Morris Claiborne's Wonderlic Score Is No Laughing Matter

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystApril 4, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 09:  Odell Beckham #33 and Morris Claiborne #17 of the Louisiana State University Tigers kneel on the sideline towards the end of their game against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A player that many pundits projected as a top-five overall selection in this month's NFL draft may have seen his draft stock take something of a tumble Tuesday. Reports leaked that All-American cornerback Morris Claiborne of LSU posted a woefully low score on the enigmatic Wonderlic intelligence test administered at February's NFL Scouting Combine.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk originally broke the story. Claiborne, who tallied 51 tackles and six interceptions in 2011, reportedly managed only a four out of 50 on the Wonderlic. That's believed to be the lowest score recorded on the test since Iowa State running back Darren Davis put up the same number in 2000. Florio continues:

The joke, however, continues to be on anyone who thinks that all college athletes are also students.  Plenty of them aren’t.  They’re minor-league football players who have no choice but to wait at least three years until they get a shot at joining the NFL.

How else can anyone explain a person who presumably has found a way to avoid failing out of college getting such a low score on a basic intelligence test?

And that gives rise to a more important question.  What did LSU actually do to keep Claiborne from failing out of school?

Florio's lamenting about the state of academics at Louisiana State aside, the low score—if accurate—does beg some questions regarding Claiborne's ability to adjust to the complicated coverage schemes that many NFL teams employ. However, Claiborne's agent, Bus Cook, dismissed those concerns in an interview with ESPN's Adam Schefter.

"I haven't talked to anybody about it. All I know is that [Claiborne] was from a complicated defensive system and he flourished in it. I've never seen any sort of deficiency in him," Cook told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

"I'm sitting here in shock at what you're telling me. And if it is true, how does that get out? I thought the commissioner was going to put safeguards on this information and there would be severe discipline if it ever did get out. I don't know if he scored a 4 or a 40. All I know is he's a great kid, he's smart, and I've been thoroughly impressed with everything about him."

Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post gave something of an explanation for Claiborne's low score later Tuesday. Gabriel states that Claiborne has a learning disability that affects his reading comprehension and that may have led to the free-fall four.

When Claiborne came out of high school, the schools that recruited him knew he had a learning disability. I don’t know much about his disability other than it has to do with reading. Everyone I have talked to tells me that Claiborne has great character and is a great kid. He knows and understands his disability and uses all the resources that LSU has available to control it and to help him get by in the classroom.

When it comes to football he puts in extra time to learn and understand his assignments and it is not a problem. Will he need reps? Probably, but no more than the usual rookie would need. In saying that, Claiborne’s test score was NOT a true indicator of his intelligence. He can and does learn.

If Claiborne does indeed have a learning disability, it might explain his low score somewhat, but that assertion seemingly flies in the face of Cook's statements. PFT's Florio wondered aloud why Cook would even allow Claiborne to take the test if he knew of a learning disability that could lead to a low score that negatively affects the prospect's draft stock.

And so, regardless of why or how Claiborne scored so low, Cook should have known it was coming, and Cook should have either tried to find a way to improve the score — or Cook should have advised Claiborne not to take the test.

That’s a point Dan Patrick has been making for a long time, and it’s a great one.  Incoming rookies routinely decline to run the 40 or participate in certain drills.  If there’s any concern that the score will be low, why not refuse to take the Wonderlic?  The easy explanation for refusing would be that the player doesn’t believe the NFL will maintain the confidentiality of the score.

Posting a low score on the Wonderlic is by no means the kiss of death in the National Football League. Players such as wide receiver Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants have posted low scores and then gone on to NFL stardom. ESPN's Edward Aschoff doesn't feel that Claiborne's paltry showing on the test will necessarily knock him from the top five.

If Claiborne's score really was that low, it might cause NFL teams and general managers to pause, but expect that pause to be extremely short-lived. They'll get in contact with the school and take things from there. The Wonderlic might be a cognitive aptitude test (one featuring 50 questions that have to be answered in 12 minutes), but its results haven't really had much influence on drafting.

Basically, Claiborne is entering the draft as a top-10 pick and he'll probably leave it that way. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper still has him going fifth to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This should not have an impact. Not to minimize his position, but this isn't a quarterback, this isn't a middle linebacker, this isn't a guy that needs to memorize a dozen reads. He needs to react. Assuming he was fine in interviews -- and all I've heard is he's a good kid -- it shouldn't change the way teams view him. I will have him as the No. 5 pick to the (Tampa Bay) Bucs. These things pop up now and then and teams do a quick check, and they do their own evaluations, and they move on. Besides, not all teams trust everything they hear anyway.

However, posting the lowest reported Wonderlic score in over a decade may be enough to give teams that moment's pause that Aschoff mentioned. While Claiborne may have finished taking questions on the test, he's probably not through answering questions about it.