most important positions in football

Ranking The Most Important Positions In Football Today

Are you an American football fan? If yes, you probably want to enjoy the game and see your team score impressive touchdowns. But do you know the most important positions in football?

While football is a team game, players take different positions on the ground of play. All the different positions play with the same goal of advancing and defending their field.

But as you’ll soon find out, not all positions are the same. Some positions are actually more important than others. Some players might even leave the field without touching a ball.

What Is the Hardest Position in Football?

The quarterback position, without a doubt, is one of the toughest positions in football. You have more responsibilities and demands as a quarterback than any other player.

Quarterbacks must prepare and hold every player on the field responsible. They relay every play call, must be very sharp, and have proper game awareness.

The middle linebacker, who is the quarterback of the defense, is another hard position in football. He makes and leads the defense plays.

Other tough positions are the center, left tackle, and cornerback.

What Is the Least Important Position in Football?

While every position in football is important and plays a crucial role, the linebacker in the 4-3 defense formation is not that important. The position has been less important with multiple wide receivers in the 4-3 formation.

So what are these football positions? Join me as I list and discuss the different positions in football. I’ll go a step further and explain their roles and how they affect football.

1. Quarterback (Offense) – The Most Important Positions In Football

The quarterback position in the offense is by far the most important position in any football game. Some of the highest-paid NFL players are quarterbacks. A quarterback in the offense plays a crucial role in touching the ball and calling the play.

Quarterbacks assist in pass plays. In professional games like the NFL, the quarterback plays a crucial role in determining whether a team wins or loses.

Simply put, quarterbacks are the leaders in the offense. They relay play calls, hand the ball to other players and throw passes.

Every single play in a team employ starts with the quarterback. They execute the play and are responsible for knowing every position in the field.

The most significant contribution of quarterbacks is throwing complete passes that lead to scores. In a way, quarterbacks need good arm strength, body size, and excellent precision.

Quarterbacks need to be intelligent and make split-second decisions that affect play. In certain situations, quarterbacks have to play the ball with their feet.

2. Left Tackle (Offense)

Second, on the list is the left tackle position in the offense. In the offensive line, a left tackle plays the most crucial role in protecting a quarterback’s blind spot.

football player tackled by opposing players

A left tackle must do his job perfectly and ensure the quarterback is not tackled. He needs to block any offensive player getting to the quarterback.

If a left tackle fails in his responsibility, the quarterback can be tackled and be injured. Good examples of famous left tackles are Anthony Munoz and Joe Thomas.

3. Center (Offense)

Still, in the offensive line, a center is another important position with a responsibility to hike the ball to a quarterback. When hiking the ball, the term kicking is used.

Kicking simply means placing the ball on the ground and through his legs to the quarterback’s hands. Tossing the ball is done when the quarterback is a few yards back.

A center can also hand the ball to a quarterback if they are close. Centers are responsible for calling any adjustment on the offensive.

Centers need to be intelligent and have mental strength. A good center must read the defensive tactics and call an excellent blocking system. Vision and good IQ are two things every center must possess.

4. Middle Linebacker (Defense)

Another important position is the middle linebacker in the defense. This is an important position, with the linebacker commanding the defense. Middle linebackers are tasked with protecting the field center from passes, handling back runs, and corner quarterbacks.

In the NFL, tackle statistics are majorly dominated by middle linebackers. A modern middle linebacker must be strong and well-built. He also needs good speed to cover enough ground.

The middle linebacker is the “captain” of the defense and is referred to as Mike. Mike commands the defensive unit and relays play calls.

It’s a very versatile position that ends with more tackles. A middle linebacker protects the center of the field from tight ends, passes, and running backs. However, they can also be called to rush at the quarterback.

5. Safety (Defense)

Safety in the defense is another important position playing furthest from the offensive line. In a football game, safety is the last man in defense.

There are usually two types of safeties. Strong safety (SS) and free safety (FS). They both align the same, but free safety is the true last man in defense.

An FS sits back and scans the entire field. He then reacts accordingly and intercepts the ball. An FS is considered a playmaker to stop balls deep in the field. He roams freely in the deep hence considered free.

football players trying to intercept the ball

A SS works more like a linebacker but with more speed. He lines deep but on the left, which is the stronger side. A SS helps stop running backs and provides coverage at the back.

The backfield in a football game is the deep area covered by safeties and cornerbacks. Together with cornerbacks, they line up at the back of the 7 front players. They focus more on dealing with passing plays.

6. Defensive End (Defense)

We have the defensive end on the defensive line, which is another important position. A defensive end is often referred to as pass “rushers.”

As the name describes, defensive ends must rush/run at the passer and force a sack.

The primary role of a defensive end is to rush passers and disrupt their play. Consequently, passers will end up making a bad throw.

Letting the opponent’s quarterback make a good throw will put your team under pressure. A defensive end needs to put pressure on quarterbacks forcing them to make poor throws.

7. Wide Receiver (Offense)

You probably, through wide receivers, will be high on the list. Wide receivers are exciting and a most lovable position that excites the crowd. They run, receive passes from quarterbacks, and rush, gaining yards for their team.

While they play a crucial role, you cannot compare them to what quarterbacks do. In the NFL, there are two types of wide receivers. These are the wideout and slot receivers.

Both types of wide receivers need to catch the ball from a passer. As the name indicates, a wideout receiver lines up wide on the pitch outside.

Slot receivers line in the section of the field between the offensive line and the wideouts. They are usually quick, smaller, and shifty than wideout receivers.

It’s important that a wide receiver has a good physique and can easily win high jump balls. You don’t need many wide receivers in the field as the quarterback gets rid of the ball with at least five players around him.

However, wide receivers remain crucial to a game and are usually involved in some of the biggest plays. Wide receivers score most touchdowns in the NFL. But the quarterback and the offensive line must get the job done for a wide receiver to have a chance.

8. Tight End (Offense)

A tight end position in the offense play more of a modified receiver. Their main responsibility is blocking for plays. However, they can also catch a pass, making them appear as modified receivers.

Tight ends are small in body size to offensive linemen but generally bigger than traditional football players. They block and receive passes from quarterbacks.

football player in green jersey running with the ball

Located near the ends of the 5-offensive lineman, tight ends enter an open area when play starts to either catch a pass or block. Their name originates from their location on the tight end.

A quality tight end will protect a running back and provide him lane while also catching the ball when necessary.

9. Cornerback (Defense) – Hardest Position In Football

A cornerback in defense faces a wide receiver directly. This is probably the hardest position in American football.

 A cornerback in the defense is the cover for the offense. Cornerbacks are athletic players and the fastest players on the defense.

There can be two or four cornerbacks on the field at any given time, depending on the play formation.

A cornerback needs to guard wide receivers and prevent them from catching passes. A quality cornerback must take away the offense wide receiver and force them into rushing plays only.

A cornerback is associated with most success in NFL history, as most plays involve heavy passing. A bad cornerback will be a weakness in the defense and can break a team’s offense.

10. Running Back (Offense) 

A running back hands the ball off to a quarterback before running downfield. Running backs can catch the ball as wide receivers.

The role of a running back in the offense in modern football is not quite as important as it was years back. The NFL plays have somehow finished the importance of a running back.

Teams with good tactics can use a running back position to their advantage. In such cases, a running back helps relieve pressure from a quarterback by picking passes from the backyard.

Defenses can change their plays into runs when the offense has a good running back. In most plays, running backs line up just behind the quarterback.

There can be as many as three to zero running backs on the field at any given time. There are usually two types of running backs. These are the halfback and fullbacks.

Halfbacks are more common and tasked with catching the ball. They need to be faster and have good arm strength.

Fullbacks are rare in the NFL. When used in football, fullbacks help block for the running back.

11. Outside Linebacker (Defense)

An outside linebacker is positioned in the defensive line but towards the sides. Outside linebackers are tasked with covering the running backs and stopping runs.

When a team wants to overwhelm their opponents at the line of scrimmage, an outside linebacker can also rush at a quarterback. However, such roles are rarely used, ranking outside linebackers down the list.

We have Outside linebackers to the left (LOLB) who line up on the strong side, as referred to as Sam. Outside linebackers to the right (ROLB) lineup on the weak side, and are referred to as Will.

american football player jumps

Right outside linebackers can guard the tight ends and stop them from catching passes. However, the main responsibility is tackling the running back.

Both linebackers are tasked with tackling running backs. Left outside linebackers are among the fastest players on the field. This is because they need sack a quarterback. However, they can only do that by going past a left tackle.

A left-side outside linebacker will usually end the season with the most sacks. Some famous players in this position are Lawrence Taylor and James Harrison.

12. Right Tackle (Defense)

The right tackle position is another important position in football for running and high-end games. A right tackle position in the defense is not in the quarterback’s blind spot.

The tasks of a right tackle position are the same as one of the left tackle position. Not being on the quarterback’s blindside makes a right tackle less important.

13. Left Guard (Offense)

Another position is the left guard in the offense and tasked with stopping defensive players from tackling the offense.

It’s an important position in the running game where they need to cut linebackers in the second level.

It’s a position that requires grit and strength. Left guards in the offense will be dealing with 300+ pound defenders.

14. Right Guard (Offense)

A right guard on the offense has the same job as a left-back in the offense. They are also not in the blind spot of the quarterback; hence not much important.

The position needs to cut into the linebackers’ second level during a running play. To be a right guard in the NFL, you need excellent skills in all positions in football.

Right guards make an integral part of the offense. They determine a lot how the offense succeeds in their play.

Related Article: Want to know more about a guard in football? Check this guide to see their roles, find out what makes a good guard and great examples in the NFL.

15. Kicker (Special Teams Offense)

In the special team, we have a kicker position which is also crucial. A kicker is tasked with scoring field goals in a field of play. A single point can easily decide a game from a field goal.

Kickers are way down on our list, not because their roles are unimportant. It’s because of how rare their services are utilized. With few field goals, kickers rarely take part.

Most teams easily replace kickers in their team through rotation.

16. Punter (Special Teams Kicking Team)

The punter also represents a crucial position in the kicking team, helping get into better defensive positions. When in the 4th down, a punter works to give his team a better field position.

It’s a really dangerous play that can put the team in danger of helping it score. In field goal attempts, punters are sometimes tasked with holding the ball. Teams can also use punters for trick plays to catch the defense by surprise.

player in blue jersey getting ready to kick the ball

17. Returner (Special Teams Return Team)

Teams can have a special returner for return kicks. However, most teams utilize a wide receiver as a returner.

The position is low on the list as they are rarely used. However, returners can play a crucial role when needed giving their teams a good starting position on the pitch.

18. Long Snapper (Offensive Special Teams)

A long snapper position comes into play when teams take punts or field goals. They need to get the ball to a punter or ball holder. They need to do it successfully.

Failure to make a successful play, a long snapper, can cost you a game. A late opportunity to score and win or put the game to a tie can end with a poor long snapper.

Important Positions in Football FAQs

What Football Position Is Best for a Small Guy?

The safety, running back, and punt returner are some of the ideal positions for a small guy. However, the term small is relative as football requires big guys. A 6-foot and 2-inch tall player is considered average height in college.

In football, 5″ 8′ is considered small. The safety position requires more speed than size. Running backs can also be small and succeed as long they can find gaps and outrun defenders.

What Position Gets the Most Concussions?

The cornerback position gets the most concussions in football. In the 2015 season, 459 concussion cases in the NFL were studied. Of the total cases, 393 players had direct contact with opposing players.

The cornerback position topped the list, followed by wide receivers and linebackers.

Who Gets Hurt the Most in Football?

Running backs in the offensive line are the players hurt the most in football. While other positions suffered injuries, running backs had the highest percentage

Other common positions that frequently suffer injuries include the quarterback, center, linebacker, offensive guard, and offensive tackle.


That concludes everything from me to ranking the most important positions in football. Without a doubt, football is a team sport with players in different positions. But some positions carry far much important roles that can play a huge impact on the game. 

The quarterback position is by far the most important position playing a key role in the team’s attack. A quarterback leads the offense and relays the play calls. The ranking for other positions can vary depending on the play the team is running and its formation.

Understanding the different football positions is crucial for coaches, players, and fans. It leads to a better understanding of the game. Players need deep knowledge of all the different positions in football. This helps them sync with the team plays and easily read their opponents. 

The same applies to fans who will enjoy the game and understand certain decisions better.

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