Fantasy football is all about numbers, statistics and trends. It made the likes of Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt household names during their illustrious careers. It's contributed to the fame of once less-heralded players like Marques Colston and Victor Cruz. Unfortunately, often times the obvious isn't so obvious in fantasy land. You might have thought that Andre Johnson was a cinch to put up huge numbers in 2011, especially since he's been such a statistical monster over the years. Well, we know how that played out -- Johnson missed nine games and finished 74th in fantasy points at his position.
The point here is that there are very few sure things in fantasy football, and we have the data to prove it. Think Jordy Nelson is a lock to score another 15 touchdowns and remain a star in 2012? Think again. Is Calvin Johnson a no-brainer in the first round? Well, don't be shocked if his level of production falls a bit compared to 2011. Below is a look at the top 10 wide receivers (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 extremely low.
All of the numbers compiled are based on NFL.com's standard scoring system.
Positional overview: No wide receiver has finished No. 1 based on fantasy points in consecutive seasons during our time frame. What more, there hasn't been a single wideout to finish in the top five in back to back seasons over the last three years. Not even Megatron. He was first last season and is now on the cover of the Madden video game (curse?) ... Fitzgerald has been the most reliable receiver in recent time, finishing in the top five in four of the last five seasons. He was fifth in both 2009 and 2011. .... White has finished in the top seven in four straight seasons. He's the only player to accomplish this feat. ... Jennings has altered top-five finishes over the last four years. He missed three games and ranked 17th in 2011. ... Andre Johnson had finished in the top eight in three straight seasons before falling out of the top 70 last season due to injuries. ... Miles Austin and DeSean Jackson have one top-five appearance in their careers.
Breakdown: Of the four major fantasy positions, wide receiver is clearly the most unpredictable. That is glaringly obvious with a turnover rate of 10 percent over the last five year. As a result of the trend, you can expect that at least three to four of the top five wideouts from 2011 won't be there in 2012. Sure, it's almost a sacrilege to suggest Megatron won't be a top five wideout again. But there are no guarantees. The players who seem most likely to fall out of the top five are Cruz, Nelson and Welker. None of those three players have ever been in the top five before, so there isn't much of a resume to back them up. Vincent Jackson, who left the San Diego Chargers for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a candidate to drop out of the top 10. The same can be said of Wallace, who is holding out of training camp over contractual issues.
New faces for 2012: If these trends continue, we are going to see a lot of new names in the top five and 10 at the position this season. So ... who is most likely to rise to fantasy stardom? Among the top five, I absolutely love Julio Jones and A.J. Green to make a huge push. If Andre Johnson can stay out of the trainer's room, he would also be a candidate to move into the top five. Nicks is also a good bet to finish in the top 10, if not the top five. The same holds true of Marshall, who is back with Jay Cutler and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates in Chicago. Other players with a legitimate chance to crack the top 10 this year include Lloyd, Colston, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant.