What Does A Wide Receiver Do In Football?

Football Wide Receiver

A wide receiver in football is a player on the offense who is tasked with catching the football thrown by the quarterback and occasionally running the ball. The wide receivers line up on the line of scrimmage outside of the offensive line. They make breaks downfield through open lanes and try to get open for a pass.


On the snap, the wide receiver will almost always run downfield to catch a throw from the quarterback. Regardless of the play and formation, wide receivers always line up “wide” on the outside of the field, which is how they get their name. They are constantly running and being used in plays, which is why they are some of the quickest players on the team. In fact, they are usually the first players that quarterbacks look to after receiving the snap. Wide receivers work to outrun their defensive opponents, use quick turns on receiving routes, and get themselves into good positions to receive a pass.

When the ball is caught by a receiver, it is tallied as a reception. Receivers can also be given the ball in the backfield and rush downfield like a running back.

Wide receivers are put under a lot of stress when the defense’s pressure is high. They should be excellent catchers, as their main role is to catch passes, no matter how difficult. Great wide receivers should be able to withstand any hits or blocks from defensive members and be able to hang onto the ball when hit after they catch it. They should also have an excellent understanding of their positioning on the field to ensure they stay inbounds when catching passes.

Important Wide Receiver Skills

Agility: Agility is an extremely important skill for wide receivers to have, as they are tasked with moving as quickly and precisely as possible to find openings in an opposing defense. Wide receivers are usually some of the most agile players on the field.

Body Control: Wide receivers should have exceptional body control, as they must run fast and jump high to successfully make a reception. The best wide receivers have excellent body control after catching passes, allowing them to stay in bounds.

Strength: Strength is important for any position in football, but especially for wide receivers fighting off defenders and withstanding tackles after catching the ball.

Quickness: Quickness is key for wide receivers, as they need to be able to release quickly off the line of scrimmage to beat their defender and get open for a pass. The faster the receiver, the more likely they are to gain separation from a defender.

Soft Hands: Having soft hands is the ability to catch the ball with cushioning fingers and joints, and elbows slightly bent. This allows the receiver to secure the ball without it flying out of their hands.

Physical Stamina: It is just as important for wide receivers to have physical stamina as it is to be quick. Wide receivers play almost every down on the offensive side of the ball. They have to continuously run routes and make blocks throughout the game.

Concentration/Focus: Wide receivers must be able to concentrate enough to catch difficult passes, even under high pressure. Football stadiums can be some of the loudest atmospheres in sports, so a receiver needs to be capable of drowning out the noise and making plays.

Hand-Eye Coordination: Hand-eye coordination is an essential attribute for wide receivers, as they must carefully plan their route, then make changes on the fly to make the reception. Good hand-eye coordination also helps with making catches in awkward and high-pressure situations.

Field Awareness: Field awareness is a key skill for wide receivers, who always need to be at the right place at the right time. A receiver with good field awareness knows his exact position on the field at all times, as well as the positions of his teammates and opponents.

List of Famous Wide Receivers

There have been many strong wide receivers over the course of football history. Some of these famous players include:

  • Calvin Johnson
  • Lance Alworth
  • Marvin Harrison
  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • Cris Carter
  • Steve Largent
  • Terrell Owens
  • Randy Moss
  • Don Hutson
  • Jerry Rice

Other Names for Wide Receiver


What skills do football wide receivers need?

While wide receivers need lots of skills to succeed on the football field, the three most important skills for them to have are speed, good hands, and the ability to run routes properly. Speed comes in handy when running toward the end zone, either with the ball or on a route before catching the ball. Having good hands ensures that the wide receiver will confidently catch the ball when it is thrown to them. Lastly, wide receivers need to be able to run routes correctly so that the quarterback can throw the ball to the correct location with less of a worry of being intercepted.

Who is the best NFL wide receiver of all time?

The best NFL wide receiver of all time is Jerry Rice, although this topic is heavily debated. Rice played wide receiver for four different NFL teams: the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawks, the Las Vegas Raiders (known as the Oakland Raiders at the time), and the San Francisco 49ers. Over his career in the NFL, he was a Pro-Bowler 11 times and was named to First Team All-Pro 10 times. He was able to lead the league twice in catches and six times in receiving yards and touchdowns. Rice was also a three-time Super Bowl Champion and the 1987 NFL Most Valuable Player. His awards and statistics show him to be easily one of the best wide receivers in NFL history, if not the best.

What are the different types of wide receivers?

The two main types of wide receivers are “slot receivers” and “outside receivers.” Slot receivers are usually smaller players with phenomenal route running abilities and speed. This is the most dangerous wide receiver role to play, as slot receivers will often catch the ball on short passing plays over the middle of the field. Examples of slot receivers include Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Larry Fitzgerald. Meanwhile, outside receivers are tasked with speeding past the defensive secondary to rattle off massive receptions that could very well shift the momentum of the game entirely. These outside receivers include players like Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, and Terrell Owens.

What does WR mean in football?

WR is the abbreviation for the wide receiver position in football. All basic positions, including wide receiver, can be abbreviated into two-letter combinations to denote them on the scoresheet and roster. Using these abbreviations makes it easier to read and more visually pleasing for people researching stats or rosters. Abbreviations are also commonly used in other sectors of the sport, including names for statistics and team names.