Why do some wide receivers in football stand off the line of scrimmage?

It is all part of the strategy. Wide receivers stand off the line of scrimmage in order to still be allowed to catch the ball if the quarterback throws it to them. The rule in both NFL football and NCAA football is that only the 2 players who are (1) on the line of scrimmage and who are (2) the furthest to the outside are considered ‘eligible receivers’. Eligible receivers are those who are allowed to catch the ball (although there are some other rules like a tipped ball that change the rule – so much to know!!)  

wide receiver off the line of scrimmage

In the formation diagram, the eligible receivers would be the TE (#1) and the bottom WR (#7) because they are on the line and the furthest to the outside. But does that mean the other 2 WR’s can’t catch the ball? No, they can! That is why they are standing slightly behind the line. It makes them a ‘back’ so they can catch it too as can anyone else in the backfield (running back, half back, full back, quarter back). That gives the QB a lot more guys to throw it to and thus means 5 guys for the defense to watch out for.

What is the Slot Receiver (also a Slotback)?

In the diagram, WR* is the Slot Receiver or Slotback. He is a wide receiver (typically) by position but is playing in the Slot. He is slightly behind the line of scrimmage so he is a ‘back’ in this play and is thus allowed/eligible to catch the ball.

Other interesting football rules:

How many men must be on the line of scrimmage

How many times can you throw the ball in one play

Shotgun vs Under Center vs Pistol Offensive Formations

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