What is a Wide Receiver in Football?

A wide receiver is one of the most recognized positions on an American Football team. They generally make the highlight reels due to their excellent catching ability and how often they score touchdowns on plays. So what else makes these players so crucial to have on a football team? Here is the complete breakdown of the football wide receiver role, what they do, players in the hall of fame, and more.


What Does a Wide Receiver Do in Football?

what does a wide receiver do in football

A wide receiver on an American Football team has two primary roles. The first role is to run down the field to get open via a forward pass from the quarterback. The quarterback can pass to this football position player since they are eligible receivers. As a note, not everyone on the offense is an eligible receiver, like the center.


The second role of a wide receiver is to be a blocker on running plays. For example, an outside running play will require the wide receiver to block the cornerback on that side of the field. While the wide receiver is not as big and strong as other players on the offensive line, they can still hold back a player for a second or two, which might be all the running back needs to get by that defender on the run.


Can the Wide Receiver Position Throw the Ball on a Play?

can the wide receiver position throw the ball on a play

Sometimes NFL teams will have a wide receiver on their team who was a starting quarterback in high school or college football. While they might be better as a wide receiver in the NFL, they still have experience and skills with throwing the football. If that is the case, teams might set up a trick play to allow the wide receiver to throw the ball down the field to another eligible receiver.


For example, Super Bowl XL between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks had the running back hand the ball off to the wide receiver (Antwaan Randel El), who then threw the ball downfield to Hines Ward for a touchdown. This trick play caught the defense by surprise since it appeared to be a run, so the Steelers wide receiver, Hines Ward, got open down the field for a touchdown pass.

Another example of this trick play was in 2020 with the New England Patriots against the Baltimore Ravens. Wide Receiver, Jakobi Meyers, threw a 24-yard touchdown to running back Rex Burkhead.


What Makes for a Good Throwing Wide Receiver?

The wide receiver making successful passes to a different player needs two things. First, you need a wide receiver who can throw the ball accurately and far down the field. Second, the offense needs to disguise the play as a run or something similar, creating confusion for the defense. The defense might commit to stopping the run and leaving a wide receiver open down the field, which took place during Super Bowl XL.


What Makes for a Good Wide Receiver?

what makes for a good wide receiver

Wide receivers need to be quick, have excellent hand-eye coordination, and spot the weakness in the defensive alignment. The passing game is one of the most important aspects of any good offensive team, so having an elite wide receiver can significantly increase scoring chances.


For example, a great wide receiver can make a difficult catch and then evade a tackle, which can lead to additional yards on offense. Generating extra yards from a catch is known as yards after the catch, which is sometimes a fantasy football stat.


​Are Wide Receivers Important in Fantasy Football?

Wide receivers are some of the most critical positions to secure in fantasy football. Your fantasy league will vary with points and what counts as scores, but most leagues count yardage, receiving yards, and touchdowns, which wide receivers generate. Drafting a wide receiver who is incredible at route running, has excellent quickness, and can break tackles should be a top priority on every owner’s list.


Can a Wide Receiver also Play on Special Teams?

can a wide receiver also play on special teams

Due to the speed of a wide receiver and their ability to catch the football, some NFL teams elect to have them also play on special teams. The position that the wide receiver will play on special teams is punt/kick returner. Teams elect to have the wide receiver play this position due to their great hands, quickness, and ability to juke out defenders to pick up the maximum number of yards on a return.


Why is it Called a Wide Receiver?

The name “wide receiver” refers to the offensive formation that “split out wide” towards the sideline before the snap. The receiver part comes from their role of catching balls from the quarterback.


Similar Names

  • Wideout
  • Split End
  • Receivers


Different Formations on Offense for Receivers

  • Split Ends
  • Flankers
  • Slot Receiver
  • Slot Back


How Many NFL Wide Receivers Can an Offense Have?

how many wide receivers can an offense have

An offensive team can only have eleven players on the field with two positions for the wide receivers. The wide receivers line up on either side of the offensive line during a play. However, some offensive sequences can have the running back, fullback, and tight end as wide receivers during passing plays, which count as eligible receivers.


Are There any Wide Receivers in the National Football League Hall of Fame?

There are nineteen wide receivers in the NFL Hall of Fame as of November 2021. Some of the most famous names include Jerry Rice, Lance Alworth, Tom Fears, Charley Taylor, and Lynn Swann. Check out the Pro Football Hall of Fame website for the complete list of wide receivers in the hall of fame.


Are Wide Receivers Valuable in the NFL Draft?

Wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks tend to be high-value offensive player targets during the NFL draft. Those three offensive positions draft high because of the value that they can bring to any offensive team. Drafting a great wide receiver can jumpstart any offensive team, which could be that missing piece a team needs to win more games.


Conclusion: What is a Wide Receiver in Football

In summary, a wide receiver position is one of the most important offensive players on a team. They tend to be one of the fastest players on your squad, allowing them to get past the defenders and gain many yards on a play. Due to their speed, they can sometimes catch the ball in the middle of the field and get to the end zone since the defense cannot catch up to them after they make a catch.


Not only are wide receivers great at route running and catching the ball, but they also block defenders on running plays. Just like the tight end position, wide receivers need to be able to block on certain plays for their team. Blocking the backfield from a cornerback can give the running back space to pick up more yards on the running play.


Finally, having a wide receiver on your team with quarterback experience in high school or college can expand your offensive playbook via a trick play. Take the Pittsburgh Steelers with Antwaan Randle El throwing the football down the field for a touchdown. Executing a play like that can be a massive momentum shift for one team, which can frustrate the defense because wide receivers don’t throw often.


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