NFL Wonderlic Test Scores

The Bottom Line For NFL Wonderlic Test Scores

While the Wonderlic was original designed as a screening exam for employers hiring new staff members, it’s widely known for its use in the NFL draft. Though not all reports can actually be verified, the NFL Wonderlic test scores released every season stir up a frenzy among football fans.

So, why does the NFL insist on administering a standardized exam to new athletes, and, perhaps more importantly, does the exam actually provide us with any useful information? We have all your answers right here. We’ll explain what the Wonderlic is, why it’s used, and how accurately it can predict success on the field.

What is the Wonderlic Anyway?

The Wonderlic is an online assessment used to measure cognitive ability. Similar to an I.Q. test, this psychometric exam focuses on general intelligence. It contains questions on number series, analogies, sentence structures, geometric shapes, and basic logic.

Designed by Eldon Wonderlic while he was a graduate psychology student at Northwestern, the Wonderlic was supposed to challenge candidates to think strategically and creatively about the test in front of them.

While the material isn’t all that difficult, because test takers are only given 12 minutes to answer 50 multiple-choice questions, they have to use every tool at their disposal to answer as many problems as they can correctly.

The exam is, quite simply, a race against the clock, and those who can figure out how to answer each question as efficiently as possible, will receive the highest scores.

Why Does the NFL Use the Wonderlic?

As alluded to above, the Wonderlic was meant to function as a simplified I.Q. test for companies looking to hire new employees. According to many modern psychologists, a high level of intelligence is one of the best signs of future success. While personality, work ethic, and ambition all play an important role in shaping someone’s professional trajectory, cognitive ability is underratedly important.

Clever employees, more often than not, pick up new concepts and ideas more quickly than their peers, and they’re more likely to take on leadership roles. While NFL players don’t work in an office, they use many of the same skills on a regular basis.

On the field, football players need to make good judgment calls, react to changing circumstances, solve complex problems, and think clearly while under pressure. Football requires an immense amount of concentration, spatial reasoning, and resourcefulness, all skills tested on the Wonderlic.

When a quarterback is in the middle of a play and his opponents are closing in on him, he needs to quickly evaluate the situation and decide how best to proceed. When there’s a change of plans–the weather is bad, a player gets injured, his rivals react unexpectedly–a quarterback needs to be able to adapt and make use of what resources he has at hand.

Wonderlic scores won’t necessarily affect an athlete’s chances during the draft, but it can supply a team with information they wouldn’t have known from a resume or list of statistics.

As alluded to above, the Wonderlic was meant to function as a simplified I.Q. test for companies looking to hire new employees. According to many modern psychologists, a high level of intelligence is one of the best signs of future success. While personality, work ethic, and ambition all play an important role in shaping someone’s professional trajectory, cognitive ability is underratedly important.

Clever employees, more often than not, pick up new concepts and ideas more quickly than their peers, and they’re more likely to take on leadership roles. While NFL players don’t work in an office, they use many of the same skills on a regular basis.

On the field, football players need to make good judgment calls, react to changing circumstances, solve complex problems, and think clearly while under pressure. Football requires an immense amount of concentration, spatial reasoning, and resourcefulness, all skills tested on the Wonderlic.

When a quarterback is in the middle of a play and his opponents are closing in on him, he needs to quickly evaluate the situation and decide how best to proceed. When there’s a change of plans–the weather is bad, a player gets injured, his rivals react unexpectedly–a quarterback needs to be able to adapt and make use of what resources he has at hand.

Wonderlic scores won’t necessarily affect an athlete’s chances during the draft, but it can supply a team with information they wouldn’t have known from a resume or list of statistics.

Do Wonderlic Test Scores Really Predict Success in the NFL?

Yes and no.

The Wonderlic, like any other test, is not perfect. There is a debate among psychologists as to whether or not the exam can accurately measure I.Q. However, the mixed results show us fairly clearly that, while it may help in certain cases, it cannot predict success with any degree of consistency.

Plus, tests results are not always accurate anyway. Many people are simply bad test takers. Whether they struggle from anxiety or fail to apply themselves, some very bright, capable individuals receive low scores and then go on to perform brilliant feats.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, a Harvard graduate, received an impressive 48 on the Wonderlic Personnel Test before going on to lead what you could generously call a middling career. A 48 on the Wonderlic is extremely rare, and far higher than most engineers and doctors score, but his high score simply did not translate into success on the field.

Fitzpatrick wasn’t picked until the seventh round of the draft, and since then, the journeyman quarterback has travelled from state to state serving on seven different teams. While he’s had plenty of good moments and even good games, Fitzpatrick is extremely inconsistent. He throws a lot of interceptions and often makes poor decisions throwing when or where he shouldn’t. Sometimes, it seems like he just throws the ball randomly and hopes for the best. He’s been the luckiest backup quarterback ever. He plays more than he otherwise would because his starters always manage to get themselves injured.

On the other hand, Morris Claiborne, who received a lowly score of 4, went on to have an outstanding career. On the Wonderlic, someone who receives a score lower than 10 is considered illiterate.

Even though Claiborne couldn’t even answer 10% of the questions correctly, he was one of the first ten players selected in the 2012 draft, after which he went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys for five great seasons. During his rookie season alone, Claiborne deflected 8 passes and completed 55 tackles, 43 of which were solo.

Average Wonderlic Scores By Position:

Below, you’ll find the average Wonderlic scores listed according to position. As you can see, the taverage score for NFL players overall is about a 20, so despite their reputations, football players on the whole aren’t any more or less intelligent than the general population.

You should also notice how there is a wide range in scores. There is a whopping 10-point difference in score between the average halfback and offensive tackle. The data shows that the more offensive the position, the higher the score. While it must take a lot of skill to play defense, the numbers show that offensive plays need considerably more focus and creativity.

More interesting still, offensive tackles and centers generally score higher than quarterbacks even though it’s seems as if the quarterback does a lot of the decision-making. As it turns out, centers and offensive tackles are crucial to a team’s success.

The center knows the playbook just as well as the quarterback. After all, he needs to tell each of his linemen which player to target. It’s him that puts his teammates in position to score and sets the quarterback up for success. Oh, and he also needs to know how to move quickly enough to defend himself from a 350-pound rushing defender.

Offensive tackles consistently receive the highest Wonderlic scores. Once seen as faceless shields, offensive tackles have become some of the most highly sought after players in the NFL. Responsible for covering anyone the guard does not when the tight end goes out for a pass, offensive tackles need to have a sharp eye and a quick mind.

As Michael Lewis explains in his book The Blind Side, the salary of these players skyrocketed in the 90’s when coaches began to realize how crucial these players were to the team’s overall success.

  1. Offensive Tackle: 26
  2. Center: 25
  3. Quarterback: 24
  4. Guard: 23
  5. Tight end: 22
  6. Safety: 19
  7. Linebacker: 19
  8. Cornerback: 18
  9. Wide Receiver: 17
  10. Fullback: 17
  11. Halfback: 16

NFL Wonderlic Hall of Fame (The Best and Worst):

Top players

SCORE NAME COLLEGE POSITION
50 Pat McInally Harvard University Punter
49 Mike Mamula Boston College Linebacker
48 Ryan Fitzpatrick Harvard University Quarterback
48 Quarterback Alabama Quarterback
48 Benjamin Watson Georgia Tight End
48 Kevin Curtis Utah State Wide Receiver
46 Matt Birk Harvard University Offensive Lineman
43 Jason Maas Oregon Quarterback
43 Eric Decker Minnesota Wide Receiver
42 Blaine Gabbert Missouri Quarterback
42 Drew Henson Michigan Quarterback

Worst players

SCORE NAME COLLEGE POSITION
4 Darren Davis Iowa State Running Back
4 Morris Claiborne LSU Cornerback
5 Ed Prather Mississippi State Defensive Back
6 Oscar Davenport North Carolina Quarterback
6 Frank Gore Miami Running Back
6 Vince Young Texas Quarterback
7 Kelvin Benjamin Florida State Wide Receiver
7 Tavon Austin West Virginia Running Back
7 Terrelle Pryor Ohio State University Quarterback
8 Bobby Wagner Utah State Linebacker
8 Vince Evans USC Quarterback
8 Chris Leak Florida Quarterback

Last Thoughts on NFL Wonderlic Scores:

While drafts’ Wonderlic scores will continue to cause a lot of noise every year when they’re released, they’re generally not all that reliable. Though it may be very exciting to discuss prospects and compare results, unfortunately, the Wonderlic hasn’t been able to predict success on the football field with any degree of accuracy.