Despite 2011 being the "Year of the Quarterback," apparently it was a mistake in retrospect to build your team this season around the elite at the position.
It was running back that should've been your target, at least from a consistency angle. The top seven Consistency Ratings were scored by running backs: Adrian Peterson (93.8%), Arian Foster (93.8%), Marshawn Lynch (87.5%), Doug Martin (87.5%), Ray Rice (81.3%), C.J. Spiller (81.3%) and Alfred Morris (81.3%).
It's for that reason, while handing out the 2012 consistency hardware, it's the running backs with whom we'll begin. Listed below are my picks by position, first "Mr. Consistent," who is a player whose value is rooted in how consistently reliable he was rather than his final point total. Then "Mr. Boom/Bust," which were more frustrating players to own due to their tendency to alternate big and invisible games.
Mr. Consistent -- C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills: For a player who started only nine of 16 games this season and often ceded snaps to Fred Jackson in games in which both were healthy, Spiller was a remarkably reliable fantasy option. He was the No. 7 scorer at his position (199) and No. 6 in Consistency Rating (81.3%), the only knock on him this season that his upside was often capped due to Jackson's presence. Spiller should enter 2013 the Bills' starter, however, and if he does, he'll have an excellent chance of repeating -- or exceeding -- his 2012 numbers.
Mr. Boom/Bust -- Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs: Charles was the No. 8 scoring running back this season, but let's face it, his two- and six-point fantasy efforts in Weeks 15 and 17 sunk many a fantasy team. He had three Stud and three Stiff performances, and there's little doubt that the Chiefs need to address both their quarterback and wide receiver positions if he's to rebound in 2013.
CONSISTENCY RATINGS BENCHMARKS
Using 2012 statistics, and fantasy points determined by ESPN's standard scoring, the charts contained in this column rate players based upon how consistently reliable they are. To familiarize you with some of the terminology:
Start: The number of times that the player's point total in a given week was worthy of having had him active in an ESPN standard league.
Stud: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the top at his position.
Stiff: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the worst at his position, making almost any waiver-wire option a smarter choice.
These are the benchmarks for what constitutes a "Start," "Stud" or "Stiff" performance, numbers identifying the player's rank at his position:
Sat: The number of times the player missed a game. Players are not charged "Stiff" points for sitting out, but it hurts their overall Consistency Rating.
%: The player's overall Consistency Rating, calculated as number of "Start" performances divided by scheduled team games.
Mr. Consistent -- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Four neck surgeries apparently took nothing away from Manning, who finished with an identical Consistency Rating (68.8%) this season to his 2010 number, not to mention he scored 25 more fantasy points this year (304) than in 2010 (279). Sure, he was the only member of the top 10 at his position to fail to finish among the top two in scoring in any single week and had a so-so 26-point total during the key Weeks 14-15, but considering Manning came cheaper than other quarterbacks and tied for the most consistently reliable, what's the complaint? It also bodes well for the soon-to-be-37-year-old, who might lack the weekly upside of the younger names at his position in 2013 but should again be a trustworthy, low-downside quarterback who lingers into the middle rounds.
Mr. Boom/Bust -- Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Manning's replacement in Indianapolis might have had the ninth-best fantasy point total among quarterbacks (264), but the fact remains that he was a worthy fantasy Start less than half the time (43.8% Consistency Rating) and was a Stiff on three occasions. Among his puzzling trends: He scored 30 more fantasy points in his home games than on the road, and he had 52 points total in the Week 14-17 playoff run. Chalk those up to a rookie adjustment period; stats or not, Luck was outstanding in his first NFL season and might take a significant leap forward in 2013.
Mr. Consistent -- Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears: Calvin Johnson got all the press, as well as the leading fantasy point total among wide receivers, but it was Marshall who actually had the higher Consistency Rating (75.0% to 68.6%). In fact, he was worth a fantasy Start (12) only three fewer times than he was in 2010-11 combined (15). Not bad for a player who was the only receiver on his team to be worth a Start more than three times, as well as one whose quarterback was the No. 23 fantasy scorer (172) and No. 19 in Consistency Rating (25.0%) at his position. Apparently the chemistry between Marshall and Jay Cutler, former teammates in Denver, was legit, and as things stand, it appears the two will be working together once again in 2013.
Mr. Boom/Bust -- Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: The talk of his season was his mind-boggling home/road split; only his own quarterback, Matt Ryan (71-point differential), had a higher differential in home/road splits favoring road games than Jones (65) this season. It wasn't the first time it was true: He had an identical point differential favoring his road games in 2011, too. That explains Jones' four Stud and three Stiff games, yet the trend itself makes little sense considering it's not an indoors-outdoors thing. To that end, he has 63 points in his four road games played indoors. Chalk it up to fluky results, meaning Jones could make the jump to the "consistent" class in 2013.
Mr. Consistent -- Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: His selection underscores how mediocre the tight end position was as a whole the second half of 2012, considering he missed five games this season, Weeks 12-16, yet still managed the leading Consistency Rating at his position for the year (56.3%). Consider this: In Weeks 10-17, 13 wide receivers scored more fantasy points than did the leading tight end (Jimmy Graham, 78), while 23 wide receivers scored more than did the No. 2 tight end (Greg Olsen, 66). Because of Gronkowski's missed time -- and with it a diminished Consistency Rating, being that his was 75.0 percent in 2011 -- he might not garner quite the draft-day appeal he did this season, when he was the No. 14 pick overall on average. But he remains the most reliable, consistent weekly option at his position, and the case can be made that he'll contend again for another 200-point season, and second-round status.
Mr. Boom/Bust -- Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings: He was the No. 9 scorer among tight ends (99) and the third-most consistent tight end (50.0%), yet he also had the most Stiff games (7) of any of the tight ends in the top 10, including four zero-point performances (Weeks 4, 7, 9 and 14). Whether Rudolph bucks that trend in 2013 might have everything to do with quarterback Christian Ponder's development.
Final 2012 Consistency Ratings chart
Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating, calculated as the percentage of the player's scheduled games -- not games played, scheduled games -- in which his fantasy point total registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort. Players must have met at least one of the following minimums for inclusion in the chart: 20.0 percent Consistency Rating in standard scoring leagues, 20.0 percent Consistency Rating in PPR formats. All defense/special teams are included, regardless of whether they met those minimums.
These statistics are for 2012 only. Statistics for 2010-12 can be found here.