We’ve made it, my friends. It’s the first full week of 2023 and the last full week of the fantasy football season. I can almost imagine you’re thinking: My league’s championship week was in Week 17. It’s common for leagues to end their seasons the second-to-last weekend of the NFL season to avoid scenarios in which key starters are ruled out in the final week because their respective teams have already clinched their playoff spots.
However, ESPN standard leagues run through Week 18, and that’s why I’m here. This column will provide you with a breakdown of the names you need to know if your fantasy league is still active.
We’ll get to the waiver-wire options soon, but first, I’d like to thank you for supporting this column all season long. It’s an honor and a pleasure to write this for you, so let’s finish strong and start 2023 off right!
With that said, let’s talk about James Conner, the Cardinals running back who injured a shin late in the third quarter against the Falcons. Conner played a high percentage of the snaps over the first three quarters in Week 17 and had 19 touches and 110 total yards. Corey Clement played the rest of the game following Conner’s injury. Clement could be in line for a substantial workload if Conner can’t play next week against a 49ers defense that allows the fewest fantasy points to running backs.
The Colts’ offense has averaged 255.3 total yards over the past three games, ranking 29th in the league. Indianapolis has been a pariah in fantasy football, but managers desperate for a running back should consider Moss. He has played a significant number of snaps since Jonathan Taylor went on IR and has had 15 or more touches in two of his past three games. He has a very favorable matchup against a Texans defense that allows the most fantasy points to running backs.
The Vikings might rest Dalvin Cook and other starters in Week 18 as Minnesota no longer has a shot at the NFC’s No. 1 overall seed. This would position Mattison as the Vikings’ starting running back against the Bears. It’s no secret that he’s been productive when he’s had the backfield to himself, and the Bears’ defense has given up the second-most fantasy points to running backs this season. Chicago gave up an astounding 274 total yards and three touchdowns to Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift on Sunday.
Kelley accumulated 46 total yards on 10 touches Sunday against the Rams. He might receive a starter’s workload in Week 18 against the Broncos as the Chargers are locked into a wild-card spot. The Broncos’ defense allows the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs, and Kelley has had 10 or more touches in 12 career regular-season games, averaging 53.9 total yards.
The Giants secured their first postseason berth since 2016 on Sunday and will probably rest Saquon Barkley against the Eagles in Week 18. Breida has seen 14 or more touches in 11 career regular-season games, averaging 94.4 total yards per game. He should see more opportunities against Philadelphia.
Let’s take a look at our recommended Week 18 ESPN fantasy waiver-wire adds at the other skill positions.
Wilson has been one of the most disappointing quarterbacks in fantasy football this season but has closed out the season on a positive note. In two of his past three games, he has scored 23 or more fantasy points. A healthy Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy put Wilson on the QB2 radar for Week 18 at home against the Chargers.
Purdy continues to exceed expectations for a 49ers team that lost quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. In four consecutive games, he has scored 15 or more fantasy points, including one with 21. As a starter, Purdy is 4-0, and the 49ers can still get the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but they need a few games to turn their way. This means San Francisco is likely to provide their starters with a full allotment of snaps. Because of this, Purdy can be viewed as a high-end QB2.
In Stidham’s first start since Derek Carr was benched, he scored 26 fantasy points against a tough 49ers defense Sunday. He had five completions of 20 or more air yards downfield against San Francisco. This is tied for the second-most such completions in an NFL game this season. With the Chiefs’ defense giving up the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, Stidham is a great fantasy option in Week 18.
Jahan Dotson, Washington Commanders (43.7%): Regardless of whom head coach Ron Rivera decides to start at quarterback, Dotson is still fantasy-relevant in Week 18. He has amassed 31 targets and scored 16 or more fantasy points in three of his past four games. He ran nearly as many routes as Terry McLaurin during that span and is on the flex radar against a Cowboys defense that gives up the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Treylon Burks, Tennessee Titans (41.0%): Burks caught four of eight targets for 66 yards, his third game with 12 or more fantasy points this season. With the AFC South title on the line, Burks should be able to play a significant role against the Jaguars in Week 18. He can be viewed as a flex option.
DJ Chark, Detroit Lions (31.9%): The Lions didn’t rely on the passing game much against the Bears, as Chark finished with four targets and 7.6 fantasy points. However, he’s scored 14 or more fantasy points in two of his past three games. The Lions have a Week 18 matchup with playoff implications against the Packers, so Chark is firmly on the flex radar.
Isaiah Hodgins (5.7%) and Richie James (3.7%), New York Giants: Darius Slayton‘s recent struggles have allowed Hodgins and James to supplant him on the Giants’ depth chart and in fantasy football. James scored a season-high 20.6 fantasy points against the Colts on Sunday and has scored 13 or more fantasy points in four of his past five games. Hodgins has scored 14 or more fantasy points in four of his past five games.
K.J. Osborn, Minnesota Vikings (7.3%) Osborn could be the Vikings’ No. 1 receiver if Minnesota decides to sit Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Osborne has scored 14 or more fantasy points in three of his past four games, including a 21-point performance in Week 16. This makes Osborn an excellent flex option for Week 18. He’s seen eight or more targets during five games over the course of his career, averaging 84.8 receiving yards.
DeAndre Carter, Los Angeles Chargers (5.7%) There is a very good chance the Chargers will be without Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in Week 18 against the Bears. With Chase Daniel likely under center, Carter can be viewed as a volume-based flex option. He has played two games with eight or more targets over the course of his career, averaging 67.5 receiving yards and 0.5 touchdowns.
Hill’s usage is hard to predict, but the Saints have shown a willingness to keep him involved offensively in multiple ways. He has scored at least 10 fantasy points in four consecutive games. Hill had a season-high 14 rushing attempts last week, and he could see a heavy workload against the Panthers on Sunday.
The Jets’ offense struggled against the Seahawks in Week 17, but Conklin’s 80 receiving yards and 14 fantasy points offered a bright spot. Conklin can be viewed as a high-end TE2 regardless of who is under center against a Dolphins defense that allows the third-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.
Johnson has had six or more targets, 60 or more receiving yards and has been unstoppable in the red zone with seven touchdowns over his past nine games. He faces a Panthers defense that allowed Tom Brady to throw for 432 yards in Week 17.
McBride set season highs in targets (10), receiving yards (78) and fantasy points (20.8) against the Falcons in Week 17. Given how desolate the tight end position is in fantasy, some might be forced to use McBride in the Cardinals’ Week 18 matchup against a stout 49ers defense.