Flag Football Positions Explained

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Flag football is one of the most popular sports in America. 

In the last five years, leagues and teams have been popping up all over the USA, with approximately over 400,000 people playing the sport. 

It’s a great way to stay fit and active during the off-season, and if you’re thinking about getting into flag football, you’re probably also wondering, what position should I play?

That’s where this guide comes in. We’re here to help you understand the positions involved in 5 on 5 and 7 on 7 flag football and which one could suit you the most. 

By the end of this article, you should have a good idea of what position is best suited to you in the flag football lineup. 

Without further ado, let’s take a quick look at the basics of flag football. 

The Basics

Flag football is a more condensed, smaller-sized version of the classic iteration of American Football. 

With seven players on either side, an offense will attack a defenses’ endzone over a 40-yard pitch. 

One significant point to note is there is no contact allowed in 7 on 7 or 5 on 5 flag football. That changes the game up massively and requires each position to have a different set of skills to what’s needed in the full 18 player format of the game. 

For instance, running backs need to be more agile to avoid getting their flags taken, while quarterbacks (QB) need to be faster when they throw the ball to hit their attackers when they get into space. 

Let’s take a look at the positions you’ll find in a classic 5 on 5 and 7 on 7 flag football lineup

5 on 5 Flag Football Offensive Positions

Speed is of the essence in any flag football match. Teams are only allowed four seconds to snap and distribute the football, which means each player must be focused on getting into the correct position to receive or throw a pass for the play to become effective. 

With only five players on each side of the field, there’s a lot of space on the pitch for teams to attack defenders and get the ball into the endzone. That space drastically decreases when you play 7 on 7 flag football with the two additional players on the field. 

There are typically three positions in the 5 on 5 flag football game type: 

  • The quarterback; 
  • the center (snapper); and
  • the wide receivers.

The Quarterback

As the playmaker in the team, the QB needs to know every play inside and out. 

His first port of call is to read the defense, work out the mismatches in their flag football lineup, and decide which play is best for your team’s situation. 

For example, if you need to make the next down to keep possession of the ball, a good QB might call a cutting route to ensure you pick up the next ten yards.

If you’re looking for some inspiration on some good 7 on 7 or 5 on 5 flag football plays to run, check out our guide here. 

Despite there being limited pressure from rushing defenders in flag football, flag football QBs still need to be very nimble to get the ball away within their allotted four-second play timer.

That’s where they also need to firstly have a good eye for space, and secondly a good arm. Vision is everything as a QB, and being able to read where you’re players are going is 70% of the work. Having a killer pass is the other 30%, but the better your pass, the easier the position becomes, so make sure to practice your throwing action as often as possible.

The Center

Also known as the snapper, the center is a position in both 7 on 7 and 5 on 5 flag football formats who will launch the ball from the center of the scrimmage towards the QB. 

You might think their job isn’t that important, just hiking the ball back, but it is a vital part of the flag football lineup, and they’ll turn into a wide receiver usually after snapping the ball. 

They perhaps need to be one of the most agile players in your team, yet the most coordinated. If your snap goes away, the QB won’t get a good platform needed to play the ball forwards, and that can be catastrophic if you’re looking to find a new set of downs.

On that basis, the center needs to be agile, accurate, and fast to get forward to receive the resulting pass. 

Wide Receivers

These guys are the athletes on your side. Their job is to evade the defender, catch the ball, and sprint to the finish line. 

It is one of the most challenging positions in the flag football lineup

Wide receivers need to be coordinated well enough to control the football coming at them at lightning speed while also trying to dodge oncoming defenders’ tackles. 

Speed is everything in this position. As you can’t rely on your physicality with no contact being allowed, wide receivers need to be able to step around defenders and beat them with their agility and pace. Good hands are a must, and they need to also be in sync with your playbook and the QB.

Offensive 7 on 7 Flag Football Positions

7 on 7 flag football utilizes the same positions as five aside flag football, but with two extra players, one running back and one extra wide receiver. 

The Running Back

Depending on what rules of seven aside football you’re playing, the running back (RB) plays a vital role in distracting defenders. 

QBs can pass to the RB, who can gain your side a quick 10 yards. But their primary role is to pull defenders out of position and create more space on the crammed seven aside field. 

The key skill for a running back is acceleration. Typically starting from behind the QB, they need to drive at defenders quickly to spook them and move them around the pitch. That means pace off the line is always crucial.

5 On 5 And 7 On 7 Flag Football Defensive Positions

With no contact allowed, flag football does not favor defenders. Although, it’s a massive win if you’re able to stop your opponent from gaining yards after the catch or even turn over possession of the football.

A lot of importance is placed on good defending in flag football, with defenses able to secure two points for their team by intercepting a catch or turning over the football. That’s why each defender needs to have a pretty well-rounded set of skills, including elite agility and exceptional match awareness. 

When it comes to defending in both iterations of flag football, there are only three defensive positions in 5 on 5 and 7 on 7 flag football

  • Defensive backs; 
  • Safety; and
  • Rusher (7 on 7 only). 

Defensive Backs

These guys are your first line of defense in the 7 on 7 and 5 on 5 flag football lineups. 

Defensive backs cover the wide receivers coming through onto the end zone and spoil their opposition player’s attacks. 

The best defensive backs need to have elite acceleration to keep up with their opponents while also having superior reactions to climb above their opponents to pluck interceptions from the air. 

Turnovers are vital to winning matches in flag football, and the majority of turnovers are created by fast, hard-running defensive backs who can read the play better than others.

The Safety

Sitting at the back of the pitch, the safety will typically act as a full-back to stop any long throws from coming over the top

With a good safety who can read the play, your defensive backs will often feel a lot safer challenging for high balls and intercepts. 

But that still requires your safety to be able to react to stop the attacker from reaching the end zone, and that’s why safeties need to be able to read the game and respond to it instantly. 

They also need to have great stamina and speed to continue running for longer periods than others on the field. 

The Rusher

In some 7 on 7 flag football leagues, teams will be allowed to play a rushing back to put even more pressure on the quarterback or tail a running back. 

Rushers can also be used to step off the line of scrimmage to intercept short passes to gain quick yards or a first down. That means these guys need to have perhaps the smartest football brains in your seven aside team. 

Like a running back, they also need to be able to accelerate off the mark faster than most to get across the gain line and put the QB under greater pressure.

So What Position Should You Play?

Now you have a good understanding of the different positions in a flag football line up you should be able to align your skills to each individual role within the team. 

Whether you’re playing 5 on 5 or 7 on 7 football, there is a position for almost every player.

If you have good hand-eye coordination and good vision to play killer passes, you might be best suited to playing as a QB.

Conversely, suppose you have an excellent footballing brain and elite speed and acceleration. In that case, you could be more useful in defense as a defensive back who can pick off intercepts and tackle defenders as they receive the football over the top. 

Each position in 5 on 5 or 7 on 7 flag football position has its benefits, and I can vouch that each is fun to play. So when you arrive for your first match or training session, see if you can trial each one and feel how that position works. 

Remember, you can make each position your own, add your own twist or style to how you play that position. That’s how good players succeed in any iteration of American Football and is how you’ll be able to beat your opposition when you turn up for the match. 

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Ed Carruthers
Ed Carruthers
Ed Carruthers is a London-based semi-professional golfer. He loves traveling and is a bit of a sports fanatic. When he’s not at his desk, he’s either hacking around the golf course, kicking a footy around with his mates, or watching his beloved football team Everton.