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Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups: Week 18

By Matt Schauf | Updated on Mon, 01 Jan 2024 . 6:54 PM EST

Get Ready for a Different Week

Week 18 of the NFL season is different. But it’s not completely unpredictable.

You probably already know that most fantasy leagues and contests finish before this week. Why? Because this is the week most impacted by factors such as:

  • Clinched playoff seeds
  • Fired coaches
  • Variable player scenarios

A guy who has played through a minor injury for the past couple of weeks or more might finally get a week off, so that he doesn’t worsen the issue ahead of the offseason.

Perhaps a game with no playoff implications allows coaches to get a longer look at a certain youn player they’re wondering about before free agency and the NFL Draft.

And, of course, playoff-bound teams following varying plans in benching – or playing – certain guys.

Let’s take a quick look back at the top fantasy scorers by position for Week 18 last season …

Top 5 QBs

  1. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
  2. Davis Mills, Houston Texans
  3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
  4. Davis Webb, York Giants
  5. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Top 5 RBs (PPR)

  1. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
  2. Zack Moss, Indianapolis Colts (He tried to warn us!)
  3. Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions
  4. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
  5. Latavius Murray, Denver Broncos

Top 5 WRs (PPR)

  1. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
  2. DeVante Parker, New England Patriots
  3. Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
  4. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
  5. Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 5 TEs (PPR)

  1. Jordan Akins, Houston Texans
  2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
  3. Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens
  4. Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
  5. Lawrence Cager, New York Giants

I don’t know about you, but that looks like a mix of crazy and sensible to me.

Tracking Week 18

We’re paying attention to all of the playoff scenarios as we update our Week 18 rankings. And we’ll be watching the injury reports and tracking fantasy football news ahead of every Week 18 kickoff.

We’ll do our best to project whose roles will or won’t be impacted by this different week.

If you’re still playing out your season, your primary job will be to not overthink the Week 18 scenarios. There will be enough uncertainty at play without injecting more into situations that have given us no evidence we should be concerned.

Now, on to the top waiver wire pickups …

TIP

Want to know EXACTLY who we'd recommend grabbing in YOUR league? Check your Free Agent Finder.

 

Top Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 18

Quarterback

Tyrod Taylor, New York Giants

Taylor just got his third full outing of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Rams. Here’s how he has finished among fantasy QBs in those weeks:

  • Week 6 at Bills: QB20 (with no TDs)
  • Week 7 vs. Commanders: QB7
  • Week 17 vs. Rams: QB10

Now he gets an Eagles defense that just allowed 35 points to the Cardinals … at home. Philly has allowed the second-most QB fantasy points for the season, trailing only the Commanders.

Taylor carries top-5 upside at the position this week.

Sam Darnold, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have clinched the NFC’s top playoff seed, so it wouldn’t make much sense for them to play QB Brock Purdy in the finale.

Of course, that also means it would make sense for the team to rest:

  • RB Christian McCaffrey
  • WR Deebo Samuel
  • WR Brandon Aiyuk
  • TE George Kittle

Don’t expect Darnold to land high in our Week 18 QB rankings. But even without the skill-position stars, he’d be leading an efficient offense and sport some rushing upside.

Darnold averaged 18.2 rushing yards per game over the past 3 years, with 9 rushing scores – while starting 29 of his 30 games.

He’ll be more superflex consideration than 1-QB spot starter for Week 18.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

We’ll see whether the foot injury that knocked Will Levis out of Sunday’s loss to Houston keeps him out for Week 18. We’d guess that sitting the rookie would make sense, though, unless there’s no concern for worsening the injury.

Tannehill completed 16 of 20 passes in relief (80%), though he tallied just 168 yards with no rushing or TDs as his team managed only 3 points.

There’s upside to a Week 18 meeting with the Jaguars, who have provided the fifth-best scoring matchup for QBs by our adjusted fantasy points allowed. But that’s merely enough to make Tannehill a deep superflex consideration.

The veteran QB’s working on just a 1% TD rate for the season, vs. his highest INT rate (2.9%) since 2018 and a career-worst sack rate (12.8%).

Mike White, Miami Dolphins

This is purely a “just in case” option.

Tua Tagovailoa hurt his left shoulder late in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. He has since downplayed the issue and seems likely to be ready for Week 18. But if he isn’t, White will be interesting.

White has only attempted six passes this season, but he posted a decent QB18 scoring average last season among QBs with more than one start. (White made four for the Jets.)

He’d still have Tyreek Hill.

Running Back

Elijah Mitchell and Jordan Mason, San Francisco 49ers

Mitchell deserves top mention among RBs this week … if he’ll be leading the Week 18 backfield.

He led the Week 17 rushing at Washington, tallying nearly all of his 17-80-1 line after Christian McCaffrey left early in the third quarter. But Mitchell also left the game at the same time QB Brock Purdy and other starters did, following the third-to-last 49ers possession.

RB Jordan Mason came on for the ensuing (three-play) drive, and then Darnold kneeled to end the game on the next possession.

Will San Francisco rest Mitchell with starters in Week 18? We don’t know yet. If we still don’t know by Sunday afternoon, then we might need to avoid the whole backfield against the Rams.

As of now, though, either Mitchell or Mason could be startable in a game that’s likely to find both teams resting players.

Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore will similarly be resting key players after securing the AFC’s No. 1 seed. But will that include Hill?

He operated as the No. 2 RB behind Gus Edwards – and more frequent passing-situation RB – in Sunday’s win over Miami. And we certainly expect Hill to remain that as long as Baltimore stays alive in the playoffs.

But does that make him an important enough asset to sit in Week 18? The Ravens have to play some guys against the Steelers. They entered the Miami game with 13 players on the injury report and deactivated seven for the game. And then they watched starters DT Michael Pierce and CB Marlon Humphrey – plus reserve DB Daryl Worley – leave with injuries.

Baltimore will have some sorting to do before Saturday afternoon’s clash with Pittsburgh, which remains alive for a playoff spot.

Let’s hope HC John Harbaugh offers some role clarity between Hill and Melvin Gordon ahead of the game. 

Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints

Like the other guys listed here, Williams is no sure bet to lead his backfield in Week 18.

The ankle injury that knocked Alvin Kamara out of Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay potentially opens the door. But HC Dennis Allen says they’ll need to monitor Kamara throughout the week. New Orleans remains alive for a playoff spot, so there’s reason to play even a questionable Kamara.

Even if he can’t go, Williams will be no lock for production. The veteran should get plenty of opportunities in that case, but he’d face a Falcons defense that’s up to eighth in rush DVOA.

Williams, meanwhile, is working on career lows in yards per rush and yards per catch – by wide margins – as well as his lowest yards after contact per attempt since 2017.

He’d be purely a touch-volume play for Week 18 if you’re in need.

Wide Receiver

Demarcus Robinson, Los Angeles Rams

Robinson followed four straight games with a TD by leading all Rams in targets for Sunday’s win over the Giants.

That victory clinched a playoff spot. And with the 49ers locked in as NFC West champs, L.A. can’t do much to adjust its playoff outlook in Week 18. Given that, we’d bet on the Rams resting WRs Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua – especially because each has played through injuries in recent weeks.

Robinson has become a key contributor in December but probably not reached the level of getting that Week 18 rest. Thus, he could easily hit Sunday as the Rams’ best bet for receiving production.

Bo Melton, Green Bay Packers

The Packers likely need to beat the Bears in Week 18 to make the playoffs. And they’ll also need to watch the injury status on several WRs ahead of that game.

  • Christian Watson missed his fourth straight game Sunday night with a hamstring injury. He didn’t practice at all last week.
  • Dontayvion Wicks went inactive for that game as well, with chest and ankle injuries that kept him from practicing.
  • Jayden Reed had a big game … but left early with a chest injury that has him “in doubt” for next Sunday.

Melton wound up leading Green Bay with 9 targets against Minnesota, tallying 6 receptions for 105 yards and a TD.

It was Melton’s second straight game with at least 6 targets and 4 receptions. But it was also the first time this year that he reached 40% snap share (66% for this one).

Melton’s clearly not a lock for meaningful production in Week 18, and we’ll need to watch his teammates’ injuries this week to know his chances. But even even two of those teammate miss the game against Chicago, there’s room for Melton to be a deeper play.

Tight End

Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints

Sunday produced Johnson’s third straight game with a TD. It also marked his second straight game with at least 70% playing time. Only WR Chris Olave ran more pass routes than Johnson did in the win over Tampa Bay.

Johnson’s 12 targets doubled his nearest teammate. That probably won’t happen again. He ranked third in that category the previous week, trailing Olave, WR Rashid Shaheed, and RB Alvin Kamara.

But Johnson’s TDs have come from the 5-yard line or closer each of the past two weeks, and he has been a red-zone target throughout his young career. QB Derek Carr is coming off his best two- and three-game stretches of Pro Football Focus passing grades all season. And this week’s opponent – Atlanta – plays the pass weaker than the run.

The Falcons have actually been friendlier to TE scoring than to any other position, according to our adjusted fantasy points allowed.

Johnny Mundt, Minnesota Vikings

In the first full game without TE T.J. Hockenson, Mundt worked clearly ahead of Josh Oliver as the lead receiving TE in Sunday night’s loss to the Packers. 

His 32 routes trailed only WR Justin Jefferson and WR Jordan Addison among Vikings. Mundt finished second among Vikings in targets (7), receptions (4), and receiving yards (39), and he caught the team’s only TD pass.

That came from Nick Mullens, who replaced rookie Jaren Hall for the second half. We’d bet on that change holding through Week 18.

Mullens, of course, lost the gig after tossing 4 INTs against the Lions just two weeks ago. But he also threw for 411 yards in that contest. If he gets the nod for this week’s rematch, it’ll be good news for Minnesota's passing upside.

Defense

New England Patriots

The Patriots are back up to ninth in defensive DVOA for the season after posting their second-best number of the season in Sunday’s loss to the Bills.

They’ve delivered two straight double-digit fantasy scores, thanks largely to DST scores in both games. But the unit has posted solid-to-good fantasy results in seven straight contests now. And Week 18 brings a rematch with the Jets.

Their Week 3 clash produced the Patriots’ only double-digit DST fantasy score before the Week 11 bye (by ESPN scoring).

The Jets remain the second-best scoring matchup for fantasy defenses by our adjusted fantasy points allowed.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Remember when the Panthers racked up 30 points on the Packers in Week 16? That was fun. It was also the first time since Week 6 that Carolina scored more than 18.

The Panthers might have used up all their remaining offense in that game, because they went for 0 points and a season-low 124 yards in Sunday’s loss at Jacksonville.

The Bucs, who remain in control of the NFC South but need to win to keep that control, look like a top-12 option on D this week.

 

Season-Winning Strategy

Your waiver wire strategy needs to fit your overall plan to win your season. Matt and Jared talk more about that in this video.

Matt Schauf Author Image
Matt Schauf, Editor
Matt has earned two Fantasy Pros accuracy awards for IDP rankings and won thousands of dollars as a player across best ball, dynasty, and high-stakes fantasy formats. He has been creating fantasy football content for more than 20 years, with work featured by Sporting News, Rotoworld, Athlon, Sirius XM, and others. He's been with Draft Sharks since 2011.
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