Wide receiver

A wide receiver, also referred to as wideouts or simply receivers, is an offensive position in American and Canadian football, and is a key player. They get their name because they are split out "wide" (near the sidelines), farthest away from the rest of the team. Wide receivers are among the fastest players on the field. The wide receiver functions as the pass-catching specialist.

Wide receiver
An example of a wide receiver's positioning in an offensive formation: split end (SE) (now wide receiver), slotback (SB), tight end (TE), wingback (WB), and flanker (FL) position.

Role

The wide receiver's principal role is to catch passes from the quarterback. On passing plays, the receiver attempts to avoid, outmaneuver, or simply outrun defenders (typically cornerbacks or safeties) in the area of his pass route. If the receiver becomes open, or has an unobstructed path to the destination of a catch, he may then become the quarterback's target. Once a pass is thrown in his direction, the receiver's goal is to first catch the ball and then attempt to run downfield. Some receivers are perceived as a deep threat because of their flat-out speed, while others may be possession receivers known for not dropping passes, running crossing routes across the middle of the field, and generally, converting third down situations. A receiver's height also contributes to their expected role; taller receivers tend to play further to the outside and run deep more often, shorter receivers tend to play inside and run more routes underneath the top of the defense.

A wide receiver has two potential roles during running plays. Particularly in the case of draw plays and other trick plays, he may run a pass route with the intent of drawing off defenders. Alternatively, he may block normally for the running back. Well-rounded receivers are noted for blocking defensive backs in support of teammates in addition to their pass-catching abilities; Hines Ward in particular received praise for his blocking abilities while also becoming the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time leading receiver and one of 13 in NFL history with at least 1,000 receptions.[1][2]

Sometimes wide receivers are used to run the ball, usually in some form of an end-around or reverse. This can be effective because the defense usually does not expect them to be the ball carrier on running plays. For example, wide receiver Jerry Rice rushed the ball 87 times for 645 yards and 10 touchdowns in his 20 NFL seasons.[3]

In even rarer cases, receivers may pass the ball as part of a trick play. A receiver can legally pass the ball so long as they receive the ball behind the line of scrimmage, in the form of a handoff or backwards lateral. This sort of trick play is often employed with a receiver who has past experience playing quarterback at a lower level, such as high school, or sometimes, college. Antwaan Randle El threw a touchdown pass at the wide receiver position in Super Bowl XL playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks. Antwaan Randle El played quarterback for four years at Indiana University.

Wide receivers often also serve on special teams as kick returners or punt returners, as gunners on kick coverage teams, or as part of the hands team during onside kicks.

Finally, on errant passes, receivers must frequently play a defensive role by attempting to prevent an interception. If a pass is intercepted, receivers must use their speed to chase down and tackle the ball carrier to prevent him from returning the ball for a long gain or a touchdown.

In the NFL, wide receivers can use the numbers 10–19 and 80–89.

History of the position

The wide receiver grew out of a position known as the end. Originally, the ends played on the offensive line, immediately next to the tackles. By the rules governing the forward pass, ends (positioned at the end of the line of scrimmage) and backs (positioned behind the line of scrimmage) are eligible receivers. Most early football teams used the ends as receivers sparingly, as their position often left them in heavy traffic with many defenders around. By the 1930s, some teams were experimenting with moving one end far out near the sideline, to make them more open to receive passes. These split ends became the prototype for the modern wide receiver. Don Hutson, who played college football at Alabama and professionally with the Green Bay Packers, was the first player to exploit the potentials of the split end position, and is widely credited as inventing the wide receiver position.

As the passing game evolved, a second wide receiver position was added. While it is possible to move the opposite end out wide for a second split end position most teams preferred to leave that end in close to provide extra blocking protection on the quarterback's blind side. That player was essentially playing the modern day tight end position. Instead of moving the blind side end out, one of the three running backs was split wide instead, creating the flanker position. The flanker lined up off the line of scrimmage like a running back or quarterback, but split outside like a split end. Lining up behind the line of scrimmage gave flankers some advantages. Flankers have more "space" between themselves and a pressing defensive back, so cornerbacks can not as easily "jam" them at the line of scrimmage. This is in addition to being eligible for motion plays, allowing for the flanker to move laterally before and during the snap. Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch is one of the earliest players to successfully exploit the potentials of the flanker position as a member of the Los Angeles Rams during the 1950s.

While some teams did experiment with more than two wide receivers as a gimmick or trick play, most teams used the pro set as the standard set of offensive personnel (a flanker, a split end, a half back, a full back, and a tight end). An early innovator, coach Sid Gillman used 3+ wide receiver sets as early as the 1960s. In sets that have three, four, or five wide receivers, extra receivers are typically called slot receivers, as they play in the "slot" (open space) between the furthest receiver and the offensive line. In most situations, the slot receiver lines up off the line of scrimmage like the flanker position. The first use of a slot receiver is often credited to Al Davis, a Gillman assistant who took the concept with him as a coach of the 1960s Oakland Raiders. Other members of the Gillman coaching tree, including Don Coryell and John Madden, brought these progressive offensive ideas along with them into the 1970s and early 1980s, but it was not until the 1990s that teams began to reliably use three or more wide receivers, notably the "run and shoot" offense popularized by the Houston Cougars of the NCAA and the Houston Oilers of the NFL, and the "K Gun" offense used by the Buffalo Bills. Charlie Joiner, a member of the "Air Coryell" San Diego Chargers teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was the first "slot receiver" to be his team's primary receiver.

Types

While the general fan base and most commentators use the generic term wide receiver for all such players, specific names exist for most receiver positions:

  • Split end (X or SE): A receiver on the line of scrimmage, necessary to meet the rule requiring seven such players at snap. Where applicable, this receiver is on the opposite side of the tight end. The split end is farthest from center on his side of the field.[4]
  • Flanker/Flanker back (Z or FL or 6 back): A receiver lining up behind the line of scrimmage. Frequently the team's featured receiver, the flanker uses the initial buffer between himself and a defender to avoid immediate "jamming" (legal defensive contact within five yards of the line of scrimmage). The flanker is generally on the same side of the formation as a tight end. As with the split end, this receiver is the farthest player from the center on his side of the field. The flanker is usually lined up just like a split end except that he is just behind the line of scrimmage, therefore being in the backfield and not on the line.[5]
  • Slot receiver (Y or SR): A less-formal name given to receivers in addition to split ends and flankers (for example, tight ends who line up wide). These receivers line up between the split end/flanker and the linemen. If aligned with a flanker, the slot receiver is usually on the line of scrimmage, and if with a split end, off the line of scrimmage. As with the flanker position, a featured receiver often takes a slot position with a split end to avoid jamming.[5]
  • Slotback: A receiver lining up in the offensive back field. Canadian and arena football allow them to take a running start at the line. They are usually larger players as they need to make catches over the middle. In American football, slot backs are typically used in flexbone or other triple option offenses, while Canadian football uses two of them in almost all formations (in addition to two wide receivers and two running backs).

Notes

  1. ^ "http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/football/nfl/11/04/dirty/index.html"
  2. ^ "http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/gallery/featured/GAL1162231/1/index.htm"
  3. ^ Jerry Rice career statistics at SI.com
  4. ^ Wide receiver terminology at phillyburbs.com
  5. ^ a b Wide receiver terminology at phillyburbs.com
Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End Kicking players Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy
1970 NFL Draft

The 1970 National Football League draft was held January 27–28, 1970, at the Belmont Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York.

1971 NFL Draft

The 1971 National Football League draft was held January 28–29, 1971, at the Belmont Plaza Hotel in New York City, New York. It was the first time that three quarterbacks were selected with the three first draft choices. The Boston Patriots were renamed New England Patriots after the draft in March 1971.

1972 NFL Draft

The 1972 National Football League draft was held February 1–2, 1972, at the Essex House in New York City, New York.During round 17, after Falcons coach Norm Van Brocklin yelled to his staff "Do we want the roughest, toughest s.o.b. in the draft?!", the team drafted the then-64-year-old actor John Wayne, "of Fort Apache State" (Wayne actually attended the University of Southern California and was a member of the USC Trojans football team in his youth); NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle disallowed the selection, however.

1974 NFL Draft

The 1974 National Football League draft took place at the Americana Hotel in New York City, New York, on January 29–30, 1974. Each of the 26 NFL teams were granted 17 selections for a total of 442 picks.Many experts consider the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers to have had the best draft in NFL history as they selected four players later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster). The closest any other team has come to this success in a draft is the Dallas Cowboys’ 1964 draft, when three Hall of Famers were taken.The Houston Oilers had the first pick in the 1974 draft based on their one-win record in 1973, but they traded the first overall pick—as well as the first pick of the third round, #53 overall—to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for defensive end Tody Smith and wide receiver Billy Parks. Dallas used the two picks to select two future Pro Bowlers, defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones and quarterback Danny White.

This was the first NFL draft since 1938 to not have any quarterbacks taken in the first round, and one of only five. Along with 1988, it is the only draft where no quarterback was taken in the first two rounds, and 1974 is generally regarded as one of the worst quarterback draft classes of all time, with only fourth round pick Mike Boryla reaching the Pro Bowl, and even Boryla was out of the NFL by 1978.

1975 NFL Draft

The 1975 National Football League draft was held January 28–29, 1975, at the New York Hilton at Rockefeller Center in New York City, New York.

1981 NFL Draft

The 1981 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 28–29, 1981, at the New York Sheraton Hotel in New York City. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

For the first time, the top two picks of the draft were named Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year, respectively.

1983 NFL Draft

The 1983 NFL Draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 26–27, 1983, at the New York Sheraton Hotel in New York City, New York. No teams elected to claim any players in the supplemental draft that year.

The draft is frequently referred to as the quarterback class of 1983, because six quarterbacks were taken in the first round—John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O'Brien, and Dan Marino—the highest number of first round picks for the position. Of these quarterbacks, Elway, Kelly, Eason, and Marino played in the Super Bowl, Elway, Kelly, O'Brien, and Marino were selected to play in the Pro Bowl, and Elway, Kelly, and Marino have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All six quarterbacks were drafted by American Football Conference (AFC) teams, with every member of the five-team AFC East (the Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and New England Patriots) selecting a quarterback. In eleven of the sixteen years following this draft, the AFC was represented in the Super Bowl by a team led by one of these quarterbacks: five with the Denver Broncos and Elway, four with the Bills and Kelly, one with the Dolphins and Marino, and one with the Patriots and Eason.

They met with little success in the Super Bowl, however, compiling a 2–9 record among them, with an 0–9 record for their first 14 years in the league. The only two wins were by Elway in XXXII and XXXIII during his final two seasons in 1997 and 1998. Three of the most lopsided Super Bowl losses in history also came at the hands of quarterbacks from the Class of '83: Elway, a 55–10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in XXIV; Eason, a 46–10 loss to the Chicago Bears in XX; and Kelly, a 52–17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in XXVII. Marino would only reach the Super Bowl once in a 38–16 loss to San Francisco in XIX following the end of Marino's second season. Kelly and the Bills would appear in the Super Bowl for a record four consecutive years, from 1990 to 1993, but lost all four.

Of the six first round quarterbacks drafted, Hall of Famers Elway and Kelly did not sign with the teams that selected them for the 1983 season. Elway, who had made his antipathy towards the Colts known long before the draft, was also a promising baseball player in the New York Yankees organization. With Yankees owner George Steinbrenner aggressively pursuing a commitment from Elway to play baseball full-time, Elway and his agent, Marvin Demoff, successfully leveraged the threat of Elway abandoning football altogether to compel the Colts to trade Elway to the Broncos a few days after the draft.

Kelly, the other holdout, instead signed with the Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League (USFL), where he led the springtime circuit in passing in both 1984 and 1985. Kelly was set to play for the New Jersey Generals when the USFL planned to switch to a fall season in 1986, but when the USFL won only $1 (trebled to $3) from its antitrust lawsuit vs. the NFL on July 29, 1986, Kelly finally signed with the Bills three weeks later.

Including the aforementioned Elway, Kelly, and Marino, a total of six players drafted in the first round have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and seven players overall have been inducted. Each round of this draft also contained at least one player who was later selected to play in the Pro Bowl. Bleacher Report named the 1983 draft class as the "greatest of all time".

1984 NFL Draft

The 1984 NFL Draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held May 1–2, 1984, at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York City, New York. No teams elected to claim any players in the regular supplemental draft that year. The NFL did have a special supplemental draft for college seniors who had already signed with the USFL or CFL on June 5, 1984.

The 1984 draft was the first in ten years in which a quarterback was not selected in the first round; the first quarterback selected in 1984 was Boomer Esiason, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round, with the 38th overall pick.

1985 NFL Draft

The 1985 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. The draft was held April 30 and May 1, 1985, at the Omni Park Central Hotel in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

The first six selections of the draft made at least one Pro Bowl, and three of the first 16 picks — Bruce Smith, Chris Doleman, and Jerry Rice — have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.For the second consecutive season, there were no quarterbacks chosen in the first round on draft day, although University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar was selected by the Browns in the supplemental draft several months later.

1987 NFL Draft

The 1987 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 28–29, 1987, at the Marriot Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

1988 NFL Draft

The 1988 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 24–25, 1988, at the Marriot Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

Notably, the first player selected at the quarterback position did not come until the third round (76th overall), which is the last draft in which this has occurred. In fact, only one draft since – 1996 – has gone without a quarterback being drafted in the first round.

1989 NFL Draft

The 1989 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 23–24, 1989, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

The draft is noted for having four of the first five players selected – quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Barry Sanders, linebacker Derrick Thomas, and cornerback Deion Sanders – being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, the only top five pick not inducted, is considered a draft bust.

The 1989 NFL Draft also helped set a major precedent, as Barry Sanders was selected with the third overall pick despite an NFL rule stating that collegiate juniors could not declare for the draft.

1990 NFL Draft

The 1990 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 22–23, 1990, at the Marriot Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

The Dallas Cowboys would have had the #1 overall pick in the draft for the second consecutive year by virtue of their league-worst 1–15 record in 1989. However, the Cowboys forfeited their first-round pick by selecting quarterback Steve Walsh in the first round of the previous year's supplemental draft. The first pick instead went to the Atlanta Falcons, who traded it to the Indianapolis Colts.

1991 NFL Draft

The 1991 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 21–22, 1991, at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, New York. On that day, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail from the University of Notre Dame, who was projected as the number one overall pick, instead signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League (CFL). No teams elected to claim any players in the supplemental draft that year.

The first six selections of the draft were defensive players. No previous draft had begun with more than three consecutive defensive picks.

1992 NFL Draft

The 1992 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. It is officially known as the NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting. The draft was held April 26–27, 1992, at the Marriot Marquis in New York City, New York. The league also held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season.

The 1992 draft was notable because for the first time since 1958 one team, the Indianapolis Colts, held the first two overall picks. Neither made a major impact in the league, and the 1992 draft in retrospect is considered one of the worst in league history. It is the only draft since 1960 to produce no Pro Football Hall of Famers. It was also the final NFL Draft featuring twelve rounds of selections; the league would reduce the rounds to eight the following season, and then seven the year after that, where it has remained since.

40-yard dash

The 40-yard dash is a sprint covering 40 yards (36.58 m). It is primarily run to evaluate the speed and acceleration of American football players by scouts, particularly for the NFL Draft but also for collegiate recruiting. A player's recorded time can have a heavy impact on his prospects in college or professional football. This was traditionally only true for the "skill" positions such as running back, wide receiver, and defensive back, although now a fast 40-yard dash time is considered important for almost every position. The 40-yard dash is not an official race in track and field athletics and is not an IAAF-recognized race.

The origin of timing football players for 40 yards comes from the average distance of a punt and the time it takes to reach that distance. Punts average around 40 yards in distance from the line of scrimmage, and the hangtime (time of flight) averages approximately 4.5 seconds. Therefore, if a coach knows that a player runs 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, he will be able to leave the line of scrimmage when a punt is kicked, and reach the point where the ball comes down just as it arrives.

Antonio Brown

Antonio Tavaris Brown Sr. (born July 10, 1988) is an American football wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). Raised in Liberty City, Miami, Brown attended Miami Norland High School where he played both football and track. He played college football at Central Michigan University, where he earned All-American honors in 2008 and 2009 as a punt returner. A sixth round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010, no player has amassed more receptions and receiving yards than Brown since he entered the league.During his first season with the Steelers, the team advanced to Super Bowl XLV, but lost to the Green Bay Packers. He finished his rookie season with 16 receptions for 167 yards in ten games. During his second season, Brown became the first player in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards receiving and returning in the same year. For his efforts, Brown was selected as a punt returner for the 2012 Pro Bowl. In 2013, Brown became the only receiver in NFL history to record five receptions and at least 50 yards in every single game of an NFL season. Although his on-the-field productivity continued over the next several seasons, including leading the league in receiving yards in 2014 and 2017, Brown's relationship with the Steelers, especially with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, soured and in 2019 he requested a trade from the franchise. He was eventually dealt to Oakland, who then made him the highest-paid receiver in the league.

Brian Kelly (wide receiver)

Brian Kelly (born March 27, 1956) is a former Canadian Football League wide receiver for the Edmonton Eskimos who, in nine years from 1979–1987 caught 575 passes for 11,169 yards and 97 touchdowns. Kelly was a member of 5 Grey Cup Championship teams in Edmonton. Kelly was the number 1 target of Eskimos Quarterback Warren Moon in the early 80's. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Kelly was voted one of the CFL's top 50 players (#20) in a poll conducted by Canadian sports network TSN. He graduated from Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California

Mike Wilson (wide receiver)

Michael Ruben Wilson (born December 19, 1958) is a former professional American football wide receiver in the National Football League for the San Francisco 49ers. He is only one of a few NFL players to be a member of four Super Bowl championship teams. He played college football at Washington State University.

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