How many players are on a football team?

Each football team has a lot of players on it. In college/NCAA football, the limit is 105. In professional/NFL football the limit is 53. Click here to read an article we wrote about the 53 man roster in professional football. So that answers the how many, but why are there so many players in football.

Why are there so many players in football?

Why are there so many players in football? Baseball and basketball teams don’t need so many, right? Well, in football, each person is very specialized to individual positions and there are many different sub-teams to the overall team.

Let’s simplify with a home cleaning analogy – A broom is great at sweeping but it can’t mop. And a mop is good at mopping but it can’t dust. And a feather duster can dust but…well you get the point. This is the same with football players. Some guys are fast, some guys are strong, some guys are big and strong and can fill a hole, some guys can kick, some can catch and some can throw. Now, of course, there are those that can do several of these things at one time and that makes them even more sought after for their versatility.


There are generally separate units for offense, defense, and what they call special teams. That is 33 different players right there (11 on each of offense, defense and special teams = 33). Sometimes a player will be on more than one of these units but not too often (with the exception of special teams), especially if they are a starter. However, it does happen.

Also, a team generally has multiple sub-teams on them within a defensive or offensive unit, also called a unit or a personnel group.  Personnel groups are groups of players put together for certain plays. Maybe it is a short yardage package for a down like 3rd and 2 yards where the defense replaces some of their fast corner backs with fast and strong linebackers.

Vice versa – a personnel group for long yardage play like 3rd down and 15 yards where the offense replaces running backs with more receivers and tight ends and the defense replaces with a personnel group who are great at blitzing.  

All of this leads to how many players there are on a football team.

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