Settling the debate once and for all, what is the single most important position group on the Britball field?
Every man and their dog know that in the NFL, the Quarterback is the most important player on the team. If they don’t play well, the likelihood your franchise wins a Superbowl is slim, unless you’re the 2000 ravens or 1985 bears. They are the highest-paid players on the team, take a lot of the flack if the team isn’t performing well but these guys have likely been playing since they were 8 years old. If you come down to college level it’s a fair bit different, as some teams ride a quarterback, some a top running back and others a dominant defence to top their divisions.
In Britball, it is a totally different world in which people can walk off the street at 30 having never played before and become the starting quarterback for a team because they are a little bit athletic.
After seeing a comment from @coachDbutler on Twitter around running back being the most important skill position I decided to take a look.
So what positions do we think are the most important in the UK for teams to perform at a high level?
1. Offensive Line
The offensive line is the single biggest difference between teams in the Premiership, Division 1 and Division 2. The athletic level, knowledge level and numbers of offensive linemen on a roster play a pivotal part in whether a team can sustain through a season or not. Mentally you have to be very switched on to play a number of positions in American Football but the offensive line would be up there as the top positions for being able to use your head. The best team in the UK are the London Warriors and they used their monstrous offensive line to allow their running backs to rack up hundreds of yards, including in the Britbowl final in 2019.
2. Defensive Line
Every ‘big guy’ that comes into the UK American football scene wants to play defensive line. Really this is about athletic ability or sheer size. There are defensive tackles in Britball that are so big they literally don’t have to move because they ‘fill a hole’ and can’t be moved unless you have a strong offensive line. Athletically, if you can overpower an offensive lineman particularly in the lower divisions you can stop plays even developing. Plays tend to be easy to learn and techniques are simple to progress through in order to make an impact.
3. Running Back
Now here is the position I think people will find a controversial pick. ‘Above the quarterback?’ I hear you say, but I will explain. A running back in British American Football obviously needs the help of the offensive line, however, an athletic or fast running back can make defensive players miss and grind out yards without much extra help. In the time I’ve played, I have seen some running backs that somehow make yards every play, no matter who’s coming through at them. They can also catch passes, help block for the quarterback, move out to play receiver and provide decoys to help get other players open. With many quarterbacks in the league struggling to throw accurate passes handing the ball off is much easier.
In Britball, there is a reason I put quarterback this low and that is because very few have the drive and commitment to be as effective at quarterback as they do stateside. In the UK, there are maybe 4 or 5 quarterbacks I have seen that can effectively read the game from the pocket, dissect a defence and throw accurate passes to their receivers without having the offensive coach take away half the field or having to use their legs more often than not. A number of teams operate with an athletic quarterback that is pretty much a pure runner and that’s just playing to their strengths. Fred Boyle is probably the best quarterback to have graced the league in the time I have been involved.
With the running game being such a huge part of American football in the UK, you need to have some excellent players at linebacker to stop the running backs destroying your team. There are obviously a number of linebacker positions, with middle linebacker a common pick for your defensive leader. However, they are all important in both inside and outside run-stopping ability and covering short/intermediate passes. If you face a run-heavy team with a good offensive line your line-backers are going to be busy all day.
6. Defensive Back
Defensive backs fall so low down the list purely due to the above points. Very few air raid offences in the UK so defensive backs aren’t required to be studs. The reason they are above wide receiver is that if you have a good physical cornerback or safety, they can be extremely valuable against the inside/outside run game. One excellent cornerback can shut down one side of the field (preferably Quarterbacks throwing arm side) and allow for safeties to roam freely reading the run game and quarterback.
7. Wide Receiver
Wide receivers in the states can be absolute game wreckers; however, as stated above very few quarterbacks can read the game and accurately pass the ball in Britball, especially down the field. This means that even if the wide receiver is an athlete, exceptional route runner and has great hands, it’s up to the quarterbacks to get it to him. Where receivers really excel in Britball, is when they are really fast, can go up and win any ball and block for the run/screen game. This allows them to make an impact in every area even if they have a struggling quarterback
8. Tight End
The tight end in the UK is usually used as an extra blocker or a pass catcher. Like in the NFL, very few tight ends are good at both so they tend to have one of each. If you have one that can do both then they can be a nightmare for the opposition. In the run game, they supply an extra big-bodied blocker to match up against defensive ends and linebackers. In the passing game, they tend to be too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for defensive backs to cover one on one. The reason they are so low down this list is many teams don’t use them because finding guys that fit the bill is difficult. The Great Britain squad never even included a player listed as a TE.
Kickers are people too. A kicker won the Britbowl MVP award in the last 10 years so if you have a really good one they can make a difference.
Featured Image: Kelvin Read
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