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The Complete Guide to the Draw Play

Posted by AJ Forbes on

Any football team in the country has tendencies. Whether it be situational, personnel, formations, or motions, there are always tendencies that the opposition can key in on.

The most successful teams are able to understand what their tendencies are, perceive what the opposition’s answer to that tendency is, then attack that adjustment. One of the simplest examples of doing this is by running the Draw play. 

“Oh, you thought we were going to throw the ball? Let’s hand it off instead.”

What is the Draw Play?

Draw Play in Football

The Draw play is a run play where the offense tries to make it look like a pass play briefly before handing the ball to the running back late.

This is a concept meant to take advantage of a defense’s commitment to defending the pass and hopefully get defenders to spread out before running the ball up the middle. 

What are the Strengths of the Draw Play?

Draw is most effective 1.) in a pass-heavy offense and/or 2.) in seemingly obvious passing situations.

Why? Because it is in these circumstances where the defense is expecting the offense to throw the ball and will call the defense accordingly.

A defense with three defensive linemen and linebackers playing 10 yards off the ball is generally susceptible to an inside handoff. It’s a matter of using the opposition’s thoughts and intuition against them.

What are the Weaknesses of the Draw Play?

The biggest weakness of the draw play is against the blitz.

While running Draw is an effective concept in obvious passing situations, defenses like to blitz then. If a defense sends an interior pressure versus a Draw play, the Tailback is most likely going to be caught in the backfield.

At a point soon after the snap, all five Offensive Linemen will be locked up with 1-on-1 blocks (three of four at the first level, and one or two at the second level). If any defender besides the accounted-for defensive players comes on an interior blitz, there isn’t anyone to block him. This is why most offenses will tag an RPO to their draw play in order to account for these situations.

The Draw Play vs 3-4 Odd Front

Draw Play vs 3-4 Defense Odd Front

Left Tackle - Take a pass set and invite the Defensive End upfield. Under-set him to force him outside

Left Guard - Take a pass set, then climb for the left Inside Linebacker. Target the inside shoulder

Center - Take an initial pass set and block the Nose Tackle. After the initial contact, drive him in the direction that he wants to go to create a running lane

Right Guard - Take a pass set, then climb for the right Inside Linebacker. Target the inside shoulder

Right Tackle - Take a pass set and invite the Defensive End upfield. Under-set him to force him outside

Tailback - After the snap, take a shuffle step towards the QB while looking straight ahead (as if scanning in pass protection). Then, create a pocket with your arms for the QB to seat the ball into. Go the opposite direction the Center takes the Nose Tackle after the exchange

Quarterback - After receiving the snap, raise the ball to make it look like you’re going to throw the ball. Then, bring the ball back down and extend the ball with your right hand for the Tailback

Left Slot - Release vertically to sell the seam route, then break down to block the near Safety

Right Slot - Release vertically to sell the seam route, then break down to block the near Safety

X Receiver - Outside release and sell the vertical to take the Cornerback out of the play

Z Receiver - Outside release and sell the vertical to take the Cornerback out of the play

The Draw Play vs 4-3 Even Front

Draw Play vs 4-3 Defense Even Front

LT - Take a pass set and invite the Defensive End upfield. Under-set him to force him outside

LG - Double team the Nose Tackle with the Center. Take a pass set to invite the Nose Tackle upfield. If he plays into you, drive him; if he plays into the Center, climb to the Middle Linebacker

C - Double team the Nose Tackle with the corresponding Guard. Take a pass set to invite the Nose Tackle upfield. If he plays into you, drive him; if he plays into the Guard, climb to the Middle Linebacker

RG - Take a pass set to invite the Defensive Tackle upfield. Under-set him to force him outside
RT - Take a pass set and invite the Defensive End upfield. Under-set him to force him outside

TB - After the snap, take a shuffle step towards the QB while looking straight ahead (as if scanning in pass protection). Then, create a pocket with your arms for the QB to seat the ball into. Go the opposite direction the Center takes the Nose Tackle after the exchange

QB - After receiving the snap, raise the ball to make it look like you’re going to throw the ball. Then, bring the ball back down and extend the ball with your right hand for the Tailback

Left Slot - Release vertically to sell the seam route, then break down to block the near Safety

Right Slot - Release vertically to sell the seam route, then break down to block the near Safety

X Receiver - Outside release and sell the vertical

Z Receiver - Outside release and sell the vertical

Variations

Now let's take a look at a couple of variations of the draw play.

#1: QB Draw

Empty Formation QB Draw

If an offense has an athletic QB who can make plays with his legs, QB Draw is a great way to take advantage of his running ability.

The Offensive Line and receivers all have the same rules. What a lot of offenses will do is they will tag a perimeter RPO to QB Draw so the QB can find the numbers advantage. 

#2: Lead Draw

I Formation Lead Draw Play

When running Draw from 12-personnel Strong-I, the only differences are that the in-line Tight End will release for the right Outside Linebacker, the double team goes to the left Outside Linebacker, and the Fullback inserts for the Middle Linebacker.

An offense that uses this variation will have to show that they routinely pass from this set in order for a Draw to be effective.

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