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The Wide Receiver Position: An In-Depth Guide

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

The 2022 NFL draft saw a record-breaking 6 wide receivers taken in the first 20 picks of the draft. And it’s clear to see – wide receivers are set to benefit more than any other of the offensive football positions in the game of football as offenses continue to shift to a pass-happy attack.

Wide receivers are the ultra-important final piece of the puzzle in the passing game. As the offensive line gives the quarterback time to throw, it’s all for nothing if offenses don’t have reliable, explosive playmakers on the outside capable of burning a defense at any given moment.

What is a Wide Receiver in Football

Most of all, elite wide receivers are an automatic 1 on 1 matchup issue for defenses on every single play. Have a 6’5 wide receiver with decent speed and good hands? The defense is sure to be on their toes, especially if they are forced to line up a 5’10 defensive back on him all game. Without a doubt, wide receivers are an important, star-studded piece of every football team, and below will uncover why teams are beginning to invest heavily in the position.

What does a Wide Receiver do?

Wide receivers help tie together the three aspects of the passing game. It starts upfront with the offensive line giving the quarterback time, moving to the quarterback making sharp reads and delivering accurate throws. Wide receivers put the icing on the cake by running crisp routes, becoming available to the quarterback, and securing passes thrown their way.

You’ll often hear the importance of quarterbacks and wide receivers being on the “same page.” It’s hard to quantify, but is extremely important, as a lot goes into well-executed pass play, and it demands a high level of football IQ, and craftsmanship for wide receivers to get open on a consistent basis.

What is a Wide Receiver in Football

Winning 1 on 1 matchups, running every part of the football route tree against every coverage, and making tough catches are just a few of the fine aspects of elite wide receiver play. Wide receivers also must possess mental and physical toughness, whether that’s through staying patient in getting limited touches, or taking a big hit over the middle of the field from an imposing linebacker. With the rate of teams throwing the football only climbing, these are just a few of the many valued attributes teams are looking for in wide receivers at all levels.

The secondary responsibility of wide receivers is run blocking. While it’s by far the less glamorous portion of their job, it contributes tremendously to the success of each offense.

The art of blocking sounds a lot more simple than it really is, and this goes for wide receivers as well as they look to hold perimeter blocks against either imposing linebackers, or agile defensive backs. Intensity and effort is required out of receivers until the whistle is blown, as their hustle downfield to cut off a defensive back, or holding firm against a 240 pound linebacker is what allows 10 yard runs to turn into long touchdown runs.

Why is it called Wide Receiver?

Wide receivers are tasked with typically splitting out “wide”, away from the offensive lineman, near the sideline. As teams look to vary the formations they run, the “wide” split certainly isn’t used for every play.

As for the receiver portion of the name, it is their primary job to “receive” passes from the QB. These two details help to explain the origin of the wide receiver position name.

What are some other names for the Wide Receiver?

Abbreviation: WR

What are the Skills and Body Type needed to play Wide Receiver?

Body Control
Strong Hands

These ideal traits in wide receivers are what allow them to become dependable targets, capable of creating separation from opposing defensive backs.

Body Type: (General Estimate)
Height: 5’10-6’4
Weight: 180-220 Pounds
Build: Lean

Wide receivers possess a variety of body-types, with the commonality being their ability to get open. Scanning NFL rosters, you’re bound to see both big, tall and strong receivers, as well as smaller receivers with elite speed and elusiveness.

Who are some of the best Wide Receivers ever?

Jerry Rice (1985-2005) - A 3x Super Bowl champion, Rice’s mark on the record books remains to this day as the NFL career leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Rice was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

Randy Moss (1998-2012) - Considered one of the most gifted receivers in NFL history, Moss had a dominant career with multiple franchises over a 14-year span. Moss holds the record for touchdown receptions in a season at 23, a mark he set in 2007. He was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

Randy Moss Wide Receiver

Steve Largent (1976-1989) - A 4th round NFL draft pick turned superstar, Largent put together an elite NFL career. Upon retiring in 1989, Largent held many of the major receiving records from his time playing with the Houston Oilers and Seattle Seahawks, making 7 Pro-Bowls, and even having his #80 jersey number retired by the Seahawks.

Why is the Wide Receiver so important?

Looking firsthand at the most dominant wide receivers in football, the sheer disruption that they can cause to a defense is game changing on a few different levels. At any given time in the game, the presence of an elite wide receiver will demand attention from the defense in all areas of the field.

Teams have started playing a lot of 2-high safety defenses as it is, and with having to defend an elite wide receiver, it will force them to make a decision on how they want to align. This gives offensive coordinators fire power as they look to game plan, and different questions to ask themselves.

Will the defense overload to the side of our best receiver? Are they removing an extra defender from the box to account for him? How deep are the safeties playing? The answers to these questions can give an offense great answers heading into a game week, and during games as teams are forced to adjust, all through simply having an elite playmaker out on the edge.

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