Fantasy football is all about numbers, statistics and trends. It made Aaron Rodgers a household name before he ever won a Super Bowl. It's contributed to the fame of once less-heralded players like Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford. Unfortunately, though, often times the obvious isn't so obvious in fantasy land. You might have thought Michael Vick was a cinch to put up huge numbers in 2011, especially after he was such a statistical monster the previous season. Well, we all know how that played out -- Vick was an enormous disappointment, finishing outside of the top 10 in fantasy points at his position.
The point here is that there are very few sure things in both the National Football League and fantasy football, and we have the statistical data to prove it. Think Cam Newton is a lock to be a star in 2012? Think again. Are you sold on Matthew Stafford as an elite field general? Well, don't be shocked if his level of production falls a bit compared to 2011. Below is a look at the top 10 quarterbacks (based on points) in the last six years, and how those players fared the following season. The turnover percentage of players who returned to essentially the same statistical level is shockingly low.
All of the numbers compiled are based on NFL.com's standard scoring system.
Positional overview: No more than two quarterbacks have finished in the top five in back-to-back seasons since 2006. No more than six have gone back-to-back in the top 10. In 2011, three new field generals (Brees, Newton, Stafford) were in the top five after not being there in 2010. Furthermore, no quarterback has finished first in fantasy points in consecutive seasons. Rodgers has been the closet, ranking in the top two in four straight seasons. He's the lone signal-caller who can boast about that accomplishment. ... Brees has also been reliable, finishing in the top six in six straight years. No other quarterbacks have done that. ... Brady has finished in the top seven in five of the last six seasons. He failed to reach that mark in 2008 after tearing up his knee in the season opener. ... Rivers has finished in the top nine in four straight seasons and five of the last six overall.
Breakdown: The quarterbacks that have finished in the top 10 in back-to-back seasons have been more consistent in 2010 and 2011 (six and five respectively), but overall less than 50 percent have been as good or better the following season since 2006. Fantasy leaguers should keep that in mind with players like Newton (rookie in 2011), Stafford and Sanchez, who all reached the top 10 for the first time in their careers. With Tim Tebow now in the Big Apple, Sanchez is the easiest field general to predict a fall out of the top 10 in 2012. Also keep in mind that Peyton Manning, Schaub and Cutler each missed all or a good portion of last season due to injuries.
New faces for 2012: If these trends continue, fantasy owners can expect at least three new quarterbacks to enter the top five, and around five new quarterbacks to enter the top 10. So ... who is most likely to rise and fall? Among the top five, it's hard to expect a precipitous fall for Rodgers, Brees and Brady. That means Newton and Stafford could drop out of the top five (but I see both remaninig in the top 10). The signal-callers with the best chance to get into the top five who were not there a year ago include Vick, Romo and Rivers. I wouldn't be shocked if Ryan even makes a major push. Of those to break into the top 10, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III are viable options.