"It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not." -- "Livin' on a Prayer"
With all apologies to Jon Bon Jovi, we beg to differ. When it comes to playing fantasy football in a touchdown-only league, getting "halfway there" simply isn't going to cut it. Either your player gets into the end zone or he doesn't. It makes a huge difference whether or not your players make it. All you have to do is look at the box score. If your player didn't score a touchdown, you get a goose egg.
You can have Chris Johnson when he rushes for 190 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I can have John Kuhn that same week when he gains only five yards on five carries against the Detroit Lions. In standard fantasy football leagues, you'd feel pretty good about your guy. In a TD-only league, I'm the happy one because Kuhn found the end zone, while Johnson failed to break the goal line all day. You get no consolation prize for those yards. You get no bonus for reaching the 100-yard milestone. I get six points, while your six-string remains in hock.
That's not to say that you don't want to draft the big names early. After all, it's still better to have a star wide receiver like Houston's Andre Johnson on your roster than, say, backup quarterback Josh Johnson of San Francisco. But because yardage doesn't enter into the equation, you do have to take different considerations into account and adjust your draft boards accordingly. So here is a list of things to keep in mind before you make your selections:
You need a good quarterback
It's true that quarterbacks get only four points for a touchdown in many TD-only league setups, while running backs and receivers get six. However, I still wouldn't have any problem drafting a stud quarterback in the first round. In fact, I might even shoot for it. First of all, every passing touchdown from a quarterback's team, whether it's thrown to a running back, receiver or tight end, is almost sure to come from that quarterback (unless it's a gadget play or the QB goes down).
Only in rare cases must quarterbacks fight for red zone opportunities, and heck, when all else fails, they can even scamper into the end zone themselves. While there's never a guarantee a team will score at all in a given week, I would venture a guess and say that it's more likely that the quarterback will get points for you than any other position.
After all, there were 20 quarterbacks who threw for 16 or more scores last season (meaning an average of one per week), while the list of names at other positions with that rate of success consists of Rob Gronkowski, Calvin Johnson, LeSean McCoy and, well, that's it.
Beware the vultures
Jed Collins, Anthony Dixon, Le'Ron McClain guys like this don't get a sniff until the very late rounds in fantasy leagues, if at all, but in a TD-only league, it doesn't matter that they might get only the occasional carry. What does matter is how close to the end zone they are when they do get the call. Heck, even B.J. Raji had a rushing touchdown in 2011. On the flip side, if teams are handing the rock to others in the red zone, even as a gimmick, then it has to eat away at the potential of their teammates. As such, Ryan Mathews, Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte may all get significant carries, but when it comes to clicking for six, they could lose out if someone else gets the call from the coaching staff in close.
Many happy returns
Just think about it: A guy who returns punts and kicks could get roughly 10 free shots at the end zone each game. Don't dismiss these guys. They might end up scoring only three or four times per season, but last year I'd rather have taken my chances with Eric Weems and Mark Mariani than any Broncos wide receiver. Versatile return/receiver types such as Devin Hester, Antonio Brown, Leon Washington and Darren Sproles all get a huge bump in value. Remember, the more opportunities a player gets, the greater his chance at reaching the end zone.
Don't be afraid to double-dip
If you have Brandon Tate in your lineup, and he returns a punt for a touchdown, you get six points. If you also have the Bengals defense/special teams unit, those six points just became 12 points. If you draft Aaron Rodgers and follow it up with Greg Jennings, you have yourself 10 points each time they connect. True, if the Packers get shut out, you're now skunked on two roster spots, but how often is that going to happen? I don't suggest you use the tactic with, say, Sam Bradford and Brian Quick, but certainly I'd consider drafting my starting quarterback's tight end to make those sporadic visits to the end zone all the more valuable.
So that's draft strategy, but what about in-season? Well, you'd manage your lineup just like you would in a standard league, but one thing you need to realize: A TD-only league is far more unpredictable than your usual fantasy football league. For instance, the Patriots could have their typical 30-point output in one game, yet Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez might not get you anything, even if they both rack up 150 yards of offense, if neither is one of the guys lucky enough to score. At the same time, a quarterback such as Christian Ponder could throw four interceptions in a game yet still post positive points because he scored on a bootleg in the fourth quarter.
So go with your gut. If you have a feeling this is the week that Roy Helu goes off, then by all means start him over Maurice Jones-Drew. If you think the weather in Green Bay might be awful, and you don't want to start Aaron Rodgers, then feel free to put Matt Cassel in the game.
Have fun with it and take some chances. That's what this kind of league is all about. So, give it a shot. After all, you live for the fight when that's all that you've got.