What is the Definition of A Draw in American Football?

In American football, various offensive strategies are employed by teams to gain yardage and ultimately score points. One such tactic is the draw play, which adds an element of surprise to the game by appearing to be a passing play at first, only to become a running play in the end.

The draw play can be a useful weapon in a team’s arsenal, especially in long yardage situations. By initially making the defense believe that a pass is intended, the offensive line can create open running lanes for the ball carrier. This deception allows the running back to potentially gain significant yardage as the defensive line is drawn towards the quarterback in anticipation of a pass.

Key Takeaways

  • A draw play in American football is a running play disguised as a passing play
  • This offensive strategy can be effective in long yardage situations
  • The deception involved in a draw play creates opportunities for the ball carrier to gain significant yardage.

Understanding a Draw in American Football

A draw is a type of play in American football, which is a running play disguised as a passing play. Designed to confuse the opposing team’s defenders, a draw play begins with the quarterback acting as if they are going to pass the ball. As the defensive line pushes into the offensive backfield, the ball is handed off to the running back who carries it up the middle of the field.

The draw play is often used in long yardage situations, where the defense expects the offense to attempt a passing play. By making the defense initially believe it is a pass, the offense can take advantage of the defenders moving out of position and create running lanes for the ball carrier. The draw is the opposite of a play-action pass, which is a passing play disguised as a running play.

To successfully execute a draw play, all offensive players need to “sell” the pass. This means the offensive linemen must act as if they are pass blocking, while the wide receivers run routes as if they are expecting a pass. Once the defense commits to the pass, the quarterback quickly hands the ball off to the running back, who then exploits the confusion and gaps created by the defense’s initial reactions.

Understanding and effectively utilizing the draw play can greatly enhance an offense’s strategic options and keep the opposing team’s defense on their toes. By disguising the intended play, offenses can exploit opposing defenses and gain crucial yardage.

Draw Play Execution

Quarterback Role

The quarterback plays a crucial role in executing the draw play. In a draw play, the quarterback takes the snap and drops back as if they are about to throw a pass, meanwhile, the running back acts as if they were setting up to block for a pass protection. After a brief hesitation, the quarterback then hands the ball off to the running back for an inside run.

Running Back Role

The running back also has an essential part in a draw play. Initially, the running back must sell the illusion of a pass play by pretending to block instead of rushing forward immediately. Once the defensive linemen are drawn across the line of scrimmage towards the quarterback, the running back quickly takes the handoff from the quarterback and exploits the gaps created in the defensive line.

Offensive Line Role

For a draw play to be executed successfully, the offensive line must work together as a unit. At the start of the play, the offensive linemen mimic their pass-blocking techniques to deceive the defense into believing it’s a pass play. As the defensive linemen progress towards the quarterback, the offensive line transitions from pass-blocking to run-blocking, creating lanes for the running back to run through. This sudden change in blocking techniques helps open up gaps in the defense, making the draw play a potent weapon against pass-rushing opponents.

Types of Draw Plays

In American football, a draw play is an offensive strategy designed to deceive the defense and create running opportunities by initially appearing as a passing play. There are several types of draw plays, with the two most common being the Halfback Draw and Quarterback Draw.

Halfback Draw

The Halfback Draw is a popular and versatile draw play featuring the running back as the primary ball carrier. In this play, the quarterback takes the snap and drops back as if preparing for a pass. Meanwhile, the offensive linemen move back as if pass blocking, further selling the illusion of a passing play. After a brief delay, the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back, who then looks for running lanes created by the defensive line’s pass rush.

This play is particularly effective against aggressive, pass-rushing defenses, as it capitalizes on their initial commitment to stopping the pass. Additionally, it allows the offensive linemen to engage the defensive players without needing to overpower them from the start, as their initial pass blocking movements can catch defenders off-balance.

Quarterback Draw

In a Quarterback Draw, the quarterback himself becomes the primary ball carrier. Functioning similarly to a Halfback Draw, the play begins with the quarterback dropping back as if to pass. The offensive linemen perform pass blocking techniques, again convincing the defense that a pass play is underway.

After the initial drop back, the quarterback identifies a running lane and quickly transitions to a rushing play. This transition typically involves the offensive linemen shifting from their pass blocking stance to a more aggressive run blocking approach, which allows them to create open space for the quarterback to run through.

The Quarterback Draw is most effective when used strategically and sparingly, as overuse can expose the quarterback to a higher risk of injury from tackles by the defense. Nonetheless, when executed properly, this play can exploit napping defenses and successfully convert yardage into first downs or touchdowns.

Benefits of Using Draw Plays

Keeping the Defense Guessing

Draw plays in American football are particularly effective at keeping the defense guessing. By disguising a running play as a passing play, the offense can confuse the defenders and create opportunities for successful running plays. This deception can force the defensive linemen to engage in pass-rush techniques, anticipating a pass play, while the running back slips through the gaps created by the linemen’s rush. The quarterback’s actions also play a significant role in selling the deception, convincing the defense this is a pass play, only to hand off the ball to the running back.

Exploiting Defensive Weaknesses

Another benefit of utilizing draw plays is their ability to exploit defensive weaknesses. In long-yardage situations, the defense often expects a passing play and adjusts their positioning accordingly by putting more focus on the secondary coverage. Draw plays take advantage of this by luring defensive backs and linebackers away from the line of scrimmage, creating more space for the running back to navigate through. This allows the offense to exploit the vulnerabilities in the defense’s positioning, thereby increasing the chances of gaining significant yardage on the ground.

Drawbacks of Draw Plays


Although draw plays can be effective in certain situations, there are inherent risks involved. One such risk is the potential for a defensive player to recognize the play and make a quick tackle, resulting in a loss of yardage. Additionally, if the offense fails to create enough space between the defensive linemen and the running back, it can lead to a fumble or a tackle for a loss.

The draw play relies heavily on deception, and if the opposing defense can quickly decipher the play, the element of surprise is lost. This may lead to negative outcomes such as interceptions, especially if the quarterback’s passing abilities are not as strong as their running abilities.


Draw plays may not work well against certain defensive schemes. For instance, if the defense has a strong secondary or employs a zone coverage strategy, it will be challenging for the quarterback to execute a successful draw play. Additionally, draw plays may be less effective in short-yardage situations where the defense is prepared to stop the run.

Another limitation of draw plays is that they require precise timing and coordination between the quarterback and the running back. If the handoff is not executed smoothly, the play may fail, resulting in a loss of yardage or even a turnover. Furthermore, since the play relies on deception, it may be harder to execute when the offense is under pressure or experiencing communication issues.

In conclusion, while draw plays can catch defenses off guard, they also come with risks and limitations. Offenses must carefully consider when and how to use this strategy, as well as take into account the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents.