The sky is blue. The earth is round. You need oxygen to live. Peyton Manning is likely to struggle in a postseason game when the temperature at kickoff is below 40 degrees. Some things are obvious. Unfortunately, the obvious is not always so obvious in the National Football League and fantasy football. In fact, things tend to change often from one season to the next. Sure, your fantasy superstars are almost always going to put up gangbusters totals in the stat sheets (well, unless you're Chris Johnson). However, drafting a fantasy team isn't as simple as looking back at the previous season's stats and making your selections.
Is Doug Martin a lock to be a superstar again in 2013? Are you sold on Alfred Morris as an elite running back? Well, maybe past stats can help us find out what the future holds. Below is a look at the top 10 running backs (based on points) in the last six years, and how those players fared the following season. The results and turnover percentage are well, not so obvious.
All of the numbers compiled are based on NFL.com's standard scoring system.
Positional overview: No more than two running backs have finished in the top five in back-to-back seasons since 2007, and no more than five have gone back-to-back in the top 10. In 2012, three new runners (Peterson, Martin, Morris) were among the top five after not being there in 2011. ... Peterson is the lone running back to finish in the top five in four straight years (2007-2010). He missed the top five (7th) in 2011 due to injuries, but rebounded from a major knee reconstruction to finish first this past season. It was the first time he has ever led all runners in fantasy points. ... Three rookies (Martin, Morris, Richardson) finished in the top 10 at the position. Martin, who finished second, was the best first-year runner. Knowshon Moreno, who had been the highest-scoring rookie runner since 2009, ranked a mediocre 17th. ... After finishing no worse than fifth in fantasy points in his first two NFL seasons, Chris Johnson has now failed to rank among the top 12 runners over the last two years. ... He has ranked 16th and 13th in each of the last two seasons and has just 10 rushing touchdowns.
Breakdown: Despite entering the 2012 season with a lot of question marks, the running back position re-emerged as a fruitful spot for fantasy leaguers. Peterson and Charles made successful returns from serious knee surgeries, Lynch proved that 2011 was no fluke and the 2012 rookie class birthed three top-10 options in Martin, Morris and Richardson. The position is getting younger at the top too, as Gore was the lone back in the top 10 who entered the season over 28 years of age. With the likely return of McCoy to an elite level in Philadelphia, not to mention the emergence of upstart backs like Spiller and Stevan Ridley, 2013 fantasy drafts are going to be littered with runners in the first few rounds. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked to see at least seven and as many as eight backs come off the board in the first round of a 10-team league.
New faces for 2013: The top of the 2013 running back position should look similar to 2012 with Peterson, Foster, Rice and Lynch leading the charge. Maurice Jones-Drew, who missed most of 2012, could also re-emerge into a top runner. Because the position has become younger at the top, owners will have some great options with upside to choose from in the first two rounds. Spiller and Richardson have the tools to drive themselves into the top five at the position - remember, no more than two backs have finished in the top five in fantasy points in back-to-back seasons in the last seven campaigns.
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!