Week 18 Waiver Wire: Breakout Pickups, Targets and Tips for Fantasy Football

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2023

Week 18 Waiver Wire: Breakout Pickups, Targets and Tips for Fantasy Football

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    Raiders QB Jarrett Stidham
    Raiders QB Jarrett StidhamEthan Miller/Getty Images

    With Week 17 nearly complete, now is the perfect time to look ahead to next week's NFL finales and the fantasy implications.

    Many season-long leagues have already ended their playoffs, but some deeper leagues will still be running strong in Week 18. Expanded playoff pools and two-week game formats can make Week 18 meaningful—even if it isn't for some NFL teams.

    Of course, this is the problem with Week 18 fantasy games. Knowing whether starters will play or sit can be a challenge. For that reason, it's always smart to be prepared and to examine waiver-wire options.

    With this in mind, let's examine some of the top waiver-wire targets and tips for Week 18. All picks are based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring.

Top Pickups and Breakout Candidates for Week 18

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    Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard
    Panthers RB Chuba HubbardJane Gershovich/Getty Images

    Player (Yahoo, ESPN Roster %)

    Jarrett Stidham, QB, Las Vegas Raiders (1%, 1%)

    Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers (45%, 36%)

    Gardner Minshew II, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (35%, 40%)

    Chuba Hubbard, RB, Carolina Panthers (39%, 28%)

    Zack Moss, RB, Indianapolis Colts (46%, 44%)

    Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (7%, 7%)

    Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (30%, 20%)

    Malik Davis, RB, Dallas Cowboys (1%, 2%)

    Isaiah Hodgins, WR, New York Giants (9%, 5%)

    Richie James, WR, New York Giants (18%, 3%)

    Kadarius Toney, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (28%, 39%)

    Taysom Hill, TE, New Orleans Saints (53%, 45%)

    Juwan Johnson, TE, New Orleans Saints (28%, 23%)

    Trey McBride, TE, Arizona Cardinals (4%, 3%)

Keep Tabs on Malik Davis and the Cowboys' RB Situation

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    Cowboys RB Malik Davis
    Cowboys RB Malik DavisCooper Neill/Getty Images

    Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard missed Thursday night's game with a thigh injury, which opened the door for rookie Malik Davis. The undrafted Florida product saw his biggest workload of the season and did a good job of filling Pollard's role.

    While Davis didn't have outlandish numbers against a good Tennessee Titans run defense—one that had allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to RBs coming in—he did rush for 39 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and catch two passes for another 23. He also did a better job than stater Ezekiel Elliott (1.9 yards per carry) of finding space.

    If Pollard isn't ready to return in Week 18, Davis could see a lot of action in what could be a meaningful game for Dallas. The Philadelphia Eagles' loss on Sunday leaves the door open for the Cowboys to win the NFC East.

    Depending on how the schedule-makers set things up for next Sunday, Dallas may still have a shot at the division when it plays the Washington Commanders. The Eagles, though, can still clinch the division with a win over the New York Giants.

    The Commanders have a stout run defense too (fifth-fewest fantasy points allowed). Based on what we saw from Davis on Thursday, though, a sizable workload could very much make him worth the RB play.

    Davis is rostered in just 2 percent of ESPN leagues and 1 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Don't Sleep on Jarrett Stidham

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    Raiders QB Jarrett Stidham
    Raiders QB Jarrett StidhamEthan Miller/Getty Images

    The Las Vegas Raiders raised more than a few eyebrows when they announced that Jarrett Stidham would start over quarterback Derek Carr for the final two games of the season. Raiders star receiver Davante Adams wasn't thrilled about the decision.

    "I don't think anybody was excited about it in here, him being one of my really good friends and the reason I'm here in the first place," Adams told reporters during the week.

    Well, Stidham raised a few eyebrows of his own on Sunday with a strong performance against the San Francisco 49ers.

    Stidham threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns against two interceptions. He also ran for 34 yards.

    For the finale, managers shouldn't sleep on Stidham as a streaming option. The Kansas City Chiefs will be playing to keep their hopes of claiming the No. 1 seed alive, but they haven't been particularly tough against opposing quarterbacks.

    Coming into Week 17, the Chiefs had allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing QBs.

    Managers not looking for a quarterback but rostering Adams or tight end Darren Waller should trust Stidham as well. Though Stidham may not be Adams' preferred quarterback, the two looked plenty good together against San Francisco.

    Adams finished with seven catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns. Waller chipped in three catches for 72 yards and a score.

Look for Teams Resting Starters Ahead of the Playoffs

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    Chargers RB Joshua Kelley
    Chargers RB Joshua KelleyJoe Scarnici/Getty Images

    While the Cowboys and Chiefs have something to play for in Week 18, several playoff-bound teams will not. This could lead to some timely waiver-wire additions and breakout performances in Week 18.

    The Los Angeles Chargers, for example, are locked into a wild-card spot and may decide to rest star running back Austin Ekeler in the finale against the Denver Broncos. They pulled quarterback Justin Herbert late in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams.

    This could give backup running back Joshua Kelley a starter's workload against the Broncos. Against the Rams, he rushed for 45 yards and five yards per carry while logging one reception.

    Ekeler managers should definitely be in on Kelley, who is rostered in only 7 percent of ESPN and Yahoo leagues.

    The Minnesota Vikings have little to play for after losing on Sunday and blowing their chances at the NFC's No. 1 seed. This means Dalvin Cook could be out in Week 18, with managers getting a heavy dose of Alexander Mattison.

    Mattison is rostered in only 30 percent of Yahoo leagues and 20 percent of ESPN leagues.

    Similarly, Rachaad White could get a starter's workload in Week 18, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—who clinched the NFC South on Sunday—choose to rest Leonard Fournette ahead of the postseason.

    White is already rostered in the majority of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, but managers who have him could get a tremendous breakout performance.

    In short, pay attention to teams' intentions before finalizing lineups and attack the waiver wire accordingly.

    *Fantasy scoring and roster information via FantasyPros.