slot receiver

What Is A Slot Receiver In Football 

Most people are more aware of wide receivers in football. However, they are not the only receivers in football. With more teams playing spread offenses, slot receivers have become quite significant.

So, what is a slot receiver in football? A slot receiver is the number 3 receiver in the field after the two wide receivers, X and Z. He lines up between the widest receiver and the offensive tackle in what we call the slot.

Slot receivers are tasked with catching short and quick passes. They are usually small in size but have great speeds and agility. Additionally, they are faster than wide receivers and have great hands to catch short quick passes.

The receivers play crucial roles giving quarterbacks options to attack all levels of defense. Join me as we break down the slot receiver position in football.

Why Are They Called Slot Receivers?

They are called so because of where they line up in the field. In a way, they tend to fill a slot/position in the middle area.

The area between the wide receiver and the offensive linemen is where they ‘slot’ hence the name.

This area is called a ‘slot’ between either of the last offensive lineman and the wide receiver.

Just like wide receivers, slot receivers are responsible for catching the ball from the slot position. As such, they are referred to as slot receivers.

 They are also called the A-back or the slotback.

History of the Slot Receiver Position

The history of the slot receiver position in football dates back to the 1960s. Before that, the slot position did not exist.

Most teams just played with two receivers. The wide receivers are on the right and left sides. In passing games, tight ends play more as blockers as they have little use in passes.

However,  Sid Gillman coaching the San Diego Chargers started the change in how teams play. Sid Gillman’s way of playing stretched wide receivers vertically and horizontally.

Gillman played two wide receivers, two running backs, and a tight end. It’s a formation that gave the quarterback more options and left defenses more confused.

The invention of a slot receiver would come in 1963 when AL Davis took over from Gillman. He kept stretching the field as Gillman did but then introduced the slot area.

He created a slot position that allowed him to attack from different positions. Two wide receivers are usually set on the weak side of the field. One is on the outside and another in the middle (slot position). The running back then acts as a third wide receiver.

The formation brought great success for the Raiders. He made his slot receivers fast, with good hands, and capable of running precise routes.

By 1966, Davis had become the AFL commissioner, with John Madden taking over the Raiders. Madden continued the same formation leading to a Super Bowl win in 1977.

The slot receiver position has since been widely adopted over the years. It is a great position that brings a lot of success when teams play spread offenses. Nowadays, almost all teams need a receiver that can play from the slot to achieve success.

What Is the Role of A Slot Receiver

Slot receivers line up in the slot area. As indicated, this is the area between the wideout receiver and the outermost tackle.

football player getting ready to catch the football

They are positioned a few yards from the line of scrimmage. Slot receivers get open for short gains in yards. They are a danger to the defense in the field, using their dexterity and quickness to get open for short passes easily.

Just like wide receivers, they are responsible for catching the ball from the slot position. Their unique position just behind the scrimmage line allows for an easy shift in motions.

The receivers can enable the quarterback to read the defense. They also increase the distance between defenders. The extra space allows them to make a move.

Slot receivers have three major roles in the field. Depending on how the defense lines up, they can operate as a wide receiver, running back, or blocker. Let’s take a closer look at the roles.

  • As a wide receiver: Lining at the slot area, they can run up or down, in and out. They also catch short passes and run precise routes. However, good chemistry with their quarterback is needed to perform this role.
  • Running back: Slot receivers can also run the ball as running backs. This happens when quarterbacks run them into motion before handing over the ball. Since they are already in motion, it’s a lot easier to overcome the defense.
  • Blocker: If they are not catching or running, they block from inside or out. They can pick blitzes from secondary players or linebackers. On the outside, they give running backs more space by providing protection.

Modern football sees most teams do away with a fullback to accommodate a wide receiver position. With teams requiring 7 players at the line of scrimmage, a fullback position is eliminated.

Rarely will you find a fullback in games nowadays. On running plays, slot receivers are blockers for ball carriers. On passing plays, they run routes corresponding to other receivers to confuse the defense.

What Makes A Good Slot Receiver In Football

A good slot receiver must possess certain attributes to be effective in their roles. Most attributes of slot receivers are the same as wide receivers.

This is because most are drafted as wide receivers. However, when playing the slot, they need a unique set of skills more than what wide receivers possess.

Below are attributes that make a good slot receiver.

Body Type – Average Height & Weight

On average, a good slot receiver should be 6’0” tall and weigh between 180-190 pounds. These heights and weights are not requirements but ideal for the effective performance of their roles.

However, the NFL does have much smaller slot receivers. They compensate for the small size with speed, agility, route running, and good relationships with quarterbacks.


A slot receiver needs specific skills like good ball catching, elusiveness, speed, timing, and blocking. These are skills that will help them perform their tasks to perfection.

They can catch the ball and participate in running play as running back and block. Generally, you need someone aware of the plays on the field, with good ball-catching ability and elusiveness.

Agility & Speed

Speed and agility are needed when they take running and blocking responsibilities.

Speed is needed when the receivers need to go past the secondaries. It helps when they run with the ball. 

athlete in blue and white jersey running with the football

Agility is also needed when they are running precise routes.

Route Running

Slot receivers run various routes when with the ball or without the ball. Without the ball, they must participate in the run and help confuse the defense.

A good understanding of the routes in a football game is essential. You need wide receivers to know as many routes as possible. 

Apart from routing running, they need precise timing to know when to start their runs.

Blocking Techniques

Blocking is one of the major roles of a wide receiver. They are sometimes required to block for the ball carrier.

This requires efficient blocking skills. In a formation with a slot receiver, fullbacks are not available. Slot receivers need to fill this role and guard the ball carrier.

Good Relationship with Quarterback

Lastly, quarterbacks need good chemistry with quarterbacks. They work a lot with wide receivers and must have good chemistry with them.

Quarterbacks sometimes need to pass the ball to a slot receiver. They need good chemistry to ensure successful plays.

What Is the Difference Between a Slot Receiver and a Wide Receiver?

Slot receivers and wide receivers are the same players but line up differently on the field. Slot receivers line up in the slot area, while wide receivers line up to the sideline.

Wide receivers are on the outside and on the line of scrimmage. Slot receivers will line in the slot area and behind the line of scrimmage.

Their body sizes are also different. Wide receivers are tall and skinnier, while slot receivers and small and stockier.

Who Are Some Of The Famous Slot Receivers In the NFL?

Currently, they are hot commodities in the NFL. Some of the biggest names in football right now play the slot position.

Teams with slot receivers are pretty difficult to defend against. Below are some of the famous slot receivers in the NFL right now, according to

  • Cole Beasley, with four touchdown slots, 80 receptions, and 960 yards
  • Robert woods, with two touchdown slots, 64 receptions, and 590 yards
  • Davante Adams, with nine touchdown slots, 75 receptions, and 788 yards
  • Tyreek Hill, with nine touchdown slots, 56 receptions, and 831 yards
  • Keenan Allan, with eight touchdown slots, 80 receptions, and 960 yards
  • Tyler Lockett, with 7 touchdowns, slots 67 receptions, and 756 yards
  • Justin Jefferson, with three touchdown slots, 51 receptions, and 882 yards

The names of famous slot receivers in the NFL keep growing as more teams embrace the great roles wide receivers play.

Who Are Some Of The Best Slot Receivers Of All Time

Despite the famous names on the list, the slot position has been around for decades. The position has brought some famous names to the NFL. So what are the best all-time slot receivers?

american football athlete carrying the ball
  • Wayne Chrebet had an 11-yea career with 41 touchdowns, 580 receptions, and 7,365 yards.
  • Hines Ward, with a 14-year career, 85 touchdowns, 743 receptions, and 10,205 yards
  • Wes Welker with a 12-year career, 50 touchdowns, 903 receptions, and 9924 yards
  • Larry Fitzgerald, with a 17-year career, 121 touchdowns, 1,432 receptions, and 17,492 yards
  • Charlie Joiner with an 18-year career, 65 touchdowns, 750 receptions, and 12,146 yards
  • Andre Rison with a 12-year career with 84 touchdowns, 743 receptions, and 6822 yards.

The list will keep growing as the slot position becomes more crucial in determining games in the NFL.

Why Is The Slot Receiver Important?

Slot receivers are important in football, forcing the offenses to adjust by adding a slot cornerback.

They are versatile players that can stretch the defense by running vertical and horizontal routes.

In a catch-and-run game, they are important running shorter routes.

A Slot Receiver in Football FAQs

Who Was the First Slot Receiver in the NFL?

The first slot receiver in the NFL was Charlie Joiner. He was a member of the San Diego Charger, famous known as “Air Coryell,” in the late 1970s.

Do Slot Receivers Block?

Slot receivers block when running plays are taking place. They take the role of block for the ball carrier. The blockage helps protect the ball carrier helping the team advance and gain yards.

Is Justin Jefferson A Slot Receiver?

Justin Jefferson is a wide receiver but can also play as a slot receiver. In pass coverages, Jefferson is quite effective as a slot receiver.


In summary, a slot receiver is a third-best receiver in the team, playing crucial roles of catching the ball, running with the ball, and providing blockage. 

They are more like wide receivers but play a more crucial role in the slot area. Slot receivers are quite effective when working in sync with quarterbacks. They play a crucial role in determining the success of plays.

They must also be agile, fast, and have good chemistry with a quarterback. They also need to know how to run routes and blocks and have agility. 

In modern football, slot receivers are quite common and help provide a spread offense that is quite hard to defend.

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