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Alex Gelhar's top 100 fantasy players for 2016

The NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2016" series has returned. Tune in each Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network to see the next set of 10 players revealed on the list!

And in honor of that premiere, we figured it was high time to put out some rankings of our own. Below is my extremely preliminary top 100 fantasy players for 2016. (You can find Michael Fabiano's top 200 here as well.) This list (based on standard fantasy league scoring) will absolutely grow and change as the offseason progresses and I continue my research and tape study. But based on what I saw last year, what's changed in the draft and free agency, and how I feel about these players currently, I've come up with the list below. I provide a little bit of context after each 25 players, but feel free to hit me up on Twitter @AlexGelhar for more specific questions. Now let's get to it.

Alex Gelhar's Top 100 Fantasy Players for 2016

No real surprises at the top, but if you're weighing the risk of Ezekiel Elliott more than his tremendous upside as the true featured back in Dallas then you're doing this wrong. He will be a first-round pick by the times fantasy drafts matter. Eddie Lacy as the RB10 might seem like a shock, but he's a talented back in an elite offense who finished as the RB6 in his first two seasons before his weight and commitment became issues in 2015. So far this offseason, it seems those are no longer problems and I feel just a bit safer with him than the backs in the early teens in my rankings. Mike Evans disappointed last year, but I fully expect his touchdown total to rebound. He's been working on his chemistry with Jameis Winston this offseason, and should remain a focus for the team in the red zone (13 targets, six touchdowns in 2014, 14 targets, two touchdowns in 2015). Brandon Marshall could slip a bit more if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't end up back in New York, or get a bump up if the Amish Rifle is slinging it to him again.

This started off probably the hardest part of the rankings to sift through, as there are so many great wide receivers in this very large second tier. Players like Keenan Allen, Brandin Cooks, Jeremy Maclin, Doug Baldwin and Amari Cooper and so on wouldn't surprise me if they turned in WR1 numbers. However, running back starts to get pretty thin after Latavius Murray at RB20. The guys above him are all in great situations with minimal risk for their lead role being usurped, but immediately after starts committee territory. DeMarco Murray would have been higher had his team not drafted Derrick Henry. Round 5 is where I'd feel comfortable looking at another tight end after Rob Gronkowski in the second. I'm bullish on Jordan Reed as the No. 2 tight end, as his upside (if he stays healthy) is Gronkian. Greg Olsen should quietly continue his elite fantasy tight end play, and could get a little boost from the return of a healthy Kelvin Benjamin.

Given the current state of the Broncos quarterback situation, I'm down on both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Both could suffer a big statistical slide with Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch under center. Using the Rotoviz Game Splits app, Thomas averaged 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns per year with Manning, versus 922 yards and eight touchdowns without. Sanders fell from 1,302 yards and eight touchdowns a year to 672 yards and four scores (and that includes his years playing with Ben Roethlisberger). Both are still great players, but I'm not drafting either right now as anything more than a WR3. Duke Johnson is one of my early sleeper picks, thanks in large part to the arrival of Hue Jackson in Cleveland. Jackson's last four offenses have finished seventh, fifth, seventh and fourth in rushing attempts, and averaged 114 targets to backs per year. Johnson is the most dynamic back in Cleveland and last year received almost 70 percent of the team's backfield targets. He could surprise with more opportunities heading his way in 2016. While Justin Forsett should open the year as the starter for the Ravens, I think Kenneth Dixon will overtake that role from him by the season's end which is why I have the rookie ranked higher. Owners may have to be patient with Dixon, but the reward could be fantastic. I slid Tyler Eifert down to TE6 for now, as he caught a touchdown on 18 percent of his targets, an unsustainable pace. Now, if he gets more targets thanks to the departure of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, he has a better chance to keep his touchdown total up. But there's a big chance for regression after his breakout 2015 campaign, leaing me to knock him down a few spots.

Rounding out my top 100 are a bunch of upside guys, and a few players I might be a little low on at this point in the offseason. Take out Matt Jones' epic Week 2 game and he averaged just 2.98 yards per carry. I'm not sold on the Redskins believing he can be their featured back after he fumbled five times on 163 touches in 2015, and would much rather take a late-round flier on Keith Marshall. I've seen Jeremy Langford going in the third or even second round this offseason, but as you can see from my ranking I wouldn't touch him until Round 9. His 2015 tape was lackluster, his production disappointing (3.6 yards per carry on 148 attempts) and the team drafted Jordan Howard in the fifth round after trying and failing to sign C.J. Anderson this offseason. At worst, the Bears backfield is shaping up as a committtee and I'm not drafting a committee member of Langford's caliber any earlier than this. A few names who could easily rise from this tier are Ameer Abdullah, Josh Doctson, Dorial Green-Beckham and Kevin White. I need more clarity on the Lions backfield before pushing Abdullah up, and Doctson could take a big leap if his team releases either Pierre Garcon or DeSean Jackson later this summer. DGB oozes potential, but I want to see how he looks in Year 2 preseason before truly believing the hyper, and I'd just like to see Kevin White on an NFL field before making a full judgment on the Bears 2015 first-round draft pick.

So there you have it. My very early Top 100 fantasy players for 2016. Bookmark this page and check back often as the rankings will change the more I learn and the closer we get to the season. Until next time ...

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-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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