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Draw play

A draw-play, or simply draw for short, is a type of play that is run in American football. The draw is a running play disguised as a passing play. It is the opposite of a play action pass, which is a passing play disguised as a running play.

The draw was invented by the Cleveland Browns during their years in the All-America Football Conference. A botched play, originally designed to be a pass play, caused quarterback Otto Graham to improvise a hand-off to fullback Marion Motley. A surprised Motley, who had been expecting to block on the play, instead ran for a big gain. Coach Paul Brown noted the success of the improvised play and began to work it in as a regular play, quickly creating four different versions of it.[1]

The idea behind a draw play is to attack aggressive, pass-rushing defenses by "drawing" them downfield. This creates larger gaps between defenders and thereby allows the offense to effectively run the ball. Draw plays are often run out of the shotgun formation, but can also be run when the quarterback is under center. These types of draw plays are sometimes referred to as "delayed handoffs". The running back will most often run straight downfield through the "A-Gap" (the space between the center and the offensive guard), although there are more complicated variations.

Offensive movement during a draw play
  • The quarterback drops back to pass, just long enough to get the pass rush to come upfield.
  • The offensive linemen momentarily show pass block, but also try to push the defenders to the outside, creating a crease in the middle.
  • The running back momentarily fakes as if he is staying in to help pass protect, then takes the hand-off from the quarterback and heads downfield through the crease created by the linemen.
  • The receivers run clear-out routes downfield in order to take the defensive backs out of the play.

A variation of this play is the "quarterback draw," where the quarterback himself runs the ball, instead of handing it off, meaning the running back is free to help block.

Occasionally, the offense will actually attempt a double fake and run a play that looks initially like a pass (draw), then fake a run (play-action) and end up passing the ball. This technique is especially effective against defenses where the linebackers and safeties are overly aggressive, because they will see pass initially, but the play-action will pull them down towards the line of scrimmage to stop the run. The vulnerable defense will pay no attention to the fact that the play is a fake, because they think they already misread a pass and should be out of position once they realize the play really was a pass.


  1. ^ Ciammiachella, Al. "Top Cleveland Sports Figures, By the Numbers - #14". The Cleveland Retrieved 4 June 2013. 

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