"You're either in, or you're out."
-- Heidi Klum
Truer words were never spoken, whether you're talking about the world of fashion or the world of fantasy football. It's even more of a truism when it comes to playing fantasy football in a touchdown-only league, because "almost" getting into the end zone doesn't matter. Either your player scores or he doesn't, and it makes all the difference in terms of your weekly outcome. If a player fails to score a touchdown, you get a big goose egg from him.
For example, you can have Arian Foster when he rushes for 165 yards against the Indianapolis Colts and I can have Evan Royster that same week when he rushes for only three yards on two carries against the Cleveland Browns. In standard fantasy football leagues, you'd feel pretty good about your guy. In a TD-only league, I'm the happy one because Royster found the end zone while Foster failed to break the goal line. You get no consolation prize for those yards. You get no bonus for reaching the 100-yard milestone. I get six points, while your guy gets mocked by Michael Kors.
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 the Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green on your roster than, say, a running back buried on the depth chart like Alex Green of the Green Bay Packers. But because yardage doesn't enter into the equation, you have to take different considerations into account and adjust your draft boards accordingly. So here's a list of things to keep in mind before you make your selections:
The quarterback is king
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 quarterback gets hurt).
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 (for six points). 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 23 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 Foster and, well, that's it.
Fear all vultures
Jamie Harper, Anthony Dixon, Jacob Hester … guys like this might not get a sniff until the very late rounds in standard 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 punter Sam Koch had a rushing touchdown in 2012. 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, Jamaal Charles, C.J. Spiller 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 gets 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 season I'd have rather taken my chances with Micheal Spurlock and Travis Benjamin than any Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver. Versatile return/receiver types such as Darius Reynaud, Randall Cobb and Julian Edelman all get a huge bump in value. Remember, the more opportunities a player gets, the greater his chance at reaching the end zone.
The double-dip can pay huge dividends
If you have David Wilson in your lineup and he returns a punt for a touchdown, you get six points. If you also have the New York Giants defense/special teams, those six points just became 12 points. If you draft Tom Brady and follow it up with Danny Amendola, you have yourself 10 points each time they connect for a score. True, if the New England Patriots get shut out, you're now skunked on two roster spots … but how often do you really expect that to happen? I don't suggest you use the tactic with, say, Brandon Weeden and Davone Bess, 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 here's one thing you need to realize: A TD-only league is far more unpredictable than your usual fantasy football league. For instance, the New Orleans Saints could have their typical 30-point output in one game, yet Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston might not get you anything -- even if they both rack up 150 yards of offense -- if neither one of the guys are lucky enough to score. At the same time, a quarterback like Mark Sanchez 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 Marcel Reece goes off, then, by all means, start him over Marshawn Lynch. 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 Alex Smith in the game.
Have fun with it and take some chances. That's what this kind of league is all about. Victory comes to the bold and the brave of heart, so jump in with both feet and, in the immortal words of Tim Gunn, "Make it work!"
Editor's Note: This column is an update of what has been published in previous years. Updates include statistical trends and relevant player information to better relate to the upcoming season.