Settle down, class. We’re going to do some morning review before the final test on April 26. We review this material every spring, so this should be easy.
Surely you’ve heard of the Wonderlic test, yes? It’s the NFL’s form of standardized testing at the Scouting Combine in which each prospect answers 50 skill-testing questions in 12 minutes. At first it starts out as just a test, and then each spring prior to the draft when a few results are inevitably leaked, it functions as an easy outlet for the idiot athlete narrative, and sometimes borderline racism.
Today’s subject is Morris Claiborne, the LSU cornerback and likely top 10 pick (maybe top five) who reportedly scored a four on the Wonderlic, according to Pro Football Talk. That’s low, and it’s the kind of score that would get you grounded for at least two weeks if you had to show it to your parents after school. It’s also the kind of score that gives us an easy avenue to laugh and ridicule, even though we’re annually reminded that the Wonderlic’s ability to forecast football intelligence and future success is inconsistent at best, and often woefully inaccurate.
What’s especially fun about the leaked Wonderlic scores is that they give the lazy football follower the chance to pluck a few past examples from their dusty NFL almanac and compare the most recent flunked test to the fails of yesteryear, which are of course directly linked to later failings on the field. This often happens with quarterbacks, since that position requires a high level of intelligence (both football smarts and general smarts), and Vince Young’s score of six during his first test has stood as the benchmark for quarterback idiocy.
I’ll now ask you to flip to the Sept. 1, 2011 page in your textbook, when we last had this exact same discussion because of Terrelle Pryor’s low Wonderlic score (7).
The great thing about hand-picking examples to prove a point is that it’s easy. Look, I can do it too:
- Every Wonderlic rant has to include the infamous Dan Marino reference, the Hall of Fame quarterback who parlayed his measly test score of 15 into a record-breaking career.
- JaMarcus Russell reached the position average of 24. Now he enjoys a fine glass of Purple Drank, and his life coach has given up on him.
- Terry Bradshaw matched Marino’s 15, which perhaps explains his desire to laugh for two hours on live television every Sunday. But it didn’t seem to hinder him much when he led Pittsburgh to four championships.
- That 15 score is rather popular, and was also all Randall Cunningham could muster. He sucked.
- Donovan McNabb is now fading with age, but he’s still put together a fine career despite the looming presence of a 14 on his Wonderlic paper.
- Matt Leinart scored a 35, and now uses those superior book skills to look really, really good wearing a headset.
- Alex Smith has one of the highest scores among active quarterbacks with his 40. It’s done little to make him realize that throwing into double coverage is often a bad idea.
The Wonderlic isn’t irrelevant, far from it. But what we fail to grasp when scores first surface–even the disastrously low scores like Claiborne’s–is that the test itself is one tool out of the many used to gauge a prospect at the Combine. Isolating one event and using it to berate or severely downgrade a player is always unwise.
The common rebuttal is that while there may be multiple events to assess a players’ athleticism, the Wonderlic is the only test to gauge mental ability. That’s so false it hurt to type it.
Teams have several opportunities to interview and talk to players in a far more intimate environment and test their football mind. Those interviews occur both at the Combine, and during the private workouts and Pro Days that follow. If a player seems like a blockhead during his interviews, and he also posts a low test score, then perhaps some of those pretty red flags will pop up.
We don’t sit in on the interviews, though, so we have no idea how players conduct themselves behind those closed doors. All we have is a test score, and for many that’s good enough, even though studies have shown the Wonderlic “has a limited return on its investment in the NFL.”
But let’s assume that Claiborne isn’t the brightest knife in the drawer. The only shocking development is that the football-viewing public is still surprised when elite athletes are pushed through school, and they’re often students in name only. For the truly elite, that process can start early in high school.
There, I feel better now. Rant done. Class dismissed.
We’ll meet again for this discussion next spring.
And now you want to know the rest of the story…
- Robert Griffin III declined a workout invitation from the Colts. Interesting. [Jim Irsay on Twitter]
- Griffin said during his QB Camp session with Jon Gruden that he tries to emulate Peyton Manning and Tom Brady while catching defenses off guard. [PFT]
- Riley Reiff could go to the Bills at No. 10. [Inside The Bills]
- Dontari Poe, Dre Kirkpatrick, and David DeCastro will visit Dallas, and they’re all highly under consideration for the Cowboys at No. 14. [Cowboys Corner]
- Uniform nerd alert! Nike is unveiling its updated jerseys for all 32 teams at 11 a.m. ET today. [Baltimore Beat Down]
- Amani Toomer thinks Tim Tebow will beat out Mark Sanchez. [Newark Star-Ledger]
- Should the Packers go after Trent Richardson? [John Clayton's mailbag]
- Donald Brown could be the Colts’ primary running back next year. [Stampede Blue]