Stop caring about the Wonderlic


I’ve been waiting for this one. Every year Wonderlic scores are leaked, and every year it gives us a chance to say something like this: “hahahaha look at that big dumb stoooopid football guy with his big dummy dumb hands and nothing in his idiot head !!!!!!1.”

Somehow, through the grace of the holy spirits above, we made it to exactly one week until the draft before leaked Wonderlic scores surfaced. We were so close, guys.

Thankfully, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel saved us earlier today. In his column that was critical of likely first-round wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for a perceived lack of intelligence, McGinn revealed the poor Wonderlic scores of Patterson, and also those of his Tennessee teammates Tavon Austin and Justin Hunter.

How poor were they? In a mental aptitude test in which players have to answer 50 questions in 12 minutes, Patterson finished with a score of 11, while Austin’s was even lower at seven, and Hunter was the highest of the three with 12. Those are all horrible scores, and they all don’t matter.

This is the part where I rant with great rage, and usually I’m quite eager to do that on any subject. But I’ve grown weary of this particular discussion. I’ve shared my anger with you in the past, and every year the refrain remains the same.

The Wonderlic is merely one tool used to gauge a player’s intelligence, the most notable being the ability to, you know, talk to a player. McGinn quite rightly points out that some degree of smarts is required to play this here game of football face smash. But the other far more important tool are the interviews, both at the Combine, and the private meetings teams have with prospects throughout the draft evaluation process.

While sometimes general mangers ask prospects how hot their girlfriend is in those talks, they can and should take advantage of the time to gauge both football intelligence, and passion. McGinn also spoke to anonymous sources (because of course they’re anonymous) who said Patterson left much to be desired at his Combine interviews. Fair enough then, but what’s especially bothersome about his column is the correlation that results from this cherry picking…

Over the past decade, 10 wide receivers that declared at least a year early and were drafted in the first two rounds can be categorized as busts.

With their Wonderlic scores, they are Jon Baldwin (14), Darrius Heyward-Bey (14), Devin Thomas (23), Malcolm Kelly (22), James Hardy (14), Dwayne Jarrett (14), Chad Jackson (15), Troy Williamson (21), Reggie Williams (17) and Charles Rogers (10).

Meanwhile, intelligence is deemed a plus for Keenan Allen (19) and Robert Woods (23), the next-best receivers behind Patterson and Austin.

There’s something missing there, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Ah! there it is. See, I can cherry pick too and find receivers in recent memory who have excelled despite poor/horrible Wonderlic scoers. We’ll call it the reverse McGinn.

Let’s give it a try, just as I’ve done in the past during this stale, yet still redundant and yearly discussion:

  • A.J. Green left Georgia a year early too, and he’s been sort of OK as a professional football player. Yet he had the lowest Wonderlic score of any receiver in his draft class (10).
  • Julio Jones also entered the draft early, and he scored a 15, which is right in line with McGin’s examples of awfulness. Yet those crazy Falcons still gave up five picks (including two first rounders) for the right to pay him a whole lot of money to play football.
  • Michael Crabtree had the same below average (average is widely considered 20) score of 15. It really held him back from scoring nine touchdowns during the regular season for the defending NFC champion 49ers, and logging a career high 1,105 receiving yards.
  • Percy Harvin’s 12 on the Wonderlic has been absolutely crippling. Thankfully, he overcame it this past season while recording 677 receiving yards despite appearing in just nine games. Those silly Seahawks actually gave up a first-round pick for such a dumb dumb.

Of course, if we look at quarterbacks — a position where having some smarts is also, um, suggested — there’s a famous example, and it goes against blogger law to not cite it in a post of this nature. Dan Marino did pretty alright during his career, and he scored 15. Meanwhile, Matt Leinart has been in the clipboard holder stage of his career for several seasons now, and he scored a 35.

Go ahead, rip Patterson, Hunter, or Austin if it makes you feel good. We’ve all done it. But know that drawing a correlation between their test results and their future field results is akin to standing in a dark room with a blindfold on, and being asked to pin a tail on a donkey that’s on an actual farm, and not remotely close to the room where you currently find yourself.

The Wonderlic is useless.