In fantasy football, it's no secret that the running back who had the biggest season the year before is more than likely going to be the top ranked and drafted player in the following year.
Why wouldn't they be? After all, running back is, for the time being, still considered the position that translates to fantasy success.
It has been this way for a long, long time.
Like any draft, these first overall picks are suppose to be the "sure things" and are supposed to be the best running back that season. How often does this hold true?
Not as much as you think.
Looking back at fantasy magazines dating from 2002, I did a little research pertaining to how the consensus No. 1 running back performed and if he finished the season as the top running back.
Let's take a look at how these No. 1 running backs performed in the season in which they were taken first and if they repeated or not.
Faulk's 2001 stats: 2,147 total yards, 21 total touchdowns
In 2002, it was no secret that Marshall Faulk was the top running back in the league. He was the definition of consistency as he posted four seasons of at least 1,319 yards and 10 total touchdowns. He was considered a no-brainer again in 2002.
Faulk's 2002 stats: 1,490 total yards, 10 total touchdowns
Although the touchdowns were still there, the yards took a major hit as he fell 657 yards off his 2001 total.
Odds are, the owner who was depending on Faulk's consistency to carry his team to a title was a bit disappointed.
It's really no secret that Faulk was not 2003's top pick.
Tomlinson's 2002 stats: 2,172 total yards, 15 total touchdowns
The future NFL Hall of Famer started his fantasy-football-related Hall of Fame career by being considered the top running back prior to the start of the 2003 season.
LT was entering his junior year in the NFL and showed no signs of slowing down. He was now considered the definition of a consistent fantasy player. A hero to fantasy owners.
Tomlinson's 2003 stats: 2,370 total yards, 17 total touchdowns
Absolutely fantastic stats. Surely, he had to be the top back heading into 2004, right?
Nope, and don't call me Shirley. (Sorry, had to do it!)
Holmes' 2003 stats: 2,110 total yards, 27 total touchdowns
If it weren't for Holmes' record setting year (rushing touchdowns in a season, 27), Tomlinson would probably have been 2004's top pick as well. As it is, Holmes did enough to upstage Tomlinson and earn the right to be the top pick in 2005 fantasy drafts.
Remember, before his record setting year, Holmes had 4,456 total yards with 34 total touchdowns in his two previous seasons.
Could he do it again in 2004?
Holmes' 2004 stats: 1,079 total yards, 15 total touchdowns
Priest was on his way to a potential record-setting season until an injury caused him to miss a solid chunk of the season. Sadly, Holmes' was to never repeat his previous successes again.
So since Priest got hurt, who ended up being 2004's top running back?
Tomlinson's 2004 stats: 1,776 total yards, 18 total touchdowns
Even though Mr. Tomlinson's 2004 season wasn't utterly spectacular, he once again proved that he was one of the safest picks in the history of fantasy football. Not only was Tomlinson the league's best runner at this point, he was making a strong case to being one of the best receiving backs in the history of the NFL.
Tomlinson's 2005 stats: 1,832 total yards, 20 total touchdowns
Yet another solid season for Tomlinson as he once again proved to be the epitome of consistency. However, another record-tying back kept L.T. from reclaiming his crown for 2006.
Alexander's 2005 stats: 1,958 total yards, 28 total touchdowns
Alexander took over the top spot in 2005 when he tied Priest Holmes' record for most rushing touchdowns in a season with 27. Shaun also had an outstanding 1,880 yards to go along with the 27 scores.
After posting five straight seasons of 1,175 yards or more, Shaun was poised to have another huge 2006.
Alexander's 2006 stats: 944 total yards, seven total touchdowns
An injury-plagued 2006 proved to be the downfall of what was a great career from No. 37. After being taken first overall in 2006, Alexander single single-handedly killed a lot of fantasy teams with his 2006 output.
Who was the top guy in 2007?
Ol' Reliable himself!
Tomlinson's 2006 stats: 2,323 total yards, 31 total touchdowns
In 2006, L.T. posted one of the greatest seasons in fantasy football history. This was also a record-setting season for Tomlinson when he rushed for a NFL-record 28 touchdowns.
At this point, LaDainian was talked about potentially being one of the best running backs in NFL history. Could L.T. defy fantasy football history and put up stats good enough repeat as the top fantasy option?
Tomlinson's 2007 stats: 1,949 total yards, 17 total touchdowns
Yet another solid season for the man from Texas Christian University. Would his 2007 stats be enough to be buck the growing trend or will he be defeated by yet another record setter?
Tomlinson's 2007 stats: 1,949 total yards, 17 total touchdowns
L.T. becomes the first running back in seven seasons to return the next year as the No. 1 guy!
Although Tomlinson didn't come close to touching his 2006 stats, he proved that he is probably the best running back in fantasy football history. After all, in his previous seven seasons, L.T. has amassed seasons of 1,236 yards or more and at least 10 touchdowns.
Could a three-peat be in store for Tomlinson?
Tomlinson's 2008 stats: 1,536 total yards, 12 total touchdowns
Even though playing in all 16 games for the seventh time in eight seasons, L.T. couldn't quite match his stats from his previous seven seasons as he posted a career low in terms of rushing yards and his second lowest touchdown total.
Who did have the best 2008 you ask?
Peterson's 2008 stats: 1,885 total yards, 10 total touchdowns
Although the touchdown total was not very impressive, Peterson built upon his record-setting rookie campaign and posted a very solid 2008 with over 1,750 rushing yards.
Peterson was proving to be one of the most gifted running backs to enter the league in quite some time. After all, he has a rare combination of speed, power, and athleticism that causes havoc on even the best defender.
He's a true nightmare to opposing defenses.
Peterson's 2009 stats: 1,819 total yards, 18 total touchdowns
Once again, another solid season that actually built upon his 2008 season, posting eight more touchdowns with only 66 less yards. A very good compromise for fantasy owners.
However, as most of you may know, Peterson will not repeat as the top fantasy pick this year.
Johnson's 2009 stats: 2,509 total yards, 16 total touchdowns
Johnson became the sixth running back in NFL history to break the 2,000 yards mark and the first since Jamal Lewis' 2,066-yard season in 2003.
Adding to the fact that he broke 2,000 yards, CJ2K also had over 500 yards through the air. Johnson absolutely ran away from defenses in one of the best seasons posted by a NFL running back.
Will Johnson be another exception like Tomlinson or will he fall out of the top spot in 2011?
Looking through the past eight seasons of fantasy football, only one running back (Tomlinson) who was drafted the year before kept his title the following year.
What does that say?
Odds are that 2010's top pick, Chris Johnson, will not be 2011's top pick.
Really, it's a crapshoot as to who it's going to be. It could be the No. 2 running back, Adrian Peterson, No. 3-ranked back Maurice Jones-Drew, or it could be a player off the radar like Ryan Mathews, LeSean McCoy, or Justin Forsett.
Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't draft Chris Johnson with the No. 1 overall pick, you have to follow the trends in fantasy football. Right now, CJ2K is the league's top back and one must draft him like so.
Just don't be too shocked if he's not on top of draft boards next season!
Note: Number one pick status based off of rankings from Fantasy Football Magazine by Fanball.com
All stats from NFL.com