Fantasy Doctor: Top-3 sleepers who could help you tank your friends

How’s that “perfect” fantasy team doing?

Are you comfortable with it? Did you nab that top running back you were eyeing? Maybe you haven’t even drafted yet, like me. But even if you’re still living with that pre-draft sensation of this-year-will-be-better-than-last-year, we fantasy owners have come to assume one thing.

We don’t like surprises.

That’s not to say good things don’t happen — because something has to go right eventually, right? (we plead). More times than not, though, we’re caught with busts in our lineup, buckets of bench points or explosions from players we either traded or dumped to the wire.

Surprises can also plague your team in the form of injuries. Frank Gore in 2010 anyone? Beanie Wells in 2011? Yep, I’ve been there, and we can all agree it’s no fun watching your playoff dreams spill down the drain as you cry in the shower. But what if you had a chance to control those surprises?

In the upcoming season, most of the studs are put up on their respective pedestals. Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Wes Welker — we know who they are. What we don’t always remember are those sleepers, hiding below the glamor of ESPN coverage.

Players like Matthew Stafford, who led a 4-12 Lions squad, ranked 11th in quarterback points with 264 last season in ESPN leagues. He also ranked second behind Drew Brees in total yardage at 4,967 and led the league in number of completions. Sounds like winning numbers to me.

As your fantasy doctor, my job is to help you win, and the best way I can do that is to give you my list of this season’s top-three sleepers:

Tony Romo (quarterback, Cowboys, 271 points in 2012 ESPN leagues)

An 8-8 finish short of the playoffs isn’t impressive. Every time you turn around, livid mobs of Cowboy fans are causing an uproar about how terrible owner Jerry Jones or Tony Romo is to the team.

But whether you believe Romo is or isn’t going to lead the Cowboys back to their 1992-95 days of Super Bowl glory isn’t the point.

We know it’s a numbers game, and the numbers say Romo was second in completions behind Stafford with 425 completions. His passing game of 4,903 yards also tops Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Now, his 28 touchdown passes are much fewer than Brees’ 43, but it still sits him at sixth in the league. And with a healthy Dez Bryant on his side and a schedule of weak defenses like Kansas City and Philadelphia, can you really deny his potential?

Danny Woodhead (running back, Chargers, 102 points)

Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead may still be competing for that starting job, but I’ve found that the evidence is pointing toward one thing: Mathews is not a top fantasy running back.

In New England last year, Woodhead proved to be a versatile weapon with 301 yards rushing and four touchdowns paired with 446 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Sure, it may not sound too impressive, but keep in mind he racked up those points behind Stevan Ridley — ranked No. 9 in points last year.

On the other hand, Mathews was injured for a good portion of last season, and it hurt fantasy owners everywhere until he went off for 80 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries in Week 5. It went on to be the only week all season he scored more than eight points, which is unacceptable. Compared to Woodhead, he may have recorded an extra 400-plus yards, but with more than two times as many carries — as a starter.

I’m not saying take Woodhead with the expectation of him becoming the next Arian Foster, but keep an eye on him. Should the Chargers choose to start him (knowing well that Philip Rivers has a good chance of ruining the pass game), he has the potential to be a golden pickup.

Randall Cobb (wide receiver, Packers, 150 points)

If there is one thing I can’t stand as a Bears fan, it’s that Aaron Rodgers always seems to have a strong passing game. It’s also something I can’t avoid when looking at who I want downfield for my fantasy team.

Greg Jennings’ departure was a tough one for the Packers (not that I minded). Now, in the Nos. 1 and 2 slots are recurring Lambeau leaper Jordy Nelson and third-year Randall Cobb, with Jermichael Finley at tight end. Sure, Nelson and Finley are going to get their share, but Rodgers is an ace for variation. He loves having options. Not to mention Cobb has done nothing but work with Rodgers as his quarterback since he entered the NFL. Now he finally has a chance to step up and make his name as an all-star receiver.

Last season, Cobbs caught for 954 yards, good for 22nd in the league. He also had eight touchdown catches and a solid 80 receptions. While you can count on him sharing the fun with Nelson, Finley and James Jones, don’t be surprised if you see this guy emerge as Rodgers’ go-to receiver for the 2013 season.

J.J. is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Wilsonable07.