Ryan Fitzpatrick: Too Smart for the NFL and Your Fantasy Football Team?

Gary DuteryContributor IOctober 30, 2010

Ryan Fitzpatrick: The NFL's smartest quarterback? Ever?
Ryan Fitzpatrick: The NFL's smartest quarterback? Ever?Elsa/Getty Images

There is a common myth that the average NFL player can't spell SAT, let alone actually pass the standardized college entrance exam. 

It's a myth cultivated by pro football stars who tend to wander above their intellectual pay grade by doing stuff best left to others.

Like talking.  

Not a problem for Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Buffalo Bills Harvard-educated quarterback and the fantasy world's waiver wire wonder of the week.

Fitzpatrick is scary smart. The Buffalo QB rang up a 1580 on the SAT. It's now called the Scholastic Reasoning Test, but still officially abbreviated SAT. Go figure. When he took the test, a perfect score was a 1600. My guess is that Fitzpatrick sandbagged those last 20 points to avoid the geekitude ritually hung on those who ace their college boards.

Note: Intentionally tanking a test question could be part of Fitzpatrick's M.O. He did it on the Wonderlic, the yardstick used by the NFL to measure intellectual firepower. More on this later.

A combined SAT of 1350,  a full 230 points below Fitzpatrick's score, will get a student an honest look from nearly all of the nation's top colleges and universities. 

While a QB's stellar standardized test scores won't make him the next Terry Bradshaw (uh, okay, bad example), Fitzpatrick's 2010 numbers could send fantasy football owners scrambling to begin digging around for third grade report cards as part of their draft day prep.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

In his four starts this season with a winless team that would likely struggle to be competitive playing NCAA D-III ball, Fitzpatrick has thrown for 11 TDs and nearly 1,000 yards through the air.

The Scrabble Connection

And his numbers are skewing in the right direction. Two TDs in Week 4, three in Week 5 and four in Week 7. The self-described "Apple computer junkie" spent Week 6 at home playing Scrabble on his iPad. Fitzpatrick says it's an obsession. At the rate Fitzpatrick is producing, the game could be mandatory for all NFL quarterbacks by next week.

If he continues on pace, and his matchup against Kansas City in Week 8 likely won't stand in the way, his yardage totals will eclipse his SAT scores sometime prior to halftime of the Bills' Week 10 game against the Chicago Bears.

The Buffalo QB isn't shy about running. The first Harvard quarterback to rush for more than 1,000 career yards, Fitzpatrick used his feet to rack up 74 on the ground in Week 4 and has 116 yards in 16 carries so far in his abbreviated season. And he's averaging seven yards each time he tucks it and goes.

What do Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster, Chris Johnson and Frank Gore have in common? Three times this year each has failed to match Fitzpatrick's Week 4 ground game production. So there!

With Fitzpatrick now owned in roughly 80 percent of all leagues going into Week 8, and as FF's most acquired player, Fitzpatrick's legion of newest BFFs can only hope his point production matches his Wonderlic score.

The Wonderlic, for the benefit of any cave-dwellers in the crowd, has nothing to do with Linda Lovelace and her close on-screen friendship with Harry Reems. As noted earlier, it's the IQ test used by the NFL as part of its player assessment process. 

Wonderlic. Eldon Wonderlic.

It gets its name from its inventor, Eldon F. Wonderlic, an industrial psychologist who was actually named Eldon F. Wonderlic.  

It's a 12-minute, 50-question test. It measures learning and problem-solving ability. And at 12 minutes, it's roughly three times longer than the average NFL player's attention span, which pretty much explains the average NFL player's score on the thing.

The average NFL player's score is 20. A score of 10 qualifies you as functionally illiterate. A score of 50 qualifies you to be former Bengals punter Pat McInally, believed to be the only NFL player to hit the half-century mark. 

McInally, like Fitzpatrick, is a Harvard grad. Reckon it must be a pretty good school, or something.

But while McInally was apparently showing off, Fitzpatrick may be guilty of deliberately shaving his score. He left a question intentionally unanswered in a likely attempt to come up one point shy of perfect. Why?

There are whispers in the NFL ranks that while coaches aren't actively scouting QBs with Wonderlics smaller than their hat size, they tend to shy away from players who might just be a little too smart.

Wonderlic scores are supposed to be secret. Yeah, right. That said, Fitzpatrick came away from the test with a 48 or a 49, depending on who you believe. And while Wonderlic doesn't talk about individual scores, the testing firm says a perfect 50 is still possible even if a question is skipped. 

And Fitzpatrick completed the test in just nine minutes. An NFL record.

Forty-eight, 49 or 50. It hardly matters unless we start awarding FF point bonuses based on test scores. But NFL teams do see a connection between a player's Wonderlics and his potential to become an all-pro QB.

The average NFL quarterback scores 24 on the test. It's said that NFL teams target QBs with Wonderlics above 21. There are exceptions. Hall of Fame Dolphins QB Dan Marino's score was a reported 16.

And then there's Vince Young. 

Young, the probable Week 8 signal-caller for the Titans, scored a 6 on his first attempt. His test was later "re-graded" and he soared to a 16. The Vick brothers, Marcus and Michael, made Wonderlic under-achieving a family thing with scores of 11 and 20 respectively.

Having Fitzpatrick on your roster clearly gives it a blush of intellectual cred. And his numbers, on and off the field, could be the cure for your Week 8 waiver wire blues. But history tells us to focus more on what a QB does on the field rather than his attendance record at Mensa meetings.

What's the connection, if any?

Here are the reported Wonderlic scores of NFL quarterbacks, past and present. You be the judge:

  • Brian Griese: 39
  • Drew Bledsoe: 37
  • Steve Young: 33
  • John Elway: 30
  • Troy Aikman: 29
  • Cade McNown: 28
  • Mark Brunell: 22
  • Tim Couch: 22
  • Trent Dilfer: 22
  • Brett Favre: 22
  • Daunte Culpepper: 21 
  • Vinny Testaverde: 18
  • Vince Young: 16
  • Dan Marino: 16
  • Randall Cunningham: 15
  • Jeff George: 10
  • Vince Young: 6

And if you're wondering how these "secret" scores become public, consider this. A player who does well tends to brag. A player who bombs the Wonderlic may simply lack the smarts to keep quiet.