Understanding the Pick Play in Football: Rules and Strategies


In the realm of football, the pick play is a strategic maneuver often employed to gain an advantage in passing situations. However, it’s essential to understand the legality and potential penalties associated with this tactic.

Defining the Pick Play:

A pick play in football is when a player intentionally makes contact with an opponent to impede their progress, creating an opportunity for a teammate to get open for a pass. While it can be an effective strategy, it is crucial to execute it within the confines of the rules.

Executing a Pick Play:

Typically, a receiver aims to set a pick during a crossing route, where two receivers from opposite sides converge toward the middle of the field. The defenders covering them tend to follow their assignments, bringing the receivers and defenders nearby. The key is for one receiver to make controlled contact with the defenders, disrupting their coverage and facilitating an easier pass completion.

Penalties Associated with Pick Plays:

According to the official NFL rules, pick plays are considered illegal due to the interference they cause. If a receiver is caught intentionally setting a pick, the offense incurs a 10-yard penalty, forcing a replay of the down. On the flip side, a defender running an illegal pick play faces a yardage penalty at the spot of the foul.

Avoiding Penalties:

One common penalty resulting from pick plays is offensive pass interference. To minimize the risk of penalties, players can make their actions appear unintentional. Instead of forcefully colliding with defenders, receivers can subtly brush against them, slowing their progress before completing their route. The key is to make the contact seem accidental, reducing the likelihood of referees calling a penalty.

Another effective strategy is to avoid initiating contact during pick plays. If the contact is perceived as initiated by the defender, the chances of a penalty for offensive pass interference decrease significantly.


Understanding the nuances of the pick play in football is crucial for both offensive and defensive players. By executing this strategic maneuver within the bounds of the rules and minimizing the risk of penalties, teams can leverage the pick play to their advantage in critical moments during a game.

Leave a Comment