In fantasy football, even the obvious isn't so obvious

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 also contributed to the fame of once less-heralded players like Arian Foster and Peyton Hillis. Unfortunately, though, often times the obvious isn't so obvious in fantasy land. You might have thought that Randy Moss was a cinch to put up huge numbers in 2010, or that Brandon Lloyd was for all intents and purposes undraftable. Well, we all know how that ended up -- Moss played for three teams and was waiver-wire fodder at the end of the season, while Lloyd came out of nowhere (and we mean nowhere) to lead all wide receivers in fantasy points.

The point here is that there are very few sure things in fantasy football -- and we have the data to prove it. Think Foster is a lock to be a star in 2011? Is Michael Vick a no-brainer in the first round? Think again. Below is a look at the top five and 10 players at each of the four major fantasy positions (based on fantasy points) in the last five years, and how those players fared the following season. The turnover percentage of players who returned to the same statistical level is shockingly low. All of the numbers compiled are based on NFL.com's standard scoring system.

Quarterbacks

Since 2006, no quarterback has finished first in fantasy points in consecutive seasons. Rodgers has been the closet, ranking in the top two in three straight seasons. ... Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have been the most reliable options overall, finishing in the top six in five straight years. No other quarterbacks have accomplished that feat. ... Tom Brady has finished in the top seven in four of the last five seasons. He failed to reach that mark in 2008 after tearing his ACL in the season opener. ... Philip Rivers has finished in the top eight in three straight seasons and four of the last five overall. ... Donovan McNabb has finished in the top 11 in four of the last five years. He finished 21st at the position last season. ... Tony Romo had finished in the top 12 in fantasy points for three straight years before being injured in 2010.

Top 10s

2006-2007 - Four (Brees, P. Manning, Brady, Carson Palmer).
2007-2008 - Three (Brees, P. Manning, Kurt Warner).
2008-2009 - Five (Brees, Rodgers, P. Manning, Rivers, McNabb).
2009-2010 - Six (Rodgers, P. Manning, Brees, Rivers, Brady, Matt Schaub).
Average - 45 percent of quarterbacks who finished in the top 10 were also able to finish in the top 10 the next year.

Breakdown: The quarterbacks that have finished in the top 10 have been more consistent over the last two years, but overall less than 50 percent have been as good or better the following season. Fantasy leaguers should keep that in mind with players like Vick, Josh Freeman, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, who all reached the top 10 for the first time since 2006. The signal-callers most likely to be in the top 10 in 2011 who weren't there last season are Romo and Ben Roethlisberger -- both could turn into potential draft-day steals if they fall into the middle rounds. The breakout and sleeper quarterbacks that could end up on the top-10 list include the likes of Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford.

Running backs

LaDainian Tomlinson is the only running back to finish No. 1 in consecutive seasons since 2006. Overall he has ranked in the top six in three of the last five seasons (17th in 2010). ... Adrian Peterson is the only running back to finish in the top five in four straight years. ... Chris Johnson has finished in the top 12 in three straight seasons and in the top five the last two. ... Maurice Jones-Drew has finished in the top 12 in four of the last five years and in the top eight in three of the last five. He has finished in the top five just once. ... Frank Gore has finished in the top 10 in three of the last five seasons (14th in 2008, 20th in 2010). ... A total of five players (Foster, Peyton Hillis, Darren McFadden, LeSean McCoy, Rashard Mendenhall) ranked in the top 10 at the running back position last season that weren't also in the top 10 in 2009.

Top 10s

2006-2007 - Four (Tomlinson, Gore, Addai, Brian Westbrook).
2007-2008 - Four (Peterson, Tomlinson, Westbrook, Clinton Portis).
2008-2009 - Three (Thomas Jones, Peterson, Jones-Drew).
2009-2010 - Three (C. Johnson, Peterson, Ray Rice).
Average - 35 percent of running backs who finished in the top 10 were also able to finish in the top 10 the next year.

Breakdown: Simply put, the top of the running back position had been nearly impossible to predict. Outside of Peterson and Johnson, there doesn't appear to be another runner who is a sure bet to finish with similar totals in 2011. That's something to remember when drafting players like Foster and Hillis, who came out of nowhere to become fantasy stars during the 2010 campaign. The backs most likely to be in the top 10 in 2011 who weren't there last season include Rice, Gore and Michael Turner. All three will be first-round selections in most standard fantasy drafts. Potential breakouts or sleepers that could also crack the top 10 include Knowshon Moreno, LeGarrette Blount and Jonathan Stewart.

Wide receivers

No wide receiver has finished No. 1 in consecutive seasons since 2006. Six wideouts finished in the top 12 last season that weren't at that level in 2009 (Lloyd, Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Johnson, Mike Williams - TB). ... Roddy White has finished in the top seven in three straight seasons. He's the only player to accomplish this feat. ... Greg Jennings has finished in the top 12 in three of the last four seasons (20th in 2009). ... Andre Johnson has finished in the top eight in three straight seasons (2nd in 2008, 1st in 2009). Despite missing three games, he was eighth in 2010 ... Reggie Wayne has finished in the top 12 in five straight seasons. He's the only player to accomplish this feat. ... Larry Fitzgerald has finished in the top five among wideouts in three of the last five seasons (23rd in 2006, 15th in 2010).

Top 10s

2006-2007 - Three (Wayne, Owens, Chad Ochocinco).
2007-2008 - Three (Fitzgerald, Owens, Moss).
2008-2009 - Four (A. Johnson, Fitzgerald, Moss, White).
2009-2010 - Three (A. Johnson, Wayne, White).
Average - 32.5 percent of wide receivers who finished in the top 10 were also able to finish in the top 10 the next year.

Breakdown: Of the four major fantasy positions, wide receiver is the most unpredictable -- that is glaringly obvious with a turnover rate that's just barely over 30 percent. As a result of the trend, you can expect that at least six of last year's top 10 won't be there in 2011. That puts players like Lloyd, Bowe and Wallace, all of whom reached the top 10 for the first time since 2006, at risk to be potential disappointments. The wideouts most likely to be in the top 10 in 2011 who weren't there last season are Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson and Vincent Jackson. The breakout and sleeper wide receivers that could end up in the top-10 this season include Kenny Britt, Dez Bryant and Jeremy Maclin.

Tight ends

No tight end has finished No. 1 in consecutive seasons since 2006. ... Antonio Gates has finished in the top four in five straight seasons, including 2010 when he ranked second despite missing six games. He's the only player to accomplish this feat. ... Jason Witten has finished in the top 11 in five straight seasons (1st in 2007, 2010). ... Tony Gonzalez has finished in the top eight in five straight seasons, he posted some of the lowest numbers of his career in 2010. ... Kellen Winslow has finished in the top seven in four of the last five seasons (22nd in 2008). ... Chris Cooley has finished in the top eight in four of the last five seasons (26th in 2009). ... Dallas Clark has finished in the top six in three of the last four seasons (29th in 2010). He was on pace to reach that same level of success in 2010 before an injured wrist ended his year.

Top 10s

2006-2007 - Four (Gates, Cooley, Gonzalez, Winslow, Gonzalez).
2007-2008 - Six (Gates, Witten, Gonzalez, D. Clark, Winslow, Owen Daniels).
2008-2009 - Five (Gates, D. Clark, Gonzalez, Witten, Visanthe Shiancoe).
2009-2010 - Five (Gates, V. Davis, Gonzalez, Winslow, Witten).
Average - 50 percent of tight ends who finished in the top 10 were also able to finish in the top 10 the next year.

Breakdown: The tight end position has been the most reliable among the top four fantasy points, but 50 percent isn't exactly a great number. In fact, a total of five players (Marcedes Lewis, Rob Gronkowski, Dustin Keller, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Pettigrew) finished in the top 12 last season that weren't there the previous season. Of course, that has much to do with the fact that Gates, Clark and Jermichael Finley all missed significant time due to injuries. The tight ends most likely to be in the top 10 in 2011 who weren't there last season are Clark and Finley. The breakout or sleeper tight ends to end up in the top-10 are Daniels, Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!

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