*In honor of NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2017" series (airing Mondays at 9 p.m. ET), the NFL Fantasy team is releasing their preliminary top 100 or 200 fantasy players of 2017 lists as well. Below is Alex Gelhar's list, and you can view other analysts through the tabs above. *
Before we get into this list, I feel the need to address a few things. First, yes, this is extremely early to be compiling a top 100 list and the version you see below is far from set in stone. I haven't had a chance to really sink my teeth into everything post draft, and as a result, there might be some surprising rankings that will change soon. Second, man do things start to get dicey quickly this year. There appears to be a lot of potential in the middle rounds, but sorting out where to take certain players right now is difficult. Thankfully we have several months left to perform mock drafts, research and get ourselves in a better spot come draft day.
There was zero movement in my top 16 players. For me, the top of the draft is pretty set in stone, flowing from the truly elite workhorse backs to the big-five wide receivers into the rest of the top 10s at each position. The biggest climbers in this tier for me were Marshawn Lynch (now that we know he's a Raider and in at least decent health), and Doug Baldwin. Baldwin wasn't much farther down, but I feel much better about a guy who has posted back-to-back WR1 seasons in an ascending passing offense with an elite quarterback over players with question marks swirling around them like gnats in summer humidity (Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, et al). The drum beat out of Duval County is starting to crescendo for a big workload for Leonard Fournette and an overall run-heavy approach, so I like him at the tail end of the second round. Yes, Amari Cooper has been underutilized in the red zone, but if he finally gets targets there he's a top-10 wide receiver, easy. At worst, he's in the WR10-15 tier, which isn't too shabby.
I've grown more comfortable with the prospects of a few running backs in this group. I feel some analysts and fans are vastly overplaying the Jamaal Williams factor in Green Bay, and Ty Montgomery is set up for a fantastic season. He's stronger, faster, more agile, and more experienced than Williams, not to mention the fact that he's spent multiple years in Mike McCarthy's complex offense. Why should we assume a fourth-round rookie is going to come in and steal his job? C.J. Anderson was another riser for me, climbing roughly 14 spots among backs. Jamaal Charles is a threat, but Anderson played well before suffering injuries last year and is the favorite to lead this backfield in touches. Though to be honest, not much separates Anderson from the next handful of backs in this group, as all could find themselves as the lead back in some sort of committee situation. While we're talking about Denver, don't overlook Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. In a subpar situation last year they still finished as the WR19 and WR21 in standard scoring, respectively. Trevor Siemian could improve, the offensive line should be better, and Mike McCoy is returning as coordinator. Those are a lot of positive factors that could push them both higher into the WR2 tier.
I'm souring on Lamar Miller's outlook a bit, and as a result, he's fallen seven spots in my RB rankings. I'm concerned about his touchdown upside in an offense that added the bruising D'Onta Foreman and has two great red-zone threats in C.J. Fiedorowicz and DeAndre Hopkins. He's a featured back, but his fantasy ceiling feels painfully low. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce both got a bump following the surprising release of Jeremy Maclin. They put on a two-man show last year in Kansas City, and if they bring an encore to 2017 fantasy players could be richly rewarded. If you're curious why Stefon Diggs is so high, read my latest on underrated offenses with loads of fantasy potential.
I really, really like the upside of the wide receivers in this range. The first three listed all could finish within the top 20 at their position and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. Don't be afraid to grab a smaller possession receiver like Jarvis Landry, Willie Snead, Pierre Garcon, or Jamison Crowder in this range. All will be consistent contributors in standard leagues with crazy upside in PPR formats. The running backs all come with come concerns, but pretty much all of them (save the King of Grit, Danny Woodhead), have a real shot at being No. 1 runners on their squads. This might seem early for a guy like Terrance West when plenty of people believe Kenneth Dixon will steal his job this year. But Dixon must serve a four-game suspension to start the year, so at the very least you're getting a month of RB2 production with a chance for much more if West gives Dixon the Heisman and holds onto the starting job. That's definitely worth a late sixth-round pick in my opinion.
I know it might be tempting to reach on some rookie running backs at this point in the draft, such as Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams, or Marlon Mack, but I'd advise against that strategy. There's simply too much value with the wide receivers available in these rounds. Many of the players listed here have top-30 or even top-20 potential. Cameron Meredith could see a million targets in Chicago. Rishard Matthews surprised last year and now has Corey Davis to help draw attention away from him. Kenny Britt had over 1,000 yards last year with the Rams(!). Julian Edelman is in a crowded passing attack, but still, has an unbreakable bromance with Tom Brady. Corey Coleman flashed last year. Adam Thielen nearly eclipsed 1,000 yards last year, and now will have more consistency at quarterback and in the offensive scheme. Eric Decker should land in a better offense than the Jets, and lastly, Breshad Perriman has crazy talent and might finally be on the field for a whole season. You'll notice, however, that I do include one rookie runner here and that's Samaje Perine. Of the several mentioned in this paragraph, he seemingly has the least resistance ahead of him to becoming a featured back. He's well worth the investment at this point in drafts as opposed to other backs who have more established veterans impeding their path to touches.