Football Wide Receivers

Football Wide Receiver

What is a Wide Receiver in football?

A wide receiver (WR) is an offensive position in football that is mostly responsible for catching passes thrown by the quarterback. Wide receivers also may run the ball or block for teammates, but it is not as common. Read on to learn more about the wide receiver position in football.

Wide Receiver Positioning

There are typically multiple wide receivers in a single play. Wide receivers usually line up outside of the offensive line on the line of scrimmage, out wide, hence the name “wide receiver.” There is usually a few yards of space between the offensive tackle or tight end and the wide receivers. Some wide receivers will line up on the line of scrimmage while others line up behind the line, depending on how many players are lined up on the line of scrimmage. There must be seven players lined up on the line of scrimmage, which are usually the five offensive linemen, a tight end, and one of the receivers.

Wide Receiver Responsibilities

A wide receiver has different responsibilities based on the play design. Read below to learn about the responsibilities of wide receivers on running and passing plays.

Passing Plays

On a passing play, the receiver looks to get open on the field for a pass thrown by the quarterback. A completion is a pass that's caught. An incompletion is a pass that is not caught or a throw that goes out of bounds. Wide receivers are responsible for executing their routes correctly and catching the ball successfully, as well as running downfield to gain extra yards after the catch.

Running Plays

On a running play, the receivers block opposing defenders while the running back tries to gain yards on the ground. Receivers will typically only carry the ball on running plays if there is a clear gap in the defensive line through which they can sprint.

Wide Receiver Skills

There are a few different traits that help separate average receivers from good receivers. Some of these traits include:

  • Precise Route Running
  • Good Hands
  • Exceptional Athletic Abilities (speed, strength, acceleration, jumping)
  • Good Chemistry with the Quarterback

Precise Route Running

A route is a planned path or pattern that a receiver follows on a football field with the intent of catching a forward pass thrown by the quarterback. Routes can be complicated or simple depending on the play design. A good wide receiver will be able to remember all of their routes and execute them perfectly whenever they are needed in a play.

Good Hands

In order to succeed as a wide receiver, a player must have excellent hands. This is because their primary objective is to catch forward passes thrown by the quarterback. If a wide receiver is not skilled at both catching the ball and handling the ball once it is caught, a fumble or incomplete pass may often occur. Respectively, those result in either a turnover or a loss of the down. Both outcomes heavily impede the ability of an offense to score against their opponents, so good hands are key.

Exceptional Athletic Abilities

The athletic traits that are vital for all wide receivers to have are speed, acceleration, strength, and jumping ability. Wide receivers are typically some of the fastest players on the field, and also accelerate the fastest. They must be fast and agile enough to outrun opposing cornerbacks and safeties. Wide receivers also usually have a high vertical jump, which allows them to jump up to win contested balls against opposing defenders. Finally, wide receivers must be strong enough to hold onto the ball and push forward when met with resistance from opposing defenders.

Wide Receiver Chemistry with Quarterback

One of the most important factors if not the most important factor in determining how successful a receiver will be is the chemistry between the receiver and the quarterback. The quarterback ultimately decides which receiver is going to have a chance to make a play, and those who practice and get to know the quarterback’s tendencies will have the best shot of being successful on the field. With more practice, it becomes much easier for the quarterback to throw on certain routes when he knows exactly where the receiver will be when he goes through his progressions.

Notable NFL Wide Receivers

  • Calvin Johnson
  • Jerry Rice
  • Julio Jones
  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • Cooper Kupp
  • Marvin Harrison
  • Randy Moss
  • Terrell Owens


What is a wide receiver in football?

In football, a wide receiver is a type of offensive player responsible for catching passes from the quarterback. Wide receivers are typically lined up at the very ends of the line of scrimmage at the beginning of every down. Despite this positioning, they are not considered offensive linemen because their chief task is to catch the ball, not block defenders.

What does a wide receiver do in football?

In football, the main responsibility of a wide receiver is to catch forward passes thrown by the quarterback. This typically happens in the defensive backfield once a wide receiver has bypassed the opposing team’s defensive linemen. In addition to passing plays, wide receivers may also run the ball or block for teammates, but this is much less common.

How many types of wide receivers are there in football?

In football, there are four types of wide receivers, and they are all named for where the receiver is positioned at the start of play. A split end is placed exactly on the line of scrimmage and a flanker is placed just behind the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, a slot receiver refers to someone who lines up between a split end or flanker and the offensive linemen. Lastly, a slot back is a type of receiver who lines up in the offensive backfield.