What is a Sack (Football)? And How Does it Affect Player Stats and Fantasy Scoring?

So, what is a sack? The short answer is that a sack is anytime the defense tackles the quarterback in the backfield during a designed passing play.

As far as how it affects official NFL statistics and fantasy scoring, well that depends on the football league/level and the scoring settings in your fantasy league.

More Information about Sacks

As stated above, a sack occurs when a defensive player tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage during a passing play.

Any defensive player can record a sack, but sacks tend to occur by certain positions, and the position varies depending on each team’s defensive scheme.

Which positions record the most sacks in a 4-3 scheme?

Quick Answer: defensive ends

4-3 defensive fronts are relatively straightforward when it comes to the base rush. Typically all 4 down linemen will rush the quarterback. But, the expectations for the interior linemen and the outside linemen are not the same.

Teams want their interior linemen to penetrate and disrupt the pocket. Of course, these guys may get sacks, but for some teams that’s just a bonus. When they create havoc in the backfield, it throws off timing and allows the ends to make tackles, which are sacks in the case of passing plays.

You will find the defensive ends aligned opposite and on the outside of the offensive tackles. They use their speed and agility to evade blockers and get after the quarterback. They also tend to be some of the more expensive defensive players for teams using the 4-3 front. No one said buying sacks was cheap.

Which positions record the most sacks in a 3-4 scheme?

Short answer: outside linebackers

3-4 defensive fronts can confuse offensive lineman more than 4-3 fronts because you don’t always know who will be rushing the quarterback. Nor exactly from where.

The defensive line in a 3-4 front is not necessarily trying to get to the quarterback (or the running back in the case of rushing plays). Instead, they are trying to occupy both space and their counterparts on the offensive side of the ball.

In other words, they sacrifice themselves to enable linebackers to steal the glory (i.e., make the play). In particular, the outside linebackers are who tend to get the most accolades (and money!). These are the guys you hear called on Sundays.

Is it common for cornerbacks or safeties to record sacks?

For the most part, cornerbacks and safeties are expected to defend the pass, not tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. So, no, it is not common for cornerbacks or safeties to record sacks.

That said, defensive backs rushing the quarterback is a threat that the center and quarterback must be aware of during pre-snap reads. But the defense does their best to disguise these blitzes because those blitzes tend to leave holes behind them.

This is why you will see safeties and cornerbacks creep up into the box. Sometimes they are blitzing, but other times they back off.
One popular approach that has become a common tool for every team is the fire man zone, which can allow defensive backs to pressure the quarterback without committing to an overly aggressive blitz.

With the fire man zone, a defensive end or linebacker bluff rushing the QB just long enough to force a tackle (typically the left tackle, who is generally seen as the best offensive lineman) to commit to that direction, and thus leaving him without someone to block. The bluffing rusher can now drop back into a zone to protect against the pass.

Do Sacks Affect Fantasy Scoring

Well, it depends on your exact league settings. Generally, though, this is what happens:


Since the NFL registers sacks as team passing yards, but not individual passing or rushing yards, then a sack will not negatively impact your quarterback’s scoring. Other than possibly putting an end to a promising drive. One interesting rule to note: if a quarterback runs out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage on a passing play, then it will be counted as a sack (and, so, no loss of yards).

One important thing to note is that an official scorer must determine whether the intent of the play was passing or running. Sometimes, quarterbacks can fake one or the other. It is rare this will have a real impact on your fantasy team, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are watching the game and your fantasy score isn’t what you expected.

Also, fantasy college football is beginning to get popular. If you decide to play, remember that college football rules differ from the National Football League. In college, sacks do count against a quarterbacks’ rushing yards.


Defenses absolutely accrue points for each sack they register.

Who Has Registered the Most Sacks?

As of the 2019 season, Bruce Smith is the career leader for the most NFL sacks. He totaled 200 sacks in his career, and is followed by Reggie White who finished his career with 198 sacks.

Chart Showing NFL Career Sacks Leaders

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