how many players on a football team

How Many Players Are on a Football Team? With Positions Breakdown

It is most commonly known by everyone that football is played between two teams, involving 11 players each. One team tries to maneuver the ball into the other team’s goal using its feet, while the other team defends. The team scoring the highest number of goals comes out as the winner.

Generally, there are only 22 players allowed in total on the field at any given time. There are 11 from one team on defense and 11 from the other team on offense.

However, sometimes the number of players on a high school football team, college football team, or NFL (National Football League) roster and their positional breakdown is a bit overwhelming to understand.

That’s why, here we are going to answer the question ‘how many players on a football team’ are there in a high school, college, youth or NFL, along with the position breakdown.

How Many Football Players on an NFL Team?

Yes, there are only 11 players allowed on the field from a single team at any given time. But this doesn’t mean that the number of players involved in the team roster is limited to 11, especially in the National Football League (NFL). 

NFL teams are allowed to have a maximum of 53 players on the roster, with up to 46 players dressed and ready to play in a single game.

Among these 53 players on the active roster of any team each week, most of these players only get a few plays each game. The decision regarding the same completely depends upon the coach. There are also 12 players allowed on the practice squad as well, who practice with the team but aren’t on the active roster.

Each team is required to have 11 players on the field at any point in time. This means the total number of players on the field can never exceed 22 at any given point in time.

Any team that has more than eleven players on the field at a time is penalized. When on offense, a five-yard penalty is imposed while the play is called dead. Contrary to that, when on defense, the penalty is imposed after the play ends.

What Positions Make Up The NFL Offense?

The 53 players on the offense generally consist of nine offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, three tight ends, four running backs, seven linebackers, ten defensive backs, six wide receivers, nine defensive linemen, one long snapper, one punter, and one kicker.

football teams - orange vs green team

This offense scheme can change throughout the game as a change of strategy to confuse the defense. 

The offense is the team that possesses the football and moves it down the field towards the opponent’s end zone to score points. The players making up this offensive unit are called offensive players.

Here is a breakdown of the positions on offense:

  • Running Back (RB)

The offensive team often has 1 or 2 running backs on the field. This number varies according to their strategy of attacking the defense.

If we talk about this player’s role, he runs the football as well as receives the quarterback’s hand-off. On the field, the running back is often positioned behind or next to the quarterback.

On the field, running backs are required to be fast, strong and tough. They should be able to take physical contact from the defensive team while running the football. They also have to take play-action fakes from the quarterback to confuse the defense.

  • Quarterback (QB)

The quarterback is the player who runs, hands the ball off, and throws it to another player. The quarterback is also crucial because this player starts the play. On offense, the delivery of the football to the appropriate player requires calmness and composure.

The position requires fast decision-making skills as well as fast reflexes. Failure to make the right decision at the right time by the quarterbacks often leads to the teams’ losing record.

  • Wide Receivers (WR)

Wide receiver is a key skill position in the offense. These players are positioned farther away from the rest of the offensive formation, hence the name. Wide receivers often have a prominent stature and require excellent catching ability and speed.

The wide receivers should catch the football and be able to withstand any hits by defensive players. Having a good wide receiver significantly increases the chances of scoring for the offensive team.

  • Offensive Line (LO)

The offensive line often consists of two offensive guards, a center, and two offensive tackles.

The center (C) in the offense is a position that is responsible for starting the play from scrimmage. This player is often positioned in the middle of the offensive line, hence the name. The center is required to snap the ball to the quarterback to start the play.

There are two offensive guards (OG) are lined up, one on each side of the center. The role of offensive guards is to block on both running and passing plays.

Offensive tackles (OT), on the other hand, are positioned just outside the offensive guards. The role of the tackle position is also to block on both running and passing plays. They are the most skilled on the offensive line. Offensive tackles are required to have a longer, taller build and quick footwork skills.

The offensive guard and tackle are crucial positions as they shield the quarterback. They also have to effectively move defensive ends and defensive tackles, making space for running back.

  • Tight End (TE)

The tight end is a hybrid position between a wide receiver and an offensive lineman. He is either a receiver or an extra blocker depending on the play.

These players are often massive and athletic as they are required to block the defensive linemen as well as catch the ball and run away from them.

What Positions Make Up The NFL Defense?

Below is a list of all the defensive players on the football field.

football team wearing orange jerseys entering the stadium
  • Defensive Tackles (DT)

Defensive tackles typically line up on the line of scrimmage and play against the center or guards. Their role is to either disrupt the running back or pursue the quarterback. The body stature of defensive tackles is often big and prominent as they are mostly responsible for the outside protection.

Depending on the team’s defensive scheme, defensive tackles may fill several different roles.

  • Defensive Ends (DE)

Defensive end is the defensive position in which players are located at each end of the defensive line. Defensive ends line up outside or inside of each offensive tackle. These players are required to attack the quarterback and let him not become comfortable while throwing football.

The defensive ends have the agility and speed that is used to rush the quarterback. Defensive ends are one of the most critical positions as they should hold down the end on the line of scrimmage, ensuring the quarterback has no space to run through and doesn’t get outside.

  • Linebackers (LB)

They are positioned at the back of the defensive line, hence the name. Linebackers are also called the captains of the defense as they are accountable for playing the pass and the run both .

Linebackers are required to be skilled at covering and tackling wide receivers. They are often big in stature and tough as their job is to rush the passer and tackle the players.

There are three types of linebackers: the wide side linebacker (WILL), the middle linebacker (MIKE), and the strong side linebacker (SAM).

  • Cornerbacks (CB)

Cornerbacks are the players often positioned nearest the sideline. Their role is to cover the speedy wide receivers. They are also responsible for creating turnovers through interceptions, hard tackles, and deflecting forward passes.

A few of the skills required for the cornerback position are strength, speed, and agility. They need to be proficient in backpedaling, disrupting pass routes, tackling, block shedding, and executing single or zone coverage.

  • Strong Safety (SS)

These players are defensive backs who are usually positioned on the strong side of the formation, in the middle of the field. They are responsible for covering receivers and have to be a strong force in running play.

Depending upon the defensive scheme, there are two variations of this position: Free Safety and Strong Safety.

Strong safety (SS) is a hybrid between free safety and linebacker. They must be capable of playing the roles of linebacker and defensive back. Thus, they are often required to be bigger, stronger, and more agile.

  • Free Safety (FS)

Free safety can be called the safety valve of the defense as their role is to ensure that there are no big plays happening. The free safety is required to tackle the running back as the last line of defense for the team.

Free safety resembles cornerbacks in characteristics, skills, and stature. These players are often more focused on pass defense in place of run defense.

Both strong and free safety have a very important role in the defense’s play as they ensure that a touchdown is not scored by the offense.

What Positions Make Up The Special Team?

The term “special teams” is used in reference to the squad members who are on the field during the kicking plays. These players include: kickoff returners, receivers, and kickers, as well as players involved in kick coverage and returns.

football team in white jersey on the stadium

These units usually account for approx. 35% of all points scored in a season. These special teams play a crucial role in a win and are called upon when a team performs any kick or return. There are four types of special team plays in footfall, all of which are kicking plays with specific differences.

Typically, the special teams unit of one team is called onto the field when the other team brings in their special teams unit.

  • Kickers

These are players who are also called placekickers. These kickers are responsible for field goals, extra points, and kickoffs. Although they are not a part of the whole game, their role is pivotal and can change the results of the game.

The role of a kicker includes kicking the football off the ground to earn more points for their team. 

  • Holders

The player who receives and holds the ball on the ground for kickers to kick is called a holder. One mistake by the holder could result in the kicker missing the ball or a missed field goal, which could cost a lot to the team.

  • Punters

The players who are given the responsibility of dropping the ball and kicking it to the other end of the field are punters. There is usually a punt protector (PP) with the punter behind the line of scrimmage as an extra blocker. This punt protector is the last line of defense.

  • Returners

The players who catch the ball after a kickoff or punt are called returners. These players, after receiving the ball, either signal for a fair catch or run down the field to put their team in a better position.

  • Gunner

The player who guns down the field in order to try to tackle the opposing returner is called a gunner. Gunners are particularly fast runners who are usually positioned on the sidelines.

  • Jammers

Jammers are the main opposition on special teams who are responsible for blocking the gunners at the line of scrimmage. Jammers are required to prevent gunners from getting a good jump on the punt returner.

  • Blockers

Blockers are a crucial part of the offense as well as the special teams unit. Blockers on the kicking team prevent players from the opposing team from reaching the punter or kicker.

Whereas, blockers on the receiving team protect the returner from the special teams unit of the opposing team. On the outside of the field, jammers function as blockers against the gunners.

  • Snapper

A snapper, or long snapper, snaps the ball to the holder during field goal kicks or extra points. The player is required to have good precision as punters and kickers stand at a distance from the offensive lines in comparison to a quarterback.

How Many Football Players on the Field per Team?

As mentioned above, NFL teams are allowed to carry a maximum of 53 players in total on the active roster. A match on the field is, however, played between two teams of a maximum of eleven players each.

football match

There are smaller guys who are often tasked with catching and running. There are taller guys who are in charge of blocking and medium sized guys who may do both.

There cannot be more than 22 players on the field at any given time. This includes 11 players from one team on offense and 11 players from the other team on defense.

What are the NFL Active Roster Rules?

An active football roster is a running list of all active and inactive players on a team. It is utilized by the officials and coaches throughout the entire football season. This roster contains the players’ information like jersey numbers and statistical information.

There are 53 active players on the roster of an NFL team, but only 46 are allowed to suit up on game day. There can only be 11 players from each team on the field who are announced prior to the game.

Players are divided into three groups on the roster: offense, defense, and special teams. “Offense” refers to the team attempting to score touchdowns.

“Defense” refers to the team attempting to stop the opposing team’s offense from scoring. The special teams are players who are responsible for taking care of any kicks or punts.

Here are the active roster rules:

  • Field of play

During a scrimmage, only 11 players from the active roster can be present on the field. For a team having more than 11 players on the field, a penalty call “Too Many Men on the Field” will be called on.

  • Substitutions

Unlimited substitutions are allowed during the football games. When the ball is dead, a team can substitute an individual or as many as all 11 players on the field with a new set of 11. This means any member of the active roster can be substituted by another at any point during the game.

Thus, different players from the team’s offense, defense, or special teams can be brought onto the field by the coaches in a football game at different times.

How Many Players Are on a College Football Team?

When we talk about college football teams, there is no clear limitation on the number of players on a team. Also, there are no practice squads on a college football team either.

Typically, college football teams have 100-120 players on their roster, which is a lot in comparison to the NFL. This makes it a bit tricky to administer which players travel with the team and which are allowed scholarships to play. This is where divisional or conference level limitations come into the picture.

Teams in the NCAA’s Division I FBS each year allow only 85 players on scholarship. There can be more players, but they aren’t eligible to receive athletically-based aid.

Division I-AA teams, on the other hand, are allowed to have 63 players on scholarships. Division II teams are allowed a total of 36 scholarships.

How Many Players Are on a High School Football Team?

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), there are absolutely no restrictions on the roster size of high school football teams. This means high schools typically don’t have cuts, and coaches have the freedom to have as many players as they like.

There is only one rule when it comes to a high school football team; two players on the field at once cannot have the same jersey number. The players can have 0-99 on their jerseys, but coaches need to be mindful while substituting, especially when there are more than 100 players on the roster.

Having mentioned that, usually coaches close at 40-50 players, or not more than 100 players. The reason being, they need to fill up both their junior varsity and varsity teams.

How Many Players Are on a Youth Football Team?

Just like high school football teams, there is no restriction in terms of roster size for youth football teams either.

young american football players o the field

It usually depends upon the coaches to determine how many players they want to have on their roster. The number can further be dependent upon the number of youth football players signing up for tryouts.

Often, coaches don’t go above 30-40 youth players on the team. However, sometimes youth football teams are even forced to shut down for not having sufficient players. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When Must NFL Rosters Be Finalized?

The NFL roster must be finalized and cut down from about 90 to 53 players about a week before the regular season starts. There are sets of number cuts that already start throughout the summer and leading into the preseason. However, the overall final set of cuts needs to be made a week before the season starts.  

The roster size can be anywhere between 60-90 over the summer, but the teams fine-tune their roster size to be 53 throughout the regular and postseason.

How Many Players Are There in an NFL Fantasy Roster?

In an NFL fantasy football league, each team is allowed to have up to 16 players. This includes 7 players who are left on the bench each week and 9 starters who are used.

What Is the PUP List?

This list of players who are ‘Physically Unable to Perform’ is called the PUP list. There are two types of PUP lists: the Active/PUP and the Reserve/PUP list.

The list utilized during the preseason is called the Active/PUP list, and the list utilized during the regular season is the Reserve/PUP list.


In the article, we have tried to cover all the questions relating to the number of players on an NFL, high school, college, or youth team roster. There are also the position breakdowns of the NFL football teams aforementioned. We hope this helps!

If you are interested in learning more about football, then please do explore other articles on our website.

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