Fantasy Football Start 'Em Sit 'Em: The safest players for Week 18

Jordan Mason #24 of the San Francisco 49ers

Knowing the right players to start in Week 18 can be the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. Some teams are resting their starters; other teams are purposefully giving unknown players increased snaps. Guessing who the fantasy-relevant players will be in every game is incredibly difficult in this, the final week of the regular season.

Thankfully, Dalton Del Don has highlighted a key group of "starts" who look certain to make fantasy noise in Week 18.

DJ Moore @ Green Bay Packers

Moore has averaged just 7.4 fantasy points during the four-plus games Justin Fields missed this season but 17.6 points with him — behind only Tyreek Hill and CeeDee Lamb this season. Moore has been the No. 3 fantasy WR with Fields despite suffering an ankle injury during the first drive in Week 16, when he finished with his lowest output of the season while acting as a decoy the rest of the game. Moore has always been a terrific route runner, and we’re finally getting a glimpse of his potential while playing with a competent quarterback.

The Packers are reeling defensively, giving up Bryce Young’s biggest fantasy game of the season just two weeks ago. Jaire Alexander returns Sunday, but Green Bay has allowed the eighth-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to wide receivers over the last five weeks. Moore is a top start.

James Cook @ Miami Dolphins

Cook is coming off back-to-back flops but has maintained strong usage (including goal-line work last week) and should bounce back Sunday night. The Bills sport the second-highest implied team total (26+ points) in a must-win game. Miami has been especially vulnerable to receiving backs lately, and an injury-riddled Dolphins’ defense will be missing Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips and Xavien Howard. Stefon Diggs saw a big decrease in snaps for the third straight game last week, as something is clearly going on with him, making Cook more important to Buffalo’s offense. Expect Cook to rebound with a big fantasy performance Sunday night.

Nick Mullens @ Detroit Lions

The Vikings are turning back to Mullens, who isn’t afraid to turn the ball over but has also gotten 8.8 YPA this season — which would rank behind only Brock Purdy if he qualified. He’ll benefit from having a healthy Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison and facing a pass-funnel Lions defense indoors. Detroit has allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs but the third-most to quarterbacks this season. The Vikings still have a (long) shot at making the playoffs, so they’ll be playing their starters Sunday. Mullens is a sneaky fantasy start (and DFS play) in Week 18.

Brandin Cooks @ Washington Commanders

Cooks had the second-most air yards in the league last week when he scored for the fourth time over his last six games. Dallas clinches the NFC East with a win, so the Cowboys will be going all-out Sunday. Dallas has by far the highest implied team total (29+ points) this week against a Washington defense that’s likely the league’s worst. The Commanders have allowed an NFL-high 35 passing touchdowns and the third-most fantasy points to Cook’s primary side (RWR) this season. Cooks is a solid fantasy start in Week 18.

James Conner vs. Seattle Seahawks

Conner has been a top-five RB in three of his past four weeks and was top 12 in the other while facing a difficult schedule. He had eight carries in the red zone last week — more than Saquon Barkley has had since Week 12. The Cardinals have gone run-heavy recently and are playing to win. The Seahawks have given up the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this season, including just recently allowing Najee Harris’ biggest fantasy game of the season as well as his teammate (Jaylen Warren) to finish as a top-12 RB — in the same week.

Calvin Ridley @ Tennessee Titans

Ridley is a much better option with Lawrence available, and the QB has been cleared to start. It’s a good spot with Lawrence a go, as the Titans are dealing with multiple injuries in their secondary and have allowed the most fantasy points to Ridley’s primary side this season. Ridley had a disappointing fantasy season, but he’s averaged 10.5 targets over his last four games and is set for a strong finish Sunday.

Zamir White vs. Denver Broncos

White saw 26 of 28 RB opportunities last week, as he continues to act as Las Vegas’ workhorse with Josh Jacobs out. Jacobs has already been ruled out, so White looks like a top-10 RB this week. The Raiders have gone extremely run-heavy, and White gets a home matchup against a Broncos defense yielding an NFL-high 5.0 YPC and the second-most fantasy points to running backs this season. Jarrett Stidham was worse than his box score indicated last week, so game script could be favorable for Da Raidas this week.

Elijah Mitchell (and Jordan Mason) vs. Los Angeles Rams

With Christian McCaffrey ruled out and Elijah Mitchell cleared to play, Mitchell looks set to lead the 9ers backfield in Week 18. But that doesn't mean Jordan Mason won't get his fair share of touches. Sam Darnold is starting at quarterback, and the 49ers will also have a makeshift offensive line likely missing Trent Williams, but Mason would be well worth starting even if he shares the load with Mitchell. He’s gotten 5.6 YPC during his brief career and is familiar with a San Francisco offense that still sports a healthy enough team total (22.5 points) despite playing backups (the Rams are also likely to play some reserves on defense).

One (or both) of these backs is going to make fantasy noise in Week 18.


Nico Collins & Devin Singletary @ Indianapolis Colts

Collins sports a 30% target share and ranks top three in yards per game (117) and yards per route run (4.81) over three full games with C.J. Stroud and no Tank Dell. Noah Brown has been ruled out this week as well, so Collins should be busy Saturday night in a matchup indoors with one of this week’s highest totals (47.5 points). Stroud should be better his second game removed from (another) concussion, and the Colts shut down the slot but are vulnerable to outside receivers. Collins went off for 146 yards and a touchdown when these teams met earlier this season, so he’s a must-start in Week 18.

Singletary saw 19-of-23 RB opportunities last week before sitting out the final two drives of a lopsided game. He remains Houston’s workhorse and gets a prime matchup Saturday night against an Indianapolis defense allowing by far the most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to running backs over the last five weeks.

Michael Pittman Jr. vs. Houston Texans

Pittman ranks top five in target share (30.7%) this season and should rack up looks Saturday night against a pass-funnel Texans defense. Houston has allowed the fewest YPC (2.9) and the lowest rush success rate since Week 8, but has yielded the second-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to wide receivers over the last month. The Colts have one of the higher implied team totals (23+ points) this week, so Pittman should smash Saturday night.