Top 200 fantasy football players for 2018: Alex Gelhar

Ranking players for fantasy is a fun, but also frustrating exercise. Especially when you go in a straight 1-200 fashion. It leaves little room for nuance or strategy. Instead, readers get too focused on the individual rankings themselves and not the big picture. That's why, for the second edition of my Top 200, I've broken the list up into tiers, each with an appropriate title to help inform why I have the players grouped together. As you read the below list, keep in mind that the rankings within a tier aren't as significant in my eyes as the fact that the players are in the same tier together. For instance, a ranking gap of 10 within one tier is less of a deal than a ranking gap of four if the players are in separate tiers. Got it? The tiers are broken up in how I'm approaching/viewing drafts at this point in the summer, which should make more sense as you read on and I describe my thought process at each point of the list. The crop of true, trustworthy studs is scant at best this year, meaning we'll have to increasingly rely on role players, matchups, and hope some of those breakout candidates truly do hit it big in order to take home a league title.

Also, full disclosure, I'm probably going to hate this list 20 minutes after publishing, but that's just the way these things go. I'll let it breathe for a bit and update it again in a couple weeks after I've done more research and we have a better idea of how the teams and depth charts might look come September. So without further ado, here are my Top 200 players for 2018 2.0. Enjoy, and come argue or discuss these with me on Twitter @alexgelhar. I mean, what else were you going to do this weekend anyway?

The first-round bunch

Pretty self explanatory. These are the players I'm most comfortable drafting in Round 1 depending on the league type, size and so on. As I mentioned above, the rankings within this tier aren't really that substantial. So don't get all butt hurt that Alvin Kamara is below a handful of wide receivers. They're all basically on the same level in my eyes as I approach a draft, and depending on how the picks go ahead of me, I could take any one of them. As for an explanation of why I have so many receivers this high, it's because all of them (pending injury) are near-locks for elite production. That group from 9-13 should all easily eclipse 1,100 yards and a few (Green, Thomas, Adams) should threaten or cruise past double-digit touchdowns. Jones and Allen have added appeal in PPR leagues or leagues that reward bigger yardage totals. For me, that type of production in the first round is a nice way to start a draft, especially over some of the running backs in the next group who are 1) aging 2) in a committee 3) coming off injury or 4) have yet to produce at that level in their career.

The remaining positional studs

This is the crop of players I'm most comfortable selecting after the elites in Tier 1. Most of these guys have reliable workloads, are attached to strong offenses, and/or have been consistent contributors in the past. This is a group of players who shouldn't win me or lose me my draft but will be rocks in my weekly lineups. A couple notes: I'm on board with the Christian McCaffrey hype train. With Jonathan Stewart out of the mix, Run CMC should inherit more rush attempts, and even if his passing targets dip a little his touchdown upside should increase as well. In PPR formats he looks extremely attractive in Round 2. I understand the concerns around LeSean McCoy considering his age, the offense around him, and so on. However, in redraft leagues, he still looks like a great second-round pick. He's going to have to put that offense on his back, and even if that causes him to miss a few games that volume will be impossible to ignore. Take whatever you think about Ronald Jones and Derrius Guice as "prospects/players" and throw it in the trash. Both are on track to be handed massive workloads on silver platters from Day 1, and that's worth targeting at this point in season-long formats. Consistency at the quarterback position should help Demaryius Thomas get back on track after a disappointing, injury-plagued 2017 campaign. I'd be OK with him as my WR2 again this year.

Remarkable upside paired with baggage

Oh boy is the upside immense here. We're talking league-winning picks. The kind that you can rub in your friend's face week after week after week while they rack up ludicrous point totals for your squad. However, these players also should give you plenty of cause for concern. Tyreek Hill has only been a top-10 fantasy wideout once, and that came as a part of a career-best/MVP-caliber year for Alex Smith. Will he be the same player with a first-year starter at quarterback AND Sammy Watkins joining the fray? Josh Gordon ... will the real Flash please stand up? Can Kenyan Drake be a featured back for a full season -- something he's really never done in college or the pros? Is Jerick McKinnon going to be Devonta Freeman-West in Kyle Shanahan's offense? Or will this become a dreaded RBBC? Can Sony Michel slay #Belitricks in New England, or is he just another cog in the "No days off" Patriots positional machine? Are JuJu Smith-Schuster and Corey Davis set to surge in their sophomore years, or will they merely post moderate numbers in their crowded offensive attacks? I'm sure you get the point so let's move on.

Onesie elites I'm OK reaching for

I'm borrowing the phrase "onesie" from our pals over at the Living the Stream podcast, where they use it to describe positions in fantasy football where you (typically) just start one player a week. Your quarterback, tight end, kicker and defense, for instance. I'm typically of the mindset that you wait as long as possible on these positions because the depth and market value is better later in the draft since each team is only starting one per week. However, if you're going to reach early for an elite player at QB or TE, these are my favorites in this range.

Rosterable role players

I love this section of the draft, as I think there's tremendous value here that might allow you to take a shot or two on those upside players earlier. Consider Lamar Miller, for instance. If you skew wide receiver heavy early, Lamar Miller is a perfect RB2 in this range. His production shot up across the board once Deshaun Watson entered the starting lineup last season, and he has almost no competition for touches right now, especially if D'Onta Foreman starts the season on the PUP list as it seems he's on track to right now. Rishard Matthews and Kenny Stills are both secondary options in their passing attacks, but could easily end up as the better fantasy option than their cohort when all is said and done. This group is also chock full of possession-type receivers who may have limited touchdown upside but can be constant contributors to your lineup. A player like Marqise Lee, for instance, might seem like he's too high, but he had an eight-week stretch last year where he averaged roughly five catches, 62 yards, and .5 touchdowns per game. That's really solid back-end WR3/flex production, especially in PPR.

The second-tier of onesie elites

Don't want to reach too early on a QB/TE? Great, grab one of these guys instead. Especially Hunter Henry. He looks ready to explode statistically this year.

The Fox Mulder "I Want to Believe" tier

Ah, this group. I'm sure I'll receive plenty of angry tweets for several of the players in this group being ranked "too low." But the fact of the matter is every single one of these players carries serious question marks to their fantasy production. However, I also wouldn't be surprised to see pretty much anyone in this tier finish as a top 30 option at their position, if not higher. The entire Raiders receiving corps lands in here for good reason. Which Amari Cooper are we getting in 2018? Does Jordy Nelson still have enough in the tank to be a consistent fantasy wideout when he's not catching passes from Aaron Rodgers? Will Martavis Bryant finally fulfill the potential promised by his talent now that he's in a fresh organization? Marlon Mack and Royce Freeman each have featured back upside, but as we sit here in May I'm skeptical either will reach the lofty expectations some analysts are assigning to them. Mack was a Day 3 pick last year who didn't show much in 2017 and will compete with two more Day 3 picks for touches in an offense that could or could not have Andrew Luck under center. Cool. Freeman is the favorite to lead the Denver backfield, but they still have questions at offensive line, we don't know (but we hope!) that Case Keenum can carry over his success from 2017 into a new team and a new year. And to top it off, the team was once high on Devontae Booker and De'Angelo Henderson, both of whom have NFL experience and time in the Broncos system. Freeman will likely climb up my rankings the deeper into summer we get, but for now, this is where he sits. I could sit here for an hour and spin similar yarns about all of the players in here, but I think you get the point.

Solid onesie options if you wait or get sniped earlier

None of these players aside from maybe Jimmy GQ will cause your league mates to gasp or curse you when you select them on draft day. But when the year is wrapping up and you've received solid weekly contributions from one of these guys, you'll look back on this pick and smile.

The Andrew Luck mystery tier

???. Andrew Luck, Colts, QB??

No player has the potential to cover more ground in my Top 200 than Luck. He's in a mystery tier right now because we legitimately know nothing of substance about his health, recovery, timetable, ability, etc., etc., etc. Once we do find out more, I'll move him up or down accordingly. But for now, he's basically just floating through fantasy space, neither here nor there.

Good players, questionable volume/usage

Pretty sure the title of this tier says it all ...

The kids are the future ...

Consider this group the rookies that I think might be fantasy relevant at some point in the season but probably aren't worth drafting in standard-sized redraft leagues.

The Leftovers (no, not the HBO show)

Playing in a deeper league? Need to round out your bench at one of these positions? Here are the bargain bin players I'd still consider drafting late. Some of them have potential to jump up into different tiers, like Dez Bryant, for instance, if he goes to a team that is going to feed him red-zone targets. But for now, this crop rounds out my top 200.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar or "like" his page on Facebook (he promises not to harvest your data).

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