What’s The Difference Between A Wide Receiver And A Tight End? (Explained!)

Last Updated on May 6, 2022 by Jim Kein Kein

The difference between wide receivers and tight ends is; wide receivers have a single purpose, which is catching passes. While tight ends are equally important for their ability to block/stop defenders and catch the ball. When it comes to rushing the ball wide receiver and tight end are going to play very different roles.

Wide Receiver

A wide receiver, also called wideout, historically they are known as a split end, is an eligible receiver in football. An important skill position of the offense, wide receiver gets its name from the player being split out “wide” (usually near the sidelines), far away from the rest of the offensive formation.

Role of the Wide Receiver

  • The wide receiver’s singular role is to catch forward passes made from the quarterback. On passing plays, the receiver attempts to outmaneuver, avoid, or simply outrun the safeties or  cornerbacks  typically defending him that way. If the receiver becomes open, the quarterback can throw him a pass. The receiver needs to catch the ball without it touching the ground and then run with the ball as far  as possible downfield, reaching the end zone to score a touchdown.
  • A wide receiver may block a defender, depending on the type of playstyle being run. On standard type of running plays they will block their designated defender for the running back. Particularly in the case of trick plays and draws, he may throw a pass with intention of distracting defenders from the intended action.  Occasionally wide receivers are used to throw the ball, usually in playstyle that seeks to surprise the defense, as in an reverse or end-around.

Tight End

Tight End

The tight end is a position in American football as an offense. The tight end is usually a hybrid position with the feature and responsibility of both a wide receiver and an offensive lineman. As an offensive linemen, they are large enough to be effective blockers and they are always lined up on the offensive line. On the other hand, unlike offensive linemen, they are capable receivers adept enough to cause a defense’s attention when running pass patterns.

Roles of Tight End

  • Receiving

Some plays plan to take advantage of the tight end’s eligibility (i.e. that they may catch a forward-passed ball). Most times, the tight end will not be protected by the defense, a typical situation that rarely occurs with the regular receivers. The tight end is then considered as another option for the quarterback to make a pass to when the wide receivers are marked. 

  • Blocking

In the National Football League, the tight end is slower and larger  than a wide receiver, and therefore able to block more.  It is the job of the tight end, along with the help of the fullback, to open up a space in the defense of the opponent for the tailback to run through. Tight ends could also be used along with an offensive linemen to protect the quarterback while passing plays. Often, tight ends are used in a fullback position called the “H-back”, usually lined up beside the tackle but just behind the line of scrimmage. 

Tight ends may also pass block just as other offensive linemen. Some teams use tight ends solely to block, however this position is sometimes manned by an offensive lineman who has reported to the referee that his number is now an eligible receiving number; that makes him “Tackle Eligible”.

  • Rushing

The decline of a fullback as a rushing position has seen the occasional use of tight ends as a ball carrier, either or as a reverse-play or aligned in the backfield option in the slot

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the role of the tight end more important than the role of a wide receiver?

Quarterbacks may score the most points and running backs and wide receivers might get all the attention in the game, but tight end has been regarded as the most important position for fantasy owners. 

What is the difference between the role of a tight end and the role of a slot receiver?

Slot receiver routes are often through the middle of the field. The tight end is a combined player. He plays as a receiver and as a blocker on the offensive line. Most times the tight end is one of the top receivers on the team.

Do tight ends have to be big stature?

Aside height, tight ends need to be strong and big-bodied enough to take the tackling they will when they’re blocking. Tight ends are mostly asked to block some of the strong and more athletic defenders on the field.

What should a good tight end look like?

The best tight ends aren’t only long and tall, but they have strength and bulk to go with that, enough side and weight to be a factor blocking at the line defensive linemen and linebackers.

Who guards the tight end?

A linebacker usually guards a tight end during a route pass playstyle. However, there are situations where the defense will turn a linebacker out for a safety to guard the tight end on a pass play. Some teams usually elect two defenders block a tight end during a pass playstyle.


Wide Receivers and Tight Ends are important position on football. The wide receivers usually line up near the sideline far from the formation. For this, their blocks on running plays do not tend to be a big deal in the playstyle. Additionally, these players usually have the responsibility of blocking the cornerbacks.

Tight ends on the other hand forms a huge part of the blocking plot. They tend to lineup deep into the end of the offensive line meaning they are usually close to the middle of the playing field. Tight ends often act as an additional offensive lineman on rushing plays and are tasked with the responsibility of blocking big defenders. They will often take on linebackers and defensive ends who are usually the strongest defense.

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