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Waiver Wire: Week 17

by Raymond Summerlin
Updated On: December 25, 2018, 9:34 am ET

Welcome to the 17th and final edition of Waiver Wired for the 2018 season. Most fantasy championships have been decided, but there are still some leagues which play their most important fake football game on the day many NFL teams are playing their least important real one. For those poor souls, there will be an overview of which teams still have something to play for as well as a look at some fill-in options at each fantasy position at the end of this week’s column. First, let’s look back at the most impactful waiver adds of the 2018 fantasy season.

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Waiver Wire MVPs
While the term “league-winner” gets thrown around too often when it comes to the wire, there are a handful of players every season which emerge throughout the year to seriously shift the balance of fantasy leagues and outperform players drafted in the first few rounds in August. This year was certainly no exception, and limiting this list of MVPs to just five was difficult – which is why I cheated.

1. James Conner – Added Week 1, Jaylen Samuels – Added Week 14
Considering how pivotal Conner was in the playoff chase and how much Samuels has contributed during the playoffs, this duo has to share this reward. Conner gets top billing simply because he did it longer. Taking over as the clear bell-cow with Le’Veon Bell holding out, Conner averaged 115 yards from scrimmage over the first 12 games with 13 touchdowns, good enough to be the RB5 through the first 13 weeks. He did not have as much luck as a touchdown scorer, but Samuels was no slouch himself after taking over in Week 14. He averaged 109 yards from scrimmage over his three games as the starter and finally found the end zone against the Saints. Fantasy players who leaned on this backfield banked RB1 production all season for the price of a waiver add in most leagues.

2. Nick Chubb – Added Week 7
Chubb got started a bit later than Phillip Lindsay (below), but he has simply been a fantasy monster since the Carlos Hyde trade. In the nine games since Chubb has scored eight touchdowns including at least one in all but three of those contests. He had 75, 100, and 115 yards from scrimmage in the games without a score, and he averaged 106 yards from scrimmage over that span. In short, he has been a solid and consistent RB1 for more than half of the season. Not bad for a waiver add.

3. Phillip Lindsay – Added Week 2
Chubb gets the nod in part because of Lindsay’s slow finish to the season, but that should not discount the value he offered as an early-season addition. Lindsay was a viable fantasy starter throughout, but from Week 7 to Week 14 he was an elite option, averaging 103 yards from scrimmage with eight touchdowns in seven games. Even with his lackluster performance in the fantasy playoffs, Lindsay heads into Week 17 as the RB10 in standard scoring.

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4. Marlon Mack – Added Week 7
I was lower than I should have been on Mack the week he was available on the wire in large part because of his struggles as a rookie. He quickly proved me an idiot with 308 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in Weeks 7 and 8. He did not have the shelf life of Lindsay or the consistency of Chubb – he totaled 71 scoreless yards in two games against the Jaguars – but Mack scored four touchdowns in the fantasy playoffs including a massive and unexpected 139-2 rushing line against the Cowboys in Week 15.

5a. Tyler Lockett – Added Week 1
5b. Tyler Boyd – Added Week 3

Waiver receivers are rarely as impactful as running backs both because the best “backups” play enough snaps to already be rostered and the position is incredibly deep. That should not diminish, however, the value both Lockett and Boyd offered as somewhat unheralded early waiver additions. An explosive but inconsistent fantasy player early in his career, Lockett found his scoring shoes in 2018 and rode them all the way to nine touchdowns in 15 games. It looks like Boyd will finish his season on the sidelines, but even as the sometimes No. 2 in a somewhat dysfunctional passing offense, he managed to average 77 yards with seven touchdowns over 13 games to close out the fantasy season.

Honorable Mention: Derrick Henry never dipped low enough in rostered percentage to qualify for the waiver column – except on The Drop List, mea culpa – but he was certainly available on the wire in many leagues heading into the playoffs. Those with the foresight to add him were rewarded with seven touchdowns and 492 rushing yards over the next three games, almost assuredly helping said team reach the promised land. Like fellow Titan Billy Volek way back in 2004, Henry’s playoff run will not soon be forgotten…Like Henry, Tarik Cohen was found on the wire in some leagues – again, mea culpa – after a lackluster first three games. All he has done since then is average 84 yards from scrimmage with 7 touchdowns, although he did let teams down in the finals…James White and Matt Breida certainly deserve mentions, but they were just a bit too inconsistent to make the top five. Gus Edwards has simply not done it long enough to be considered among the top backs, but he has been quite the find since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback…It was a game of musical chairs at tight end all season, but one of the earliest finds on the wire turned out to be the most resilient. Added in most formats after a big Week 1, Jared Cook has run hot and cold, but he had seven games with at least 100 yards or a touchdown…The quarterback wire is mostly reserved for streamers, but there were some weekly starters available. The top of that list is the Tampa Bay quarterback. Whether it was Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick again or Jameis Winston again, the Bucs’ quarterback was one of the top options in the league all season until running into the Ravens Week 15. Rookies Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield were also featured almost weekly in the waiver column as underrated fantasy assets.  

~The most important factors to consider this week are motivation and availability. Neither of those things should be a big concern in the AFC, where all but one game – Dolphins at Bills – has playoff ramifications. That means both the teams hunting a playoff berth or better seeding will try, and it gives extra motivation for the opposing team to finish strong as a spoiler, especially against a divisional foe. In particular, the Chiefs could go from home-field advantage throughout to playing a Wild Card game if they lose against the Raiders, so their offense should go all out in the season finale.

The NFC picture is not as pretty. There are four games which mean nothing to both teams involved including contests involving the Saints, who have already locked up the No. 1 seed, and the Cowboys, who cannot improve on their No. 4 placing. Beat writers expect the Saints to rest their starters for most if not all of the season finale, and the Cowboys gave their starters limited work two years ago in a similar situation, although they have been adamant they are not sitting their starters to this point in the week. In addition to those teams, Ron Rivera hinted the Panthers could rest some of their starters against the Saints. It is highly possible studs like Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffrey, just to name a few, are not viable options this week. In addition to New Orleans, Dallas, and Carolina, the Packers, Falcons, Giants, Bucs, and Lions are all playing in games which mean nothing for either side, making those matchups a bit riskier than usual.

Long story short, this is why playing the fantasy championship in Week 17 is a mistake, but that error does not mean I will leave your unfortunate souls out in the cold. Here are some options at every position available on the wire in over 50 percent of Yahoo leagues.  

1. Jameis Winston He is a bit over the threshold, but he was dropped in many leagues after his terrible showing against the Ravens. He bounced back a bit against the Cowboys, but he should be even better against a Falcons Defense he dismantled for 395 yards and four touchdowns in Week 6.

2. Lamar Jackson It once again is not the best matchup, and Jackson has not consistently produced as a passer. Still, his rushing production keeps him an option every week.

3. Josh Allen Allen was not as sharp against the Patriots, but he still had a fine fantasy day and was just inches away from a couple big plays. Those should be more plentiful against the Dolphins, who he burned for 135 yards on the ground and two passing touchdowns in Week 13.

4. Nick Foles The owner of one touchdown on the season entering the game, Foles exploded for 471 yards and four scores against the Texans. Washington is not an imposing matchup, and the Eagles are playing for their season.

5. Sam Darnold Darnold has played extremely well as of late, and that good play resulted in 341 yards and three scores against the Packers. New England is not as good a matchup, but Darnold has played well enough lately to make him an option.

Desperation Station: Nick Mullens predictably fell to earth against the Bears, but he had been putting up pretty good numbers before that and has a less imposing matchup against the Rams this week…Derek Carr has slowed down the last two weeks, but he finishes up against the Chiefs…Stay away from Cooper Rush even if he gets the start, but Teddy Bridgewater was sharp in the preseason and has a good matchup at home against the Panthers.

1.  C.J. Anderson – Anderson was almost certainly added in all competitive leagues last week, and it is possible if not likely Todd Gurley will return this week. Still, he is under the threshold, so he has to be mentioned.

2. Jeff Wilson – A few backs below have more upside but an uncertain situation while Wilson is locked into a starting role with Matt Breida done for the season. He touched the ball 24 times in his one start earlier this season.

3. Royce FreemanFreeman’s only path to viability over the last several weeks has been a Phillip Lindsay injury, but that is exactly what happened Monday night.

4. Brian Hill Tevin Coleman is day to day with a groin injury. If he sits, Hill will be the next man up. He gained 115 yards on just eight carries against the Panthers, gaining at least 21 yards on three separate runs.

5. Dwayne Washington – It makes sense for the Saints to rest Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, which would leave Dwayne Washington as the lead back. He went for 47 yards on 11 carries in clean-up duty against the Bengals back in Week 10.

6. Darren Sproles – Sproles still carries a low floor, but he has scored in three of four games since returning and actually saw nine carries and six targets last week.

7. Rod Smith – The Cowboys are talking like they will play their starters, which is why Smith is a bit further down this list. If Ezekiel Elliott sits, however, Smith will be a better option than everyone except C.J. Anderson, assuming Todd Gurley is out.

8. Cameron Artis-Payne – It remains unclear if the Panthers will actually sit Christian McCaffrey, but it is likely Artis-Payne is the next man up if they do.

Desperation Station: Miami’s offense is both bad and directionless, making Kalen Ballage tough to trust…Even if Lamar Miller does not return, neither Alfred Blue nor D’Onta Foreman inspired much confidence with their performances on Sunday. Foreman did at least catch a touchdown and would be the better flier…Kenneth Dixon’s role seems to have plateaued, but he should be good for around 10 touches…Zach Zenner would have been a pretty good flier this week, but the Lions are addicted to giving LeGarrette Blount the ball for some reason…Keith Ford has actually managed to produce a bit the last couple weeks, but his touch upside is not large enough to be an exciting option…Jalen Richard’s floor is low, but he scored on Monday night, and the game against the Chiefs would seem to set up well for him.

1. Robert Foster Foster did not have one of his ceiling games against the Patriots, but he was just inches away from a couple big plays. He will have a good chance to hit on those against the Dolphins.

2. Jordy Nelson Nelson now has 308 yards over his last four games with at least six catches in all of them, and he gets to face the Chiefs in the season finale.

3. Marquez Valdes-Scantling With both Equanimeous St. Brown and Randall Cobb dealing with concussions, Valdes-Scantling should serve as the No. 2 in the season finale. Jake Kumerowis another name to know.

4. Kendrick Bourne With Dante Pettis out and Marquise Goodwin banged up, Bourne should serve as the No. 1 in the season finale.

5. DaeSean HamiltonHamilton has not shown much yardage upside, but he has two touchdowns in three games and has seen at least nine targets in each of those.

6. Keke Coutee With Demaryius Thomas out for the season, Coutee would be higher on this list, but his injury situation remains impossible to figure out.

7. Curtis Samuel The matchup is not great, but Samuel appears to fit how the offense will run under either Taylor Heinicke (elbow) or Kyle Allen.

8. Michael Gallup Even if the Cowboys decide to rest their starters, it is likely the rookie gets some extended run in the season finale. He scored his second touchdown last week.

Desperation Station: Nelson Agholor had a big game on the back of a big play, but his usage has been up-and-down since Golden Tate’s arrival…It is possible Keith Kirkwood, Tre’Quan Smith, or even Ted Ginn if they want to knock some rust off see a big target share if the Saints rest their starters…It was disappointing to see Josh Reynolds get just two targets Week 16, but he still managed 44 yards and could have an expanded role if the Rams decide to limit Robert Woods’ and Brandin Cooks’ reps in the season finale…Jamison Crowder continues to crank out good games down the stretch and has a good matchup with the Eagles…Zay Jones had one of his efficient games against the Patriots, and it is possible that continues against the Dolphins…Mohamed Sanu came through in a big way last week, and he finishes up with the Bucs…Chris Conley and Demarcus Robinson cannibalize each other too much to be great fantasy options…DeAndre Carter had seven targets last week and should play a big role if Keke Coutee cannot play…Taywan Taylor has quietly been the most productive Titans receiver since returning from injury…Tim Patrick still had a fine game Monday night, but Courtland Sutton’s reemergence makes him a dicey play.

1. Chris Herndon
Really the only viable option on the wire, Herndon went for 82 yards and a touchdown against the Packers, gets a good matchup against the Patriots, and has shown well with Sam Darnold most of the season.

2. C.J. Uzomah Essentially the only reliable target in the passing game, Uzomah graduated from around 40 yards and no touchdowns to around 40 yards and a score against the Browns. On the bright side, the Steelers are a pretty good matchup.

3. Ian Thomas He has to be on this list after producing even with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, but in New Orleans is a completely different story.

Desperation Station: If Eric Ebron is forced to sit with a concussion, Mo Alie-Cox would be the next man up, but the Colts focused more on the receivers against the Giants…The Rams still have something to play for, which is good news for Gerald Everett, but he does not even have the benefit of a good matchup this week…He is still on the touchdown-or-bust list, but Antonio Gates has at least gotten five targets each of the last two games…Mark Andrews had a big game against the Chargers, but it came on just two catches and really one big play.

1. Seattle Seahawks
They are a couple percentage points above the threshold, but their rostered percentage does not reflect the strength of their matchup at home against the Cardinals’ offense, perhaps the worst individual unit in football. The Steelers and Saints are two other teams just a few percentage points above the threshold which have great matchups.

2. Kansas City Chiefs The Chiefs have consistently gotten after the quarterback outside of the first couple weeks of the season, and they forced three turnovers in Oakland when they played the Raiders a few weeks ago.

3. Buffalo Bills  The Cowboys and Packers could also be on this list in a great week for streamers, but the Bills get the nod against a bad offense which has been even worse away from home.

1. Robbie Gould Gould has made multiple field goals in each of his last three games and seven total in his last two.

2. Brett Maher A potential resting of starters hurts Dallas’ offensive upside, and Maher will have to kick outside. Still, it is too good a matchup to pass up for a kicker who has been mostly reliable late in the season.

3. Mike Badgley Badgley has really disappointed the last two weeks, but the Chargers’ offense and as a result Badgley are a good bet to get back on track in Denver. 

Raymond Summerlin
Raymond Summerlin is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter at @RMSummerlin.