Wide receivers have an insatiable desire to get the ball in their hands, but they need to have the skills to get open, find the ball and march it into the end zone to help their team.
Some wide receiver talents can’t be taught. Skills must be practiced and practiced until every movement is second nature.
To be the best wide receiver on the field, practice these wide receiver drills and exercises.
There’s only one body part more important than the hands, and that’s the eyes. To work on hand-eye coordination, wide receivers employ a variety of drills that force them to quickly find the ball in mid-air and retrieve it. One such drill is the five-yard turn drill. To practice this drill, stand five-yards away from a QB with your back facing him. When he calls out hike, the ball should already be in the air, shot towards your body. Catch the ball with your hands over and over – repeat the drill until you have it down to a science. To get even more out of this drill, employ two QBs, catching alternating balls thrown at your back. Don’t think – just catch.
Even wide receivers have to get dirty on the field. In football, that means blocking – usually a DB or safety – so your ball carrying teammate can break a big one downfield. To work on blocking, practice the mirror drill. Face up opposite another player and charge off the line at him like you’re running a deep route, but stop short and block, moving laterally along a five-yard, imaginary line. Remember to use your hands, jamming your opponent with your outside arm. After several shuffles, break down and push your opponent back. Big plays start with big blocks, so be the player pushing others out of the way.
You don’t have to be 6′ 5″ or run a 4.3 forty to get separation from a defender. These physical gifts help, but as most of the short, relatively slow pros on the all-time receptions list will attest, good hands and crisp route route-running are far more important. Executing textbook routes helps your quarterback deliver a perfect pass and create separation by leaving your defender in the turf dust. One small step of separation for a player can be one giant opportunity for his team. To work on route running, practice drills that teach you to stop on a dime and quickly change direction. Try a 90-degree break drill, and work on coming back to the ball, too. Remember to sell your fakes and accelerate out of your breaks.
Staying In Bounds
In college, a player needs just a single foot in bounds to register a catch. In the pros, a player needs two to make it count. No matter how you play, staying in bounds can be hard, especially when you’ve got a player on you tasked with bringing you down. One drill to help you stay in the field of play is the foot drag drill. Line up with a thrower just a few yards off the sideline, and run an out – catching the ball and keeping your feet in bounds. Remember to keep your eyes on the ball and not the ground. The more you practice the drill, the better you’ll get at feeling the sidelines and positioning your feet.
The main event for wide receivers at the combine, the gauntlet, is a big ticket exercise that combines many of the essential position skills developed in the drills above. The gauntlet requires plenty of balls, space and seven capable passers. If you’re planning on running the gauntlet, reserve a field and start rallying up your players today. The drill starts on the sideline, where you’ll have to catch alternating balls slung your way from in front of and behind you. Then, you’ll take off across the field toward the opposite sideline. On your way there, catch balls fired in quick succession from both down and up the field. Upon the last completion, you’ll have to make sure you get two feet in bounds. The gauntlet tests a wide receiver’s ability to catch on the run and focus when all eyes are on him.