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NFL Draft 2013: The Wonderlic and Its worth

Recently, Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson had their very low Wonderlic scores leaked to the press. But is the Wonderlic a good indicator of future NFL success?

Heh, look at Austin using his athleticism to break that dumb Longhorn's tackle.
Heh, look at Austin using his athleticism to break that dumb Longhorn's tackle.

Recently as a part of the interview process for a job I applied for I took a test. It was composed of word associations, definitions and general math problems, geometry, etc. which all had to completed within 12 minutes. It was only until after, I discovered I had taken the Wonderlic Personnel Test. In my surprise, I had only one thought.

What does this have anything to do with football?

In reality, the Wonderlic has very little to do with football. Tom Brady doesn't make you answer if resent, reserve have similar meanings, have contradictory meanings, or mean neither the same nor the opposite.*

Nor do linebackers scream the answer of the square root of 225** as they sack the quarterback.

So what is the point?

Players are expected to have some level of intelligence, especially when your athletes are primarily being drafted from educational institutions. Also, it is possible to postulate that the smarter the player the easier and quicker he'll be able to learn the playbook and study opponents.

But there are problems with taking all that information from a test.

First, this test works for an engineer, but when your job is football player, a numbers and vocabulary test isn't really a great measure of potential success. Running routes is not similar to taking a test in a desk.

Secondly, some people don't test well. That doesn't mean they are less intelligent, it just means they need longer to learn a concept or they put more work into learning.

Oh, and history doesn't really support the importance of the Wonderlic. It is believed you must score a minimum of 20 to play and succeed at Quarterback in the NFL. Don't tell Dan Marino or Jim Kelly that, they received 15 each. Donovan McNabb, 14. Frank Gore got a 6, what a bust. (That's why he played running back.)

Even trying to create a rule like the 26-27-60 has flaws. Sure most good QBs who have some success in the NFL pass the rule, but correlation does not imply causation. Did Peyton Manning have a successful career because he scored high on the Wonderlic? Did Ryan Leaf bust because he didn't pass the rule? How about Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, and Ryan Fitzpatrick? Because all three passed.

So, what does this mean for Tavon Austin, Corradelle Patterson and other draft prospects. Not much. Getting a low score doesn't mean they will fail, just as a high score won't set their life on a path of success. They'll just have to work harder to learn how to play in the NFL. Stats are not the rule, they are the indicator. This goes for completion percentage and mental aptitude.

By the way, JaMarcus Russell got a 24 and no one is calling him a genius last I checked.

*neither the same nor the opposite, **15