Wide receivers are often one of the most active players in football, constantly running routes to open themselves up for potential passes and throws. These positions are especially important in NFL FLAG football, where running plays are typically prohibited to limit contact among players.
Whether it’s a quick toss for a first down or a Hail Mary to the endzone for a buzzer-beating touchdown, we prepared the best wide receiver drills to make sure you’re running tight, consistent routes every time.
Let’s first start off with some routes that every team should have in their wide receiver route trees. These basic wide receiver routes are important fundamentals to build plays off of and learn the ropes of the flag football game.
Setup: For this receiver route, you’ll start on the line of scrimmage, on either side of the quarterback. Slant routes can be performed in both directions, so make sure to clarify with your quarterback which way to run.
Directions: Upon hike, you should run forward just a couple yards, then quickly cut at a near 45-degree angle in the direction of your slant until the pass is complete.
Tips: As you prepare for the 45-degree cut, try to juke out the defensive player guarding you. This will cause them to stumble as you change direction, opening you up to receive a throw.
Setup: To set up the comeback, also known as the hitch route, determine with your quarterback how deep your comeback is. This route can be used both for short and deep yardage.
Directions: Run your comeback route at the agreed upon yardage, then turn back a yard to receive the catch. When changing direction backward, plant your foot and turn in the opposite direction. This makes it easier to quickly adjust your direction.
Tips: Once you catch the ball, be ready to pivot again and shoot directly upfield.
Setup: For this wide receiver route, line up on either side of the quarterback, at least five yards from the outside boundaries.
Directions: Upon hike, run forward for five yards, then quickly turn on a 90-degree angle toward the outside line. You want to be running parallel to the line of scrimmage, so that it matches the wide receiver route tree.
Tips: This receiver route is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of a weaker defensive side.
Setup: Whether you’re practicing this wide receiver drill or running this route during a game, line up on the line of scrimmage on either side of the quarterback. Make sure to have a few yards of distance from the quarterback, so you can cut inward toward the center of the field.
Directions: To complete a post, run straight forward for five to 10 yards, then cut at a 45-degree angle toward the center of the field. You can adjust the angle in which you cut to take advantage of openings on the field.
Tips: To remember this receiver route, imagine you are running toward the field goal, or “post,” after cutting at five to 10 yards.
Setup: The corner receiver route is similar to the post route: line up on the line of scrimmage, on either side of the quarterback. Aim to be toward the center between the quarterback and the outside line.
Directions: Upon hike, run straight forward five to 10 yards, then cut at a 45-degree angle toward the outside of the field.
Tips: When cutting on a 45-degree angle, plant the opposite foot of the direction you want to go before pivoting. This will result in clean, tight receiver routes that trip up your defensive counterparts.
Setup: The fade receiver route can be run on either side of the quarterback—just make sure there are a couple yards between you and the center, so you can step inward at the beginning of the play.
Directions: After the ball is hiked, take a quick step inward toward the center, then pushing off your inside foot, run toward the outside corner of the field. This route can be adjusted for distance, depending on where openings appear.
Tips: Receiver routes with quick direction changes are most effective when juking out defensive players. To best juke, make sure your knees are bent and you’re low to the ground. This creates a better center of gravity to move as needed.
Setup: The fly receiver route can be performed on either side of the quarterback. Position yourself anywhere on the line of scrimmage and get ready to run! The fly route is often for heavy yardage plays, so you’ll want to be ready right from hike.
Directions: To run the fly route, simply run straight forward for the number of yards needed. When you’re about to reach your desired yardage, look over your shoulder for the throw. You shouldn’t stop running at any point during your route, so be on the lookout for the ball as you fly upfield.
Tips: When running this route, we recommend strategizing with the quarterback on the desired yardage of the play. This will give you a goal of your fly speed and help you know when to turn your head to complete a pass. A touchdown awaits!
Now that you’ve nailed down the basic wide receiver route tree, it’s time to start working on more advanced receiver routes that require additional direction changes or advanced footwork.
Setup: This receiver route can be performed on either side of the quarterback. When setting up, make sure you have enough space between you and the outside line, as you will be cutting toward it during the play.
Directions: Upon hike, run straight forward for around five yards. Once you reach this marker, cut parallel at a 90-degree angle toward the side of the field. Once you finish this traditional “out” route, cut once again 90 degrees toward the end zone.
Tips: To have the full impact of this route, make sure you juke out the defense on both of the directional changes. It also helps to put your hands up as if you’re catching the ball at each turn. That way, the defense won’t anticipate an additional change of direction.
Setup: To best set up for the whip/option receiver route, make sure you have enough space on both sides of you, as you’ll be running in both directions. Speak with the quarterback to determine your beginning direction and intended end destination.
Directions: After the hike, run on a slight slant in your original direction. Once you reach your intended yardage, pivot backward, then cut parallel to the line of scrimmage in the opposite direction toward your final destination.
Tips: This route is best performed for short yardage. Make your cut quickly into your route to catch your defensive guard off balance. This wide receiver route is perfect for a quick first down!
Setup: This route can be performed on either side of the quarterback. Because this receiver route is for short yardage, we recommend lining up directly on the line of scrimmage, so you can quickly meet—and beat—your defensive guard.
Directions: Think of this route as a double whip. Once the play starts, run on a small slant in your first direction. Upon reaching your yardage mark, pivot backward as if you’re going to complete a whip/option route. Instead, quickly cut once more parallel to the line of scrimmage in the original direction of your run.
Tips: This route is quite difficult and requires advanced, quick footwork. We recommend practicing this wide receiver catching drill ahead of time to get more familiar with when to cut. Bending your knees and staying low to the ground will help you maintain your balance when you quickly cut directions and juke out the defense.
Setup: For this receiver route, you’ll only be running forward, as opposed to a side, so your placement on the field can be customized to expose weak points of your opponent’s defense. For example, the receiver can start close to the center and quarterback, or more toward the outside line.
Directions: Upon hike, run straight forward a few yards, then pivot on your outside foot back toward the line of scrimmage, feigning a quick comeback route. After pivoting backward, pivot once again on your outside foot and run straight forward to the predetermined throw destination.
Tips: The trick to the stop-n-go route is when you’re pivoting back to the line of scrimmage—you want it to look like you’re running a quick comeback route and catching for low yardage. Once the defensive player thinks you’ve stopped, you can more easily side-step them to complete the receiver route for deeper yardage.
Setup: This receiver route will be slanting inward, so make sure that you’re not too close to the quarterback on either side. However, your location on the line of scrimmage is customizable to your team’s preference.
Directions: To begin this route, perform a typical slant route inward for around five yards. Once there, pivot off your outside foot for a quick fade toward the corner of your respective side. This play is intended for deep yardage, so make sure to talk with your quarterback about your destination.
Tips: Both the angles of your slant and fade can be adjusted and customized for your team. There are no wrong answers, as long as you achieve the intended redirection of the receiver route.
Setup: To properly set up for this wide receiver drill, line up on the line of scrimmage, on either side of the quarterback. This route will be crossing inward, so make sure there’s enough room between the other receivers and yourself to have a full range of motion.
Directions: Run straight forward for around 10 yards, shuffling your feet to juke out any defensive guards. Then, push off your outside foot at a 90-degree angle toward the inside of the field. This route is similar to a traditional “5 and in” route but is deeper in the field with an increased emphasis on a tight cut inward.
Tips: Team up with your quarterback and coach to determine how deep of a cut inward you should be taking as a receiver. This will help you determine when to anticipate a pass and get your hands positioned correctly.
Setup: For the setup of this wide receiver route, position yourself on the line of scrimmage, halfway between the quarterback and the outside boundary. This route can be performed on either side of the quarterback, just make sure there’s enough distance between the other players and yourself, as this route includes direction changes.
Directions: At the start of this receiver route, run straight forward about seven yards. Once you reach the seven-yard mark, juke and cut inward at a 45-degree angle, as if running a post. After running a few yards in this new direction, juke once again and pivot 45 degrees until you’re parallel with the line of scrimmage. Continue running this way until you receive the catch or the play is completed.
Tips: The key to the dig route is making your pivots tight and your jukes as clean as possible. Practice these two direction changes until they’re seamless and can easily throw off your defender.
Setup: The wheel route is utilized by the inside, or slot, receiver. Therefore, you want to position yourself on the line of scrimmage, relatively close to the quarterback, with some distance between the other receivers. This will give you more room to perform your motions as other receivers complete their respective routes.
Directions: To begin this wide receiver drill, run a rounded slant outward at approximately a 45-degree angle. This part of the route will be rounded, or wheel-like, which is a deviation from the typical tight cuts in wide receiver routes. After running this rounded route for a few yards, perform another wheel and start moving upward on the field, similar to a fly route, until you reach your needed yardage.
Tips: The rounded direction changes in this route are intended to strategically position yourself wheeling around the outside, or wide, receiver. The defense will have a more difficult time following two receivers who are intentionally crossing.
While we have provided examples of wide receiver routes, it’s important to remember that all NFL FLAG football routes, plays, and drills are fully customizable. If you want to emphasize the amazing catching skills of one player, go for it! Have an open back left corner? Switch up a route and emphasize that. Mix and match all sorts of different routes to make the perfect playbook for your next game.