FLAG FOOTBALL POSITIONS GUIDE

 

Football is the ultimate team sport.

Every play is designed like a machine, with each individual doing their part to keep things running. If one person fails, the entire team could fail.  

It’s the same story whether you’re on offense or defense. Every football position serves a purpose, especially in flag football where you’ll find fewer players on the field. While tackle football consists of 11 players, NFL FLAG football teams compete 5 on 5.  

This section breaks down each of the offensive and defensive flag football positions and their important roles during the game. 

FLAG FOOTBALL POSITIONS

What are the positions in flag football? In simple terms, flag football positions are essentially the same as tackle, but without the linemen. There are five players on the field in NFL FLAG football—for both offense and defense—with assigned roles. 

But, unlike tackle football, these football positions overlap much more than you may realize. For example, one player can take on many responsibilities in a given play, such as a center transitioning into a wide receiver after snapping the ball. For this reason, versatile players tend to be more successful in flag football.

FOOTBALL OFFENSIVE POSITIONS

Players who have a well-rounded skill set make the most impact in an offensive football position. They can throw, catch, and quickly run complicated pass routes. They have the ability to read the field and know how to adapt their football position during a play to successfully advance downfield.

Learn about offensive positions:

Quarterback  - Think of the quarterback as the team’s offensive leader. They’re responsible for calling the play or receiving direction from the coach and then communicating it to the rest of the team. In NFL FLAG football, every play begins with a snap to the quarterback, who then decides to hand it off or pass it. They’re a central part of the team as they touch the ball on every drive and are highly visible players. 

Center - A center is responsible for snapping the ball to the quarterback and reading the opposing team’s defense. This football position differs the most compared to its tackle counterpart. The center actually becomes a wide receiver after snapping the ball, so you’ll often find them running a pass route immediately after the snap. 

Wide receiver - The wide receiver’s main job is to catch a pass from the quarterback or another player and advance down the field or score. They’re constantly running precise and often complex pass routes to try and get themselves in a position away from their defender to receive a pass. In flag football, teams typically have two to three wide receivers on the field at once. 

Running back - This position in football is responsible for carrying the ball during a running play. The center lines up in the backfield and after the ball is snapped, they move forward to receive a hand-off from the quarterback and run with the ball to advance down the field. If they don’t receive the ball from the quarterback, they can become a receiver as well. Running plays are not permitted within five yards of the midfield or end zone in NFL FLAG football, so this player typically adapts their role to the play more often than others. 

FLAG FOOTBALL DEFENSIVE POSITIONS

Since there’s no contact in flag football, such as tackling or blocking, defense looks a little different. Instead of linemen, there are five defensive football players who typically take on one of two positions: a defensive back or rusher. But all flag football defensive positions have the same objective: to prevent the offensive team from scoring.

Learn about defensive positions:

Defensive back - A defensive back’s primary goal is to defend wide receivers and intercept the incoming pass or pull the flags off the ball-carrier’s belt. They can defend players either man-to-man or zone, depending on the league and competitive level. Typically coaches teach zone first, and as players develop, they move to man-to-man. 

Rusher - Rushing the passer is an important role on defense as it prevents the quarterback from completing the pass. The rusher starts seven yards behind the line of scrimmage at the snap and the quarterback has a seven-second pass clock to throw the ball. Bottom line: The quicker the rusher gets to the quarterback, the more opportunities the defensive team has to force mistakes and intercept the pass. 

Safety - Some flag football teams will play with a safety on their defense, although this is more commonly found in 7 on 7 leagues. This player sits further back behind the line of scrimmage and acts as a catch-all, stopping anyone who gets loose. If an offensive player makes it out of a running play, or a wide receiver goes deep, the safety covers and prevents the ball-carrier from scoring. 

Defensive flag football players have three main responsibilities: to read the play, see the ball and “tackle” the ball-carrier by removing their flag(s). Even though players aren’t physically tackling their opponents, many of these defensive skills directly transfer over to tackle football.  For example, the way that flag football players are required to square up their body and align their head and knees with their opponent before pulling off their flags is the exact same positioning needed to physically tackle a player. That’s why coaches are adamant about teaching proper technique, as these fundamentals are necessary among every position in football. 

FOOTBALL POSITIONS CHART

If you’re new to 5 on 5 flag football, this football positions chart will help you get a better understanding of where each player starts on the line of scrimmage and what their role is on the field. 

 

FLAG FOOTBALL POSITIONS - 5 ON 5

Offense 

Quarterback (QB): Receives the snap and passes the ball or hands it off (they aren’t allowed to run with the ball after the snap).

Center: Snaps the ball to the QB and then can run for a pass as a receiver.

Wide receiver: Runs pass routes to catch a pass (usually right and left receivers).

Running back: Takes a hand off and runs with the ball or throws it. They’re also eligible to receive a pass.

Defense

Defensive back: Covers wide receivers, either man-to-man or zone. 

Safety: Stands further back from the line of scrimmage and is responsible for stopping opponents who get loose. 

Rusher: Attempts to prevent the QB from passing the ball (must be at least seven feet off the line of scrimmage at the snap to rush the passer).