In football, the term “pick” indeed has two, or sometimes three, distinct meanings depending on the context, either:
- an interception,
- a type of offensive play, or
- draft pick (as in the NFL Entry Draft)
Here’s an explanation of each meaning:
Pick as an Interception
In a defensive context, a “pick” refers to an interception.
When a defensive player catches a pass thrown by the opposing quarterback, it is commonly referred to as a pick or a pick-off.
Interceptions are significant defensive plays because they result in a turnover, giving possession of the ball to the defense.
Defensive players often strive to read the quarterback’s intentions, anticipate the pass, and position themselves to make interceptions.
Intercepting a pass can swing the momentum of the game, create scoring opportunities for the defense, and disrupt the offensive team’s drive.
Below is a video of some of the best INT’s in NFL history (only viewable on YouTube due to copyright):
The GREATEST Interceptions in NFL History
Pick as a Offensive Play
In an offensive context, a “pick” refers to a specific play design called a “pick play” or a “rub route.”
This play is designed to create confusion or impede the defender who is covering the intended receiver.
It involves one or more receivers intentionally crossing paths with each other, aiming to “pick” or “rub” off the defender and create separation for the targeted receiver.
The purpose of a pick play is to create a brief moment of miscommunication or disruption in the defense, allowing the targeted receiver to gain an advantage by getting open for a pass.
It is legal as long as the pick is not excessively forceful or initiated beyond one yard from the line of scrimmage.
So, while the term “pick” can refer to an offensive play design to create separation or an interception made by the defense, the meaning is determined by the context in which it is used.
Pick as an NFL Draft Pick
“Pick” can also refer to a “draft pick” in the context of football.
In this case, a draft pick refers to the selection of a player during the annual NFL Draft, where teams choose eligible college football players or other eligible players to join their team.
The NFL Draft is a process through which teams replenish their rosters with new talent.
Each team, in reverse order of their performance in the previous season, is given a turn to make a selection in each round of the draft.
The selection order is often referred to as the “draft order.”
When a team makes a selection, it is commonly referred to as a “pick.”
For example, if a team is said to have the first pick in the NFL Draft, it means they have the opportunity to make the first selection in the first round.
Draft picks hold significant value in the NFL, as teams aim to acquire talented players who can contribute to their success.
Depending on the round and position of the pick, the value and expectations associated with the selection can vary.
High draft picks are generally expected to have a greater impact on the team, while lower picks may be seen as more developmental or depth options.
Teams can also trade draft picks with one another.
For instance, a team may trade their first-round pick to another team in exchange for multiple picks in later rounds or even for established players.
These trades are a way for teams to maneuver and acquire the specific players they desire or to accumulate additional picks to address multiple needs.
So, in football, “pick” can refer to a draft pick, which represents the selection of a player during the NFL Draft, with the value and potential impact varying based on the round and position of the pick.
Below we’ll go into a little more detail on the second definition:
Understanding the Concept of a Pick
A pick in football refers to a play designed to create space for an offensive player by obstructing or impeding the progress of a defensive player.
It involves one offensive player intentionally blocking or screening a defensive player to allow another offensive player to get open and receive a pass.
The pick is a legal move as long as it is executed within the rules of the game.
The Purpose of a Pick
The primary purpose of a pick is to create separation between the offensive player and the defender, making it easier for the offensive player to catch a pass or gain an advantageous position on the field.
By setting a pick, the offensive player aims to disrupt the defensive player’s coverage and create an opening for a successful play.
Types of Picks
There are several types of picks commonly used in football:
- Screen Pick: In a screen pick, an offensive player positions themselves between the defender and the player they are trying to free up. The offensive player then moves laterally, blocking the defender’s path and allowing their teammate to get open.
- Downfield Pick: A downfield pick occurs when an offensive player sets a pick on a defender who is covering another offensive player further down the field. This pick creates an opportunity for the targeted offensive player to break free from their defender and receive a pass.
- Backside Pick: A backside pick involves an offensive player setting a pick on a defender who is not directly involved in the play. This pick aims to confuse the defense and create an opening for another offensive player.
- Double Pick: As the name suggests, a double pick involves two offensive players setting picks simultaneously. This type of pick is often used to create confusion and make it difficult for the defense to cover multiple offensive players.
The Legality of Picks
While picks are a common strategy in football, it is essential to understand the rules surrounding their execution.
The legality of a pick depends on various factors, including the timing, positioning, and actions of the offensive player.
If an offensive player initiates contact with a defender before the ball is thrown, it is considered offensive interference.
Offensive interference results in a penalty, and the offensive team loses yardage.
Therefore, it is critical for the offensive player setting the pick to avoid making contact with the defender until the ball is in the air.
Positioning and Timing
The positioning and timing of a pick are also crucial for its legality.
The offensive player must establish their position before the defender makes contact with them.
If the offensive player moves into the defender’s path or initiates contact after the defender has committed to their coverage, it may be considered an illegal pick.
Screening vs. Blocking
It is important to note the distinction between screening and blocking when executing a pick.
A screen involves an offensive player positioning themselves between the defender and the player they are trying to free up, without making significant contact.
On the other hand, blocking refers to physically impeding the defender’s progress.
While screening is legal, excessive blocking can result in penalties for offensive holding or illegal blocking.
Examples of Picks in Football
To better understand the concept of picks in football, let’s explore a few examples:
Example 1: Screen Pick in a Passing Play
During a passing play, the quarterback drops back to throw the ball.
One of the wide receivers notices that their teammate is being closely covered by a defender.
To create separation, the wide receiver positions themselves between the defender and their teammate.
As the targeted receiver runs their route, the offensive player sets a screen pick by moving laterally and blocking the defender’s path.
This pick allows the targeted receiver to break free from their defender and receive a pass.
Example 2: Downfield Pick in a Deep Pass
In a deep pass play, the offense aims to gain significant yardage by throwing the ball far down the field.
To create an opportunity for a successful play, one of the wide receivers sets a downfield pick.
As the targeted receiver runs their route, the offensive player sets a pick on the defender covering another offensive player further down the field.
This pick creates confusion for the defense and allows the targeted receiver to break free and receive a long pass.
FAQs – Pick in Football
1. What is the purpose of a pick in football?
A pick in football is used to create separation between an offensive player and a defender, making it easier for the offensive player to catch a pass or gain an advantageous position on the field.
2. Are picks legal in football?
Yes, picks are legal in football as long as they are executed within the rules of the game.
Offensive players must avoid offensive interference and ensure proper positioning and timing.
3. What is the difference between screening and blocking in a pick?
Screening involves an offensive player positioning themselves between the defender and the player they are trying to free up, without making significant contact.
Blocking refers to physically impeding the defender’s progress.
Screening is legal, while excessive blocking can result in penalties.
4. Can a pick result in a penalty?
Yes, a pick can result in a penalty if it is executed improperly.
Offensive interference, illegal blocking, or offensive holding can occur if the pick is not executed within the rules of the game.
5. Are picks only used in passing plays?
No, picks can be used in both passing and running plays.
In passing plays, picks are commonly used to create separation for receivers.
In running plays, picks can be used to obstruct defenders and create running lanes for the ball carrier.
6. Can defensive players set picks?
No, defensive players cannot set picks in the same way as offensive players.
However, they can impede the progress of offensive players within the rules of the game to disrupt plays.
7. Are picks more effective in certain areas of the field?
Picks can be effective in various areas of the field, depending on the offensive strategy and the defensive coverage.
However, they are often more commonly used in the middle and deep areas of the field where receivers have more space to maneuver.
8. Do picks require pre-planned coordination between offensive players?
While pre-planned coordination can enhance the effectiveness of picks, they can also occur spontaneously during a play.
Wide receivers, in particular, develop a sense of when and where to set a pick based on the movements of their teammates and the defensive coverage.
9. Can picks be used in other sports?
While the term “pick” is commonly associated with football, similar concepts exist in other sports such as basketball and lacrosse.
In these sports, picks are used to create space for offensive players and disrupt defensive coverage.
10. Are picks more commonly used in professional football or college football?
Picks are utilized in both professional and college football.
The frequency of their usage may vary depending on the offensive strategies employed by different teams and the level of competition.
Picks play a significant role in football, allowing offensive players to create separation from defenders and gain an advantage on the field.
Whether it’s a screen pick, downfield pick, backside pick, or double pick, the strategic use of picks can lead to successful plays and scoring opportunities.
However, it is crucial for offensive players to execute picks within the rules of the game to avoid penalties.
By understanding the concept of picks and their various forms, football enthusiasts can gain a deeper appreciation for the tactics and strategies employed in this exciting sport.