By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
The NFL combine last weekend was the last big showcase for many players before the NFL Draft in April. While the drills showcasing their speed, strength and agility will be the primary focus of scouts, one score they get could throw up red flags for players’ potential suitors.
For the past 40 years, the NFL has been using the Wonderlic test as part of their regiment of testing players at the combine. Designed to measure cognitive ability, the Wonderlic Personnel Test is 50 questions that get progressively harder and players are given 12 minutes to complete it. According to the Wonderlic organization, the test is used to determine, “a person’s ability to think, learn, solve problems and follow instructions – all critical traits a football player needs to have, particularly one coming into the NFL, where gameplay is much faster and decisions must be made in the blink of an eye.”
So how accurate is it? The results have been a mixed bag. Many players over the years have had their scores released by the media. A “good” score for a potential NFL player is around 20. Aaron Rodgers scored a 35 and has had an extremely successful NFL career and has become one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl winner that scored a 39.
But a high score doesn’t guarantee success. Quarterback Greg McElroy scored a 43 on his Wonderlic test before getting drafted by the Jets in 2011. Since then, he’s been cut and was last seen as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. The highest ever-recorded score was from Pat McInally. McInally graduated from Yale and got the NFL’s only perfect 50 before the 1975 draft.
At the other end of the spectrum, Morris Claiborne was reported to having scored a 4 on his Wonderlic test before the 2012 Draft. Despite this, Claiborne was still drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys. Since then, he’s played one full season before injury forced him out of his starting job. Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor scored a 7. Since entering the league, he has been signed and released by several teams and was recently picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs on a one-year contract.
Others with low scores have found success. Frank Gore is the 49er’s all-time rushing leader and five-time Pro Bowl selection. Gore scored a 6 on his test, a variable that probably played a part in him falling to the third round of the 2005 draft. Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino’s score of 15 was well below the average for quarterbacks. He fell to late in the first round before getting picked up by the Dolphins, and ended up having a career that lasted 16 seasons and was filled with individual honors.
So what’s the verdict? While the Wonderlic isn’t a perfect representation of how well a player will handle the change of pace into the NFL, this statement on the Wonderlic website puts it well. “Given that teams are making million dollar decisions with each draft pick, they should consider all the available indicators of a player’s abilities – mental and physical – and the Wonderlic test results are just a piece of that.”