The Wonderlic Test is one of the tools used during the annual NFL Scouting Combine to aid NFL scouts in rating potential draft picks. While other facets of the combine are much more physically grueling, the Wonderlic Test is considered somewhat of an "intelligence exam" in the NFL.
The history of the Wonderlic Test, and its place in the NFL
The Wonderlic Personality Test was created in 1936 by Eldon F. Wonderlic, as a short-form exam to measure certain functions of a subject's thought patterns. Now known as the Wonderlic Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test, it was originally developed to rate cognitive ability and problem-solving aptitude in common areas like vocabulary, math, and reasoning.
The Wonderlic Test consists of 50 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 12 minutes. This evaluation was originally used by businesses to further assess potential job candidates, and was even more rigorously used by the United States military.
The NFL was the first on-record league to use the test in 1970s when legendary Cowboys coach Tom Landry used it to predict a player's performance. It soon caught on with the rest of the league and is still a part of the NFL Scouting Combine. In roughly 50 years of the NFL utilizing the test, the average score among players regardless of position is around 24 out of a perfect 50. Running backs seem to have the lowest average at 16, whereas offensive tackles have the highest average at 26.
Does success on the Wonderlic Test mean success on the field?
Many believe by now that the Wonderlic Test is outdated and unreliable when it comes to evaluating potential success in the NFL. Only one player has ever scored a perfect 50 on the test. That was Bengals punter/wide receiver Pat McInally, who never won a Super Bowl, but did make the Pro Bowl once, in 1981.
However, quarterbacks are the most scrutinized players in the league so naturally, their scores are the most popular at an average of 24. But the correlation between high test scores and football success varies greatly across its history.
Legendary passers like Bradshaw, Kelly, and Marino were at the low end of the average, but they're still in the Hall of Fame. Others, such as Johnny Manziel and Ryan Fitzpatrick (who still has the highest QB score at 48), might not end up with a bust in Canton. In case you're wondering, 7-time Super Bowl champion and definite first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady scored a 33, before being drafted in 2000.
Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is said to have scored a 13 just before he was drafted in 2018, but that didn't impede earning an MVP award the next season. So it definitely stands to reason that pure physical ability still holds the lion's share of value in properly scouting a potential NFL legend.