Comparing Wonderlic Scores of NFL Stars at Past Scouting Combines
Every year at the NFL Scouting Combine, a big deal is made of the Wonderlic Test, an abbreviated IQ exam of only 50 questions. But just how important is the test, actually?
While many have questioned its accuracy, Charlie Wonderlic claims the test shouldn't be judged on its own, but rather as a complementary tool to gauging a player's mental readiness for the NFL (h/t Jeff Merron, ESPN.com):
What the score does is help match training methods with a player's ability. It could be a playbook—what is the best way to teach a player a play? On the field, the higher the IQ, the greater the ability to understand and handle contingencies and make sound decisions on the fly.
So, with that in mind, how mentally ready were some of the NFL's current stars upon entering the league?
Positional Wonderlic averages courtesy of Paul Zimmerman's The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football (h/t Merron, ESPN.com)
This isn't a great score by any stretch (average among running backs), but it's not single digits either. Clearly, the score hasn't affected Adrian Peterson's dominant play on the field.
Running back isn't exactly a cerebral position, but there have never been any issues with Peterson's intelligence, and he didn't need time to adjust to the NFL either—Peterson rushed for 1,341 yards as a rookie.
This is an example of the Wonderlic not necessarily showing positively or negatively on the field.
Widely considered one of the NFL's smartest quarterbacks, Tom Brady unsurprisingly impressed on the Wonderlic. His 33 is well above the average QB score (24) and shows just how smart he is.
Clearly, Brady's score shows up on the field. The star quarterback consistently does a great job of audibling plays, reading defenses and avoiding bad decisions.
This is a situation in which the Wonderlic accurately translated to on-field success.
Percy Harvin's score was below average for wideouts (17). Does it show up on the field, though?
With the Vikings, Harvin has lined up all over the field, from out wide to in the backfield. That can't be an easy thing for a player to do, much less an "unintelligent" one.
There have been issues with Harvin in Minnesota, but those have factored into his contract, never his play on the field. Even if Harvin's intellect occasionally hinders him, he is still one of the NFL's most dynamic players.
Another unsurprising score from an elite quarterback.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the NFL's most cerebral players. He manages an offense like few can, rarely making mistakes and often changing plays. Therefore, Rodgers' Wonderlic score should come as no surprise.
This is yet another example of why quarterback is one of the few positions for which teams actually care about Wonderlic scores. Intelligence easily shows on the field when you're the one throwing the ball; it can make a huge difference in the quality of play.
The stereotype is that unintelligent players will struggle to adjust to the NFL. Clearly, then, A.J. Green must not have done so well as a rookie.
Well, he actually gained over 1,000 yards in his first season.
Green plays another position where intelligence isn't a huge factor, but he has never shown any signs of struggling with Cincinnati's offense. In fact, Green does a great job of running routes, which suggests he understands the game and what he has to do.
This score concerned some analysts before the draft, but it simply hasn't been a factor in the NFL.
Perhaps the NFL's smartest player, Peyton Manning came in a bit lower than would be expected (comparatively speaking, anyway) at 28. This isn't a bad score by any means, but does it fit the manically audibling Manning that we know and love?
Sometimes, intelligence-test smarts and football smarts don't match up perfectly. That's not to say Manning is a dumb guy off the field, but if his football intellect and Wonderlic scores matched up, he would have aced the test.
Frank Gore has been diagnosed with a learning disability (dyslexia), so his low score is expected. He remains an inspiration to many, though, as his disability has never hindered him on the football field.
San Francisco has been excellent in helping Gore learn the playbook, and he has put together a terrific career in the NFL.
Does Gore's disability ever hurt him on the field? That's impossible to say; we can't really know what's going on in his head. But it certainly hasn't kept him from developing into one of the NFL's best running backs.
This score isn't particularly surprising. Cam Newton isn't exactly a brainy quarterback, but he isn't stupid either, and his intelligence doesn't hinder him.
The former No. 1 overall pick makes some mistakes with the football, and he isn't a Peyton Manning who changes plays to take advantage of matchups. He is simply so dominant physically that his average intellect isn't a huge negative factor.
This is a surprising score.
As one of the NFL's best wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald is obviously talented, but he is also a smart player who has worked hard to master his craft. Few wideouts are better route-runners, and Fitzgerald does a great job of reading coverages.
At just above average, this score isn't entirely correlative to the fact that Fitzgerald has become one of the game's more cerebral wide receivers.
Yeah, this isn't much of a shocker.
Andrew Luck went to Stanford, where he majored in civil engineering. Clearly, he's a smart guy, and it shows on the field.
Fellow rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III put together terrific seasons in 2012, but neither mastered his offense like Luck did. He was the focal point of his offense, and he didn't have much to work with either.
Luck's intelligence shows on every play, even when he does make a mistake. His smarts are a huge reason he was considered the prospect of the decade.
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