What Is A Gadget Guy? Football Terminology

When watching an NFL or College football game on tv you have likely heard the term “gadget guy”. This term is most commonly used when referring to receivers making a play on special teams, or playing out of there position. But what exactly is a gadget guy in football?

A gadget guy in football is a player that is capable of playing many different positions and roles on a football team. These players are most often wide receivers that can also return punts, kicks and carry the ball on rushing plays.

Much like the early 2000’s cartoon Inspector Gadget a gadget guy can be used as a tool for just about any offensive situation.

These players are often not regular starters at their own position but rather rotational players in several different roles.

What Are The Main Roles Of A Gadget Guy

There are several roles that gadget players occupy all of which are on the offensive side of the ball. There are defensive players who play many roles as well but the term gadget guy typically refers to offensive players.

Here are some of the main roles that gadget players tend to occupy

Slot Receiver

Outside Receiver

Running Back

Kick Returner

Punt Returner


Now to be clear most gadget guys do not play all these positions. Though it is not uncommon for players to play three or four of these roles.

Though as we stated earlier a gadget player is most likely not going to be the starter in these roles. A typical game for a gadget player varies greatly but will often include a few routes as a receiver as well as a few carries.

For the gadget players that play quarterback, it can be quite hard to get on the field. A player like Taysum Hill has been able to play the quarterback position for at least a few snaps each game. Though this is not the standard for gadget players.

It is most typical for gadget players that can throw to only get an attempt every once in a while on a trick play.

In most cases, a gadget player is going to be brought into the league as an athlete. This means this player is athletically gifted yet they do not have a specific position they are going to play when they enter the league.

Usually, these players start their career on special teams returning punts and kicks. If these players succeed in their special teams role they will begin getting snaps on offense.

Depending on their skill set a gadget guy will start with either getting passes or carries. Usually, these players will start their time on the offense in a limited role.

This means to start they will only get a few snaps a game. As these players continue to perform they will be able to increase their share in the offense.

Due to the nature of being a gadget guy it can be difficult to become a number one receiver or running back. These players tend to act as second or third options at whichever position they occupy.

Though in some cases these players may be talented enough to play both positions a large portion of the time. Players like Deebo Samuel have operated as a teams number one receiver only to switch to their number one running back when injuries started to pile up.

Examples Of Gadget Guys In The NFL

Brad Smith – QB, WR, Kick Returner, Punt Returner


As you can see from the clips Brad Smith played a large number of roles for the New York Jets. This video displays him taking snaps as a running back, quarterback, and kick returner.

This is a great example of gadget player in the NFL. If you watched the Jets during his tenure there you would know he was not the starting quarterback. Though he was still able to get quite a few snaps at the position especially when in a running situation.

Brad Smith was the jets starter at the kick returner position and also played quite a few snaps at receiver. This is exactly what you want out of a gadget guy. The beauty of this style of players is that they take up a single roster spot yet can play many different roles for your team.

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