much talent this year! I want to see even more Tony Pollard in 2023.