Fantasy Football 2012: Most Consistent Fantasy Options at Each Position
In the midst of the third week of the preseason, fantasy football season is quickly approaching.
With fantasy drafts going on everywhere, every fantasy owner is looking for that big sleeper and trying to avoid the big bust.
Since predicting sleepers and busts is nearly impossible, what you need to value by more is consistency year in and year out by potential members of your fantasy team.
What this slideshow will give fantasy owners are the five most consistent players at each position since the 2009 NFL season.
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With passing numbers at an all-time high, many fantasy owners know that getting a top quarterback is essential for any team.
The quarterback position is not only one of the highest-scoring positions in fantasy but also one of the most consistent.
Here are my top five most consistent QBs coming into this season.
5. Matt Ryan
What has been said many times about the Falcons quarterback is that he is a great football quarterback, but an average fantasy option.
Yet Ryan has been a top-10 fantasy QB the past two seasons, and he was a decent spot starter in his rookie season, 2009.
Though many thought that Rivers had a down season last year, he still managed to be the ninth-best quarterback in terms of fantasy points, with 254.56.
That number was worse than those posted in his 2010 and 2009 seasons, but he finished the season ranked fifth and eighth in those seasons, respectively.
3. Tom Brady
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2001, the vet out of the University of Michigan has been a fixture in the high-scoring Patriots offense.
The last three years have been no different in terms of Brady putting up monster numbers for fantasy owners. He has finished in the top four of all fantasy QBs each of the past two years, and he was seventh in 2009 in a "down" year.
2. Drew Brees
Ever since signing with the New Orleans Saints prior to the 2006 season, the former second-round pick has emerged as an NFL superstar.
Drew has finished as the No. 2 fantasy quarterback in two of the past three years. Even though he was sixth in the 2010 final rankings, Brees still managed to throw for 4,620 yards and 33 TDs that season.
You had to know this was coming.
The only time since 2009 Rodgers has not finish at the top of the quarterback rankings was in 2010, when Michael Vick burst back onto the NFL scene with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Otherwise, the Packers starting QB has dominated the NFL, scoring an average of 347.89 points over the past three seasons.
Taking this a step further, Rodgers has not finished outside the top three of all NFL players in terms of fantasy points over that time, which is truly unbelievable.
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Just like quarterback, the running-back position puts up a ton of points for fantasy teams.
But unlike with the QBs, running backs typically are not as consistent. Every year there are running backs that come out of nowhere to be top-10 backs (Michael Bush) and that end up not panning out (Rashard Mendenhall).
These five RBs have shown great abilities to put up quality numbers year after year.
5. Michael Turner
Like Drew Brees in the last slide, Michael "Burner" Turner just needed a change of scenery (and to become the starter) to bring out his full potential.
The 2011 season was Turner's best since his first season in Atlanta. He finished with 212.8 fantasy points and was sixth among all RBs. He was also a top-10 back in 2010, but his 2009 season was cut short due to injury.
He was still able to score 10 touchdowns that season and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
4. Arian Foster
Despite barely playing in the 2009 season, the University of Tennessee product still deserves to be on this list due to how outstanding he has been the past two years. He has finished in the top five in both seasons, and even led the entire NFL in fantasy points in 2010, with 326.
Foster is showing no signs of slowing down, and I can see him producing another top-five season.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew
Finishing as the 12th-highest-scoring running back in 2010 has been his only instance of not being a top-three fantasy back. MJD has rushed for over 1,300 yards (1,606 in 2011) and had a yards-per-carry mark of at least 4.4 each of the past three years.
The only thing slowing him down right now is himself by holding out for a better contract.
2. Ray Rice
Finishing last season with 296.8 fantasy points made the Baltimore Ravens RB the fantasy leader for his position. Prior to that, Rice finished tied for ninth in 2010 and fourth in 2009.
What separates Rice from other backs is his receiving ability out of the backfield. He has been in the top three in receiving yards by RBs every year since '09.
Before Peterson was slowed by injuries last season, he was putting up numbers which once again suggested that he was the best running back in the NFL.
In both 2010 and 2009, All Day was the second-best back in terms of fantasy points, scoring an average of 259.2 points in those two years.
Unfortunately, injuries limited AP to only 12 games last season, but that still did not stop him from being a top-10 back for a third straight year, as he finished with 970 yards and 12 rushing TDs.
One thing you can always expect out of Peterson is his getting into the end zone. He has yet to finish with fewer than 10 total touchdowns in any of his first five seasons.
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This year's wide-receiving class probably makes wideout the deepest position in fantasy. But there are so many variables with the top players, like injury (Andre Johnson), poor quarterback play (Larry Fitzgerald) and one-year-wonder potential (Victor Cruz).
These five players have been able to be reliable starters for fantasy owners for the past few years.
5. Marques Colston
Colston is the only player in this slideshow without a positional top-10 finish in the past three years. The reason the former seventh-round pick makes it as No. 5 on my list is his consistency being a quality No. 2 option in recent years.
His numbers show that he has basically had the same season three years in a row. His receptions have been between 70 and 84; receiving yards between 1,023 and 1,143; and touchdowns between seven and nine each year since 2009.
Colston probably will not be a top-notch wide receiver, but owners can definitely count on him to start each week as a reliable No. 2.
4. Greg Jennings
Anybody that is Aaron Rodgers' top target deserves to be on this list.
Although Jennings missed three games last season, he still managed to rank 17th among receivers in fantasy points, making him a reliable second wideout while he was healthy. The year before, Jennings went off and was fourth among all WRs, posting 1,265 receiving yards and 12 TDs.
If he stays healthy all season, I believe that Jennings could see those numbers come back again this year.
3. Larry Fitzgerald
Despite not even knowing who is QB will be during the regular season, Fitz is still regarded as a top-five wideout for this upcoming season.That is a testament to how well he has played in the past.
Even though his number of receptions has dropped in each of the past three seasons, he has still managed to see his receiving yards rise, including a near career-high 1.411 yards last season.
These numbers have kept the Minnesota native a top-five fantasy receiver in two of the past three seasons.
2. Calvin Johnson
The Georgia Tech product has seen an increase in games played, receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions in both of the past two seasons. These statistical rises led him to finish as the sixth-best WR in 2010 and the best wideout last season.
It will be nearly impossible for him to improve on his 96 catches, 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012, but with Johnson's freakish athletic ability the sky is the limit.
1. Roddy White
Yes, Roddy White has undoubtedly been the most consistent wideout of the past three seasons.
White has been the only WR to be a top-10 fantasy receiver for three straight years. This is largely due to his ability to stay on the field, but he has still been putting up great numbers consistently from year to year.
In his best season, 2010, he finished third among fantasy receivers and had career highs in both receptions and receiving yards.
In 2009 and 2011, he finished as the seventh-highest-scoring fantasy option at his position.
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Like quarterback, tight end has very consistent play from the top players at the position. That is why I believe that Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez will continue to put up great numbers for many seasons to come.
None of those three players made this list, however, due to the fact that there have been other players putting up more consistent numbers from year to year.
5. Brent Celek
Celek has managed to sandwich a career-worst season in 2010 in between two starter-level seasons, in 2009 and 2011.
The good news is that Celek should be back on his way up.
In 2010 what Celek saw go down were his receptions. His yards per reception stayed roughly the same at 12.2, so as long as he gets looks from his quarterback, Celek will still be a quality option.
He is the only TE in this slideshow not to be a top-10 fantasy player in each of the past three seasons.
4. Jason Witten
The Dallas Cowboys tight end was the eighth-best fantasy option at his position in 2009 and the sixth-best option last season.
In the middle of those two seasons, in 2010, he finished as the top TE due to 1,002 receiving yards and a career-high nine touchdown receptions.
3. Tony Gonzalez
Perhaps the best tight end ever in pro football, Gonzo has been torching defenses for much longer than three seasons. Even so, the 36-year-old has not slowed down much at all.
He has finished in the top five at his position in two of the last three seasons. Last year he had his best statistical season since joining the Falcons in 2009, gaining 875 receiving yards and snatching seven TDs.
2. Vernon Davis
The NFL has never seen a tight end with the unbelievable strength, speed and pure athleticism Davis possesses. His freakish ability allowed him to be the third-best tight end in 2010 and the eighth-best option in 2011.
Davis' coming-out party was 2009, when he finished as the top fantasy tight end, with 965 receiving yards and a whopping 13 touchdown receptions.
1. Antonio Gates
I gave Gates the nod as being more consistent than Davis, because in the past two seasons he has finished with more fantasy points than his 49ers counterpart.
It is hard to believe that despite Gates playing only 23 games over the past two seasons he could still be the most consistent fantasy option at his position. His 2010 season would have been the best statistical season by a tight end if he would have been able to stay healthy. Through only 10 games, he was already up to 50 catches, 782 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
Regardless of his injury, he still finished as the second-highest-scoring tight end that season. He was the seventh-best and third-best option in 2011 and 2009, respectively.
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If any of you have read Matthew Berry's "Draft Day Manifesto" (a must-read for any fantasy owner), then you should know to wait until the final round to draft a kicker.
That is because of the randomness of points by kickers and the little difference between top-notch starting kickers and mid-level kickers in terms of points from week to week.
But still there are five kickers that have shown enough consistency to be in this slideshow.
5. Robbie Gould
Despite the fact that the Bears kicker is not typically regarded as a top kicking option, he has still managed to put up quality fantasy numbers over the past three seasons.
Also, from 2009 to 2012 he raised his fantasy rank from 13th to 12th, and finally to 10th last season.
Most kickers will have one or two good years and one year that is very poor; Gould's ability raised his fantasy value each of past two years puts him on this list.
4. Rob Bironas
What has made Bironas a starting fantasy option at his position the past few years has been his ability boot long field goals. Since '09, Bironas has knocked in 13 field goals of 50-plus yards.
That is more than kickers David Akers (nine), Mason Crosby (six), Stephen Gostkowski (three) and many others that are being drafted ahead of him.
3. Sebastian Janikowski
One of the few people to have crushed more 50-yarders through the uprights than Bironas since '09 was Janikowski. Over the past three seasons, he has nailed an incredible 17 field goals of at least that distance.
Janikowski benefits a lot just from the team he plays on, the Oakland Raiders, because they are a team that tends to stall on offense, which gives the kicker plenty of field-goal opportunities.
This has led to Janikowski having two straight top-five finishes among fantasy kickers and even a No. 1 finish in 2010.
2. Mason Crosby
Over the past three seasons, Crosby has had two fourth-place finishes as a fantasy option. Those finishes were due to how much his team gets into the end zone.
In 2011 he led the league in extra-point conversions, with 68; he also had the third most in 2010 and the fourth most in 2009.
1. David Akers
Akers is the only kicker in the league to be in the top 10 in fantasy points in each of the past three seasons.
That statistic does not even begin to describe the dominance that Akers has had over the kicker position. He actually has not even finished outside the top two in fantasy kickers during that time span.
His only first-place finish was last year, his first season with the 49ers. He had an absolutely dominant season, as he finished with 44 total field goals made, which was a new single-season record and led to his scoring 184 fantasy points. The closest fantasy kicker was John Kasay, with 151 points.
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Just like the kicker position, fantasy defenses are also very unpredictable. Points for defenses are largely based on luck, such as number of turnovers, that are nearly impossible to duplicate year after year.
Here are the five defenses that have put up the most quality numbers the past three seasons.
5. San Francisco 49ers
A top finish in fantasy points by a defense in 2011 has made the 49ers the top defense coming into the 2012 season. They were able to win while scoring only 186 points last season by giving up only 14.2 points per game and having 38 total takeaways.
In two of the past three seasons, the 'Niners have been tied for the lead in fumble recoveries. The only year they did not was 2010, and that caused them to have only the 19th best defense in the league.
4. Baltimore Ravens
With a pair of future Hall of Famers in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Baltimore's has been a quality defense for much longer than three seasons.
Even with these two aging, they have still helped lead Baltimore to starter-level finishes in two of the past three years. The 2011 season was the defense's best, as it finished third among fantasy D's, with 167 points, despite not leading the league in one category.
In 2010 they finished 13th, and in 2009, sixth.
Despite the big pickups of defensive backs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last season, the Eagles really shine with their pass rush. In 2011 Philly was tied for the lead in sacks, with 50, and the Eagles No. 3 in the league in 2009, with 44.
The only year since 2009 they did not finish in the top 10 in sacks was 2010, which was also the only year they did not finish in the top 10 in fantasy defense.
New York's has been one of only two defenses to finish as a top-10 fantasy option in each of the past three seasons.
Remarkably, the Jets defense has done this without being dominant at one single thing. Since '09, New York has not recorded more than 40 sacks, 20 interceptions or 20 fumble recoveries; recorded four defensive TDs; or given up fewer than 298 points in a single year.
The Jets do not rely on one statistic that bloats their fantasy point total, meaning the Jets have a great chance of sustaining their fantasy success.
Over the past three seasons, Green Bay has been the only team to finish in the top six each year. Even in 2011, when they gave up a 411.6 yards per game, the Packers still finished with 151 fantasy points and a sixth-place finish.
What Green Bay has done better than anyone over the past three seasons is grab interceptions. Over the past three years, the Packers have had more than 24 picks each season and have had over 30 twice.