How Many Positions Can You Play In Football?

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You are looking to understand more about the different positions that can be played in football. Perhaps you or your child is interested in playing on a team. Maybe you are a fan of the game and want to learn more about what each position does on the team. This post will break down the various positions and explain the job and purpose of each position. Keep reading to learn more.

There are 22 different positions in American football, including offensive, defense, and special teams. One person can play multiple positions in the same game, but it is rare in professional football. It is more common for players to be responsible for multiple positions in high school and collegiate football. 

Now that you know the number of positions that can be played in football, you probably want to know the specific players. This post will list all of the specific positions that can be played on offense, defense, and special teams. This post will also discuss the roles each of these players is required to perform. We will also talk about whether players can play multiple positions and the reasons for doing so. Keep reading to learn more.

American football teams stay head to head on a generic outdoor football stadium under a cloudy sky with bright sun, How Many Positions Can You Play In Football?

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How Many Positions Can You Play In Football?

There are 22 different positions that can be played, including offense, defense, and special teams. In high school football, it is common for players to take multiple roles. There are 11 players on the field at one time for each team.

The same player can play an offensive position, a defensive position, and a special teams position. This depends on the strengths of the players on the team, the available players for the roster, and the coach’s determination.

Offensive Line

The purpose of the offensive line is to create space for the running back on running plays. During passing plays, the job of the offensive line is to protect the quarterback. These positions are very physical because the players need to stop the opposing team that is trying to push through to the ball carrier.

  • Center (C)
  • Offensive Guard (OG) – Right/Left
  • Offensive Tackle (OT) – Right/Left

Two American football players looking at each other on a beginning of the match

Offensive Backs And Receivers

The offensive backs and receivers are the players responsible for carrying the football and getting it into the endzone. This includes the quarterback, wide receivers, and running backs. The quarterback throws the ball, wide receivers catch the ball, and running backs run the ball.

  • Quarterback (QB)
  • Wide Receiver (WR)
  • Running Back – Half Back HB), Tail Back (TB), or Full Back (FB)

Defensive Line

The job of the defensive line is to tackle the ball carrier. They will try to maneuver past the blocks of the offense to tackle the running back on running plays. They will try to push through the offensive line to tackle the quarterback that is looking to throw the ball downfield.

  • Defensive Tackle (DT)
  • Defensive End (DE)

Defensive Linebackers

Linebackers are often considered the most important position on defense. These players line up about five yards behind the line of scrimmage. This is a versatile position. The linebacker can move up toward the line of scrimmage to tackle the ball carrier or move downfield to cover a wide receiver.

  • Middle Linebacker (MLB)
  • Outside Linebacker (OLB)

Defensive Backs

Defensive backs are responsible for covering receivers and preventing them from catching a pass from the quarterback. Cornerbacks line up against the best wide receivers while the safety lines up five to fifteen yards from the line of scrimmage toward the center of the field.

  • Cornerback (CB)
  • Safety (S)
  • Nickelback and Dimeback

Special Teams

Special teams are the players that are on the field for field goals, punts, and kickoffs. This includes the offensive positions for blocking during kick returns, the fast players that can return the punt or kickoff, and the kicker. There is usually a punter and a field goal kicker in the NFL, but in high school, it may be the same person performing both duties.

  • Kicker
  • Kickoff Specialist
  • Punter
  • Holder
  • Long Snapper
  • Kick or Punt Returner
  • Upback
  • Gunner
  • Jammer

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How Many Positions Can You Play In Football?

A person can play multiple positions in the same game. There is offense, special teams, and defense, and there is no rule against one person taking multiple roles on the team. This is more common in high school football and occasionally happens with college football. There is no rule against a player playing multiple roles in professional football, but it is rare.

What Is The Most Difficult Position To Play?

The most challenging position to play is hard to say with any certainty. Cornerback is a difficult position because it requires the player to be very fast, physically fit, and mentally alert. If the cornerback doesn’t do the job properly, the other team will have an open wide receiver and easily score a touchdown.

Another difficult position is offensive tackle. The job of the OT is to block and protect the quarterback. When the OT doesn’t do the job well, the quarterback may get tackled for a loss of yards. The OT is also supposed to block to make space for the running back. It is a physically demanding position with large defensive tackles pushing their way toward the ball carrier.

For more information about the physical nature of American football, check out this post: Is Football A Contact Sport?

American football players tackling opposite's team quarterback during the match

What Is The Easiest Position To Play?

The easiest position to play is wide receiver. This player needs to be fast to get open during a passing play, but that is the most demanding aspect of the position.

Wide receivers may have to block during running plays, but this is not the primary job of the receiver. Most plays will find the wide receiver on the sideline or running. This position is only physically demanding when you catch the ball, and the defensive back is trying to tackle you to the ground.

Football players may be able to run a 40-yard dash in about five seconds. Wide receivers and running backs usually run faster than positions on the offensive and defensive lines. For more information on the speed of football players in high school, college, and professional levels, check out this post: How Fast Can A Football Player Run?

Can NFL Players Play Multiple Positions?

There are NFL players that play multiple positions, but it is not as common in the modern-day. It is most likely that an offensive back or receiver that is fast will also play as a kick or punt returner. Kordell Stewart played primarily as a quarterback but occasionally played as a wide receiver. Deion Sanders played as a wide receiver, cornerback, kick and punt returner.

Can Football Players Switch Positions?

Football players can switch positions during the season or even during the same game. They might do this if there is an injury on the team or if a particular player has valuable skills that can be used in multiple positions.

The only caveat is that players wearing numbers 50-79 are considered to be non-receivers. The referee needs to be notified before a player with this number can be switch to become an eligible receiver.

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Why Do Players Switch Positions?

There are several reasons why a player may switch positions. The coach may decide to do a surprise play while utilizing the unique skill of certain players for specific kinds of plays. Sometimes injuries may take out the primary player and the backup, which could call for another player to switch positions.

Special teams positions don’t play as many plays as offensive and defensive positions. For this reason, it makes sense for players that usually play offense or defense to also have a position for special teams. Wide receivers are faster than most players on the team and can be useful as a kick returner or punt returner, a special team position.

In Closing

American football teams stay head to head on a generic outdoor football stadium under a cloudy sky with bright sun, How Many Positions Can You Play In Football?

There are 22 different positions that a person can play on a football team. This includes the positions on offense, defense, and special teams.

One player can play multiple positions, but this is more common in high school and collegiate football. It does occasionally happen with professional football and the NFL, but it is still rare. Players may play multiple positions when they have unique skills that can be utilized in other areas, or they may switch players to cover for injured players on the team.

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