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NFL fantasy football: 50 facts from the 2012 season

If you've immersed yourself in the world of fantasy sports, whether you want to admit it or not, there's a good chance you're a stats geek. (It's alright, geeking out about sports stats is a heck of a lot more macho than getting excited about the new season of American Idol). As a slave to the stat myself, I went back into the depths of the 2012 fantasy football season and unearthed 50 interesting little nuggets. Some of them you might know, some of them you probably don't. It's a pretty long read as far as fantasy columns go, so give yourself some time and endulge your inner stats nerd.

1. Since 2007, no more than two quarterbacks had finished in the top five in fantasy points at the position in back-to-back seasons. Four quarterbacks went back-to-back in 2011-2012, including Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Cam Newton. Matthew Stafford is the lone player to fail to make the list again.

2. The average fantasy points scored among the top-10 quarterbacks in 2009 was 255.66. Rodgers was the lone signal-caller to score over 300 points. In 2012, the average fantasy points scored among the top-10 quarterbacks was 311.81. Seven of those players, including Rodgers, scored over 300 fantasy points.

3. Rodgers has finished no worse than second in fantasy points among quarterbacks in each of the last five years. Brees has finished no worse than second in four of those five years. The one season he missed out was in 2010. Coincidentally (perhaps?), that was the year Brees was featured on the cover of the Madden game.

4. Seven different quarterbacks have thrown for 40-plus touchdowns in a single season during the course of NFL history. That list includes Brady, Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Stafford. The lone signal-caller to throw for 40-plus touchdowns in back-to-back seasons is Brees, who did it in 2011-2012.

5. The Arizona Cardinals finished what was a dreadful 2012 season with 11 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions. In the final seven weeks of the regular season, their quarterbacks threw for a combined one touchdown and were intercepted 13 times. In that same time frame, Brees threw 18 touchdown passes.

6. The team with the fewest touchdown passes in the 2012 campaign was not the Cardinals, but the Kansas City Chiefs. Their quarterbacks tossed just eight scores and were intercepted 20 times. The team with the fewest passing touchdowns since the start of a 16-game schedule - the 1995 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (five).

7. Stafford finished 11th in fantasy points among quarterbacks and scored just three fewer fantasy points than Tony Romo. However, the Lions signal-caller also scored 15 or fewer fantasy points six times. Stafford, who had 41 touchdowns in 2011, failed to throw for multiple scoring passes in 11 of those contests.

8. Brady has finished no worse than fourth in fantasy points among quarterbacks since 2010, and no worse than seventh in each of his last five full seasons. He has also thrown for 4,000-plus yards in all but one of those full seasons. Heading into the 2007 campaign, Brady had thrown for over 4,000 yards just once.

9. Heading into 2012, only one rookie quarterback (Cam Newton) had finished in the top 10 in fantasy points at the position over the previous three seasons. This year saw three rookie signal-callers (Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson) reach that level. All three rushed for four or more touchdowns.

10. Based on average draft position (ADP) numbers, Wilson was by far the best value in fantasy football among quarterbacks. Despite not being drafted until the 15th round (147.57) in most NFL.com leagues (Tim Tebow was drafted higher on average), the rookie finished 10th in fantasy points at his position.

11. In 2009, not a single quarterback rushed for 350 or more yards and just one (Rodgers) rushed for five touchdowns. Four different signal-callers (Newton, RG3, Wilson, Colin Kaepernick) rushed for over 400 yards this past season, and a combined eight signal-callers scored at least four touchdowns on the ground.

12. NFL fans might berate Romo for his failures in the clutch, but it's hard to argue with his level of production. In his last three full seasons, the Cowboys quarterback has finished no worse than eighth in fantasy points at the position. He has also thrown for 4,100-plus yards in each of those three campaigns.

13. Philip Rivers finished 21st in fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2012. He has now seen his rank at the position drop in each of the last three seasons (2011 - 9th, 2010 - 5th). Furthermore, Rivers has also seen his completion percentage, passer rating, passing yards and touchdowns all decline since 2009.

14. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 4,328 yards and ranked ninth in fantasy points at his position in 2009. Since then, he has finished no better than 13th (2011) in points at quarterback and has failed to rank among the top 15 twice. Big Ben has also failed to post 4,000-plus passing yards in all but two pro seasons.

15. Adrian Peterson rushed for 2,097 rushing yards and recorded 2,317 scrimmage yards in his first season back from a major knee reconstruction. Dating back to 1999, not a single running back coming off such an operation had rushed for more than 1,400 yards. Jamal Lewis was the closest (2002) with 1,327 yards.

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16. Since 2007, no more than two running backs have finished in the top five in fantasy points in back-to-back seasons. Peterson did it in four straight years (2007-2010) and five of his last six seasons overall. The one year Peterson failed to finish in the top five was 2011, when he ranked seventh among backs.

17. The average number of fantasy points scored among the top-10 running backs in 2011, a group led by Ray Rice, was 226.40. In 2012, that number rose to an average of 255.66. The top 10 runners from last season, a bunch led by Peterson, also rushed for an average of around 254 more yards compared to the 2011 group.

18. Arian Foster has been the featured running back for the Houston Texans for each of the last three seasons. In that time, he has finished no worse than fourth in fantasy points at the position. What's more, no other back has recorded more combined fantasy points in that time than the star out of Tennessee.

19. Doug Martin recorded an amazing 272 scrimmage yards and found the end zone four times in Week 9 against the Oakland Raiders, totaling 51.20 fantasy points. That number is the third-best in a single game by a running back since 2000, trailing only Clinton Portis (55.40 - 2003) and Shaun Alexander (53.10 - 2002).

20. The second-best fantasy performance from a running back went to Alfred Morris, who rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the Dallas Cowboys (Week 17). Jamaal Charles put up 233 rushing yards, one touchdown and 34.80 points (Week 3) for the third-best total during the fantasy football season.

21. Based on 2012 (ADP) numbers, Morris was by far the best value in fantasy football among running backs. Despite not being drafted until the 15th round (140.80) in most NFL.com leagues (Roy Helu was drafted higher on average), the rookie still finished an impressive fifth in total fantasy points at his position.

22. Between 2009-2011, not a single rookie running back had finished better than 17th (Knowshon Moreno) in fantasy points at the position. Martin (2nd), Morris (5th) and Trent Richardson (9th) all finished in the top 10 in fantasy points in 2012. This trio combined to score a ridiculous 37 total touchdowns as well.

23. Chris Johnson averaged a solid 1,532 rushing yards and found the end zone a combined 38 times in his first three NFL seasons. Since 2011, the veteran running back has rushed for an average of just 1,145 yards and scored a combined 10 touchdowns. He found the end zone in just five of his 16 games this past season.

24. Michael Turner has seen his carries and rushing yards decline in each of his last four full seasons in Atlanta. He posted his worst numbers in those categories in 2012, toting the rock just 222 times for 803 yards. While he did find the end zone 11 total times, Turner was just 17th in fantasy points among backs.

25. DeAngelo Williams scored a mediocre 130.40 fantasy points during the course of the 2012 NFL campaign. More than 55 percent of those total points came in the final four weeks of the regular season, when he recorded 318 rushing yards, 139 receiving yards, four total touchdowns and 73.70 fantasy points (18.42 PPG).

26. Since 2007, no more than two wide receivers have finished in the top five in fantasy points in back-to-back seasons. What's more, the lone player at the position to go back-to-back in the last four years is Calvin Johnson (2011-2012). Megatron was the No. 1 wideout in fantasy land in each of those seasons.

27. Megatron finished first in fantasy points among wideouts with an NFL record 1,964, but he found the end zone just five times. Since 2009, just one other receiver with five or fewer touchdowns has finished among the top 10 at the position. Ironically, it also happened in 2012 (Andre Johnson - four touchdowns).

28. Here's another nugget on fantasy football's best wide receiver. Johnson finished the 2012 year with 204 targets. That made him just the fourth wideout in NFL history to compile 200 or more targets in a single season. The others are Rob Moore (208 - 1997), Herman Moore (206 - 1995) and Marvin Harrison (205 - 2002).

29. The long-standing trend of wideouts to break out in their third NFL season was evident in 2012, as three of the top seven point scorers (Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker) were third-year wideouts. A.J. Green and Julio Jones, both in their second pro seasons, finished among the top nine wide receivers.

30. From 1999-2010 while a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning's leading wide receivers (based on yardage) averaged 1,383 yards and scored 10.8 touchdowns. In his first full season with Manning under center in Denver, Thomas recorded just over 1,400 receiving yards and found the end zone 10 times.

31. Discounting the Week 9 contest in Seattle where he suffered a season-ending ankle injury, Percy Harvin averaged over 12 fantasy points per contest and was on pace to finish a full season a solid with 195.80 points. That total would have ranked him sixth in fantasy points at the position, just 1.6 behind Thomas.

32. Larry Fitzgerald had finished no worse than fifth in fantasy points among wideouts in three of his last four seasons, at least before the 2012 campaign. He fell to 42nd in points this season and was outscored by 69 other wide receivers over the final four weeks. Fitzgerald scored double digits just once in his last seven games.

33. No wide receiver scored more fantasy points in the final four weeks of the regular season (67.70) than Michael Crabtree. The veteran also averaged 12.78 fantasy points in the seven games started by Kaepernick. If you project that total over 16 games, Crabtree would have been the fourth-ranked wideout based on points.

34. A total of 19 wide receivers reached the 1,000-yard mark in 2012, including Miami's Brian Hartline. However, he was able to find the end zone just once all season long. It was the first time since 2001 that a wideout who posted 1,000-plus yards scored just one time - that wide receiver was Keyshawn Johnson.

35. Danario Alexander played in nine games for the San Diego Chargers, recording 658 yards and a stellar seven touchdowns. If you project the 107.80 fantasy points he scored in those contests over a full season, the veteran would have finished with 191.64 points - that's more than all but four wideouts in the NFL.

36. Torrey Smith recorded a combined 332 yards, scored three touchdowns and averaged a very solid 13.12 fantasy points for owners in his first four games of the 2012 campaign. In his final 12 contests, however, Smith posted 523 yards, scored five touchdowns and put up an average of just 6.82 fantasy points.

37. James Jones led all wideouts in touchdowns with 14, and he did it despite catching 64 passes. That touchdown per catch average (0.21) is the fifth-best in NFL history. Jerry Rice, who had 22 scores on 65 catches (1987), is the leader. Ironically Jones' teammate, Jordy Nelson, has the fourth-best average (2011).

38. Based on 2012 (ADP) numbers, Jones was the best value in fantasy football among wide receivers. Despite not being drafted until the 15th round (149.48) in most NFL.com leagues (Terrell Owens was drafted higher on average), the veteran wideout still finished 16th in total fantasy points at his position.

39. The average number of fantasy points scored among the top-10 tight ends in 2011 was 140.29. A total of seven players had 119-plus points, and two scored at least 195.00. In 2012, the average of the top-10 tight ends was 123.04 points. No player put up more than 155 points, and just five scored 119-plus points.

40. A total of eight different tight ends finished among the top 12 in fantasy points at the position compared to 2011. Since 2006, no fewer than six tight ends had finished in the top 12 in back-to-back years. Of the 2012 finalists, an amazing seven of those tight ends had an ADP of Round 15 or higher on NFL.com.

41. At least one tight end has recorded 1,000-plus yards in each of the last six seasons. Jason Witten (3) and Tony Gonzalez (2) have done it multiple times during that time frame. In the previous seven seasons, just two tight ends (Gonzalez, Antonio Gates) were able to reach the 1,000-yard mark in the stat sheets.

42. Gates has seen a steady decline in fantasy football production since 2010. He ranked second in points at the position that season, fell to seventh in 2011 and dropped all the way down to 12th in 2012. Gates has also seen his overall yardage and yards-per-catch averages decline in each of those three campaigns.

43. Rob Gronkowski had the greatest fantasy season ever for a tight end in 2011, posting 18 total scores and an amazing 240.90 points. That is more points than the combined total of Witten (121.90) and Greg Olsen (114.30), who were fifth and sixth in points at the position, respectively, this past season.

44. Gronkowski missed five games in 2012 due to a broken forearm, but he still finished second in fantasy points (143.00) at his position. If you project his totals over a full 16 games, he would have put up 208.00 points in 2012. That would have been 55.80 more points than the next best tight end, Jimmy Graham.

45. Vernon Davis recorded a combined 303 yards, four touchdowns and averaged 10.86 fantasy points in his first five games of 2012. In his final 11 contests, Davis posted 245 yards, scored one touchdown and averaged 2.72 points. A total of 46 tight ends scored more fantasy points than Davis over the final four weeks.

46. Since 2009, no kicker has finished No. 1 in fantasy points in back-to-back seasons. David Akers, who was the top fantasy kicker in 2011, failed to rank in the top two at the position for the first time in those four years. Blair Walsh was the first rookie kicker to lead the league in fantasy points in that time frame.

47. Since 2009, no defense has finished No. 1 in fantasy points in back-to-back seasons. The Niners, who were the top fantasy defense in 2011, ranked seventh at the position this past year. That is the highest a defense has finished after ranking No. 1 the previous campaign during this four-year time frame.

48. The Chicago Bears scored a combined 10 touchdowns on defense and special teams during the 2012 season. That is more touchdowns than the Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Raiders, Eagles and Lions scored combined. The Bears also scored more than twice as many fantasy points as six of those teams overall.

49. The Seahawks defense scored 41 fantasy points against the Cardinals in Week 14, the most points any defense scored in a single game in 2012. If you add Seattle's fantasy points in Weeks 14-16 (72), this unit scored more points than the Jaguars, Lions, Eagles, Raiders and Chiefs defenses posted the entire season.

50. Over the final seven weeks of the 2012 regular season, six defenses scored 10 or more fantasy points against the Cardinals. Overall, defenses averaged 16.57 points against them in that time. That's a better average than all but three running backs and every single wide receiver recorded for the entire season.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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