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  1. #1
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    Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Posted March 17, 2011 @ 9:01 p.m. ET
    By Nolan Nawrocki

    Two of the NFL's brightest future stars, LSU CB Patrick Peterson and Georgia WR A.J. Green, registered among the five lowest Wonderlic scores of the 330 participants at this year's Combine.

    Peterson was one of four prospects who recorded a dreaded single-digit score, which NFL teams often equate with getting their name right, tying with South Carolina's Chris Culliver for the lowest mark among all defensive backs as both correctly answered only nine questions on the 12-minute, 50-question test.

    Green registered the lowest score of all receivers, answering 10 questions correctly.

    What does it mean? The Wonderlic test is just a small piece of the evaluation process, designed to gauge the intelligence of prospects. What NFL teams value much more highly is football intelligence — how quickly a player can instinctively read, react and make plays on the field.

    "Peterson plays like a low-test guy," one NFL decision maker told PFW on the condition he remain anonymous, "but (if) he's in 'cat' (man-to-man) coverage in the NFL, it's not as big of an issue as it will be for offensive guys."

    "He's a press corner," another longtime evaluator said. "His strong suit is that he can run and press. He won't play for the Patriots, where he's disguising coverage after coverage, but I still think he can be a No. 1 shutdown corner."

    A scout with deep knowledge of the kid said, "The more I'm around him, the more I love him even more. I love the kid, and I love the talent. But I don't like the way he plays with his back to the ball. He has an instinct issue, and I think it's tied to his mental (ability). He can only handle so much. He's not a quick processor. It's a scary year to be drafting in the top 10 because they all have some issue."

    The increasing complexity of NFL offenses creates more pressure for a receiver like Green, but teams are still split about how much of a concern his score is.

    "He will get it," one evaluator said. "You're going to have to take it slow with him and let him start at one position and let him learn on the run. He's not going to be able to handle learning all three positions. If you ask him to be an X, Y and Z, you're setting him up for failure."

    "A.J. won't reach his full potential," another evaluator said. "It's hard for dumb receivers. I don't know that Julio Jones (who scored a 15, ranking in the bottom 12 among wideouts) will be much better."

    A third evaluator said, "You can't cover that guy. He's so difficult to defend. Will it take him some time? It could. That's on the coaches. It's their job not to give him too much. If you overload him, you could have some problems initially, but he's a great kid. He'll work at it. And he'll get it."

    Florida OT Carl Johnson produced the worst score among this draft class, registering a 6, and Oklahoma State RB Kendall Hunter was the only other athlete to record a single digit, scoring a 9.

    The offensive line and quarterback groups, both expected to score highly given the premium placed on reading defenses and recognizing protection in the NFL, heavily represented the top 10 scores. Alabama QB Greg McElroy registered the top score, correctly answering 43 of the 49 questions he attempted. He was followed by Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo (41), Baylor OG Danny Watkins (40), Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien (38), Idaho QB Nathan Enderle (38), Central Michigan ILB Nick Bellore (36), Portland State TE Julius Thomas (35), Florida State QB Christian Ponder (35), Michigan OG Steve Schilling (35) and Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara (35).

    Although the tests are designed to measure intelligence, many registered NFL player advisers help their clients prepare for the exam, and as a result, the test scores often may be inflated. The Wonderlic company says no tester should improve by more than a handful of points, and any improvement much greater than that should be dismissed.

    Castonzo scored a 35 the first time he took the exam last spring, six points lower than he did at the recent Combine; McElroy scored a 32, jumping 11 points, and Enderle a 40, falling two. On the other hand, Watkins scored a 15 the first time he took the exam last spring, so his 25-point improvement will be discarded by NFL teams, which have expressed some concern about his ability to handle playing multiple positions despite having the physical skill set to play anywhere on the line. Bellore scored a 21 the first time he took the test, showing a 15-point improvement. Amukamara, who registered the top score for a cornerback, improved by 21 points from the 14 he recorded last fall, and teams that have interviewed him have said the 14 score is a closer indicator of his intelligence.

    Will Green and Jones be able to absorb NFL level playbooks? Hmmnn ..


  2. #2
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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    McNabb got a 14. Dan Marino scored a 16. Sure you would like to see your players get high scores like Sam Bradford but it doesn't necessarily translate onto the field. I am willing to bet A.J Green and Julio Jones will both be terrific WR's.

  3. #3
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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Skill players have traditionally received lower scores, while QBs and O linemen tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum. There is little, if any, evidence that this test is a good indicator of how a player will do in the NFL.

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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    "A.J. won't reach his full potential," another evaluator said. "It's hard for dumb receivers. I don't know that Julio Jones (who scored a 15, ranking in the bottom 12 among wideouts) will be much better."
    That seems unusually harsh.

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    The Wonderlic company says no tester should improve by more than a handful of points, and any improvement much greater than that should be dismissed.
    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    On the other hand, Watkins scored a 15 the first time he took the exam last spring, so his 25-point improvement will be discarded by NFL teams, which have expressed some concern about his ability to handle playing multiple positions despite having the physical skill set to play anywhere on the line.
    So basically they're saying this is a test you can teach, but the only way to know whether a player was taught how to answer is if you have a record of him scoring poorly on it in the past. But, you know, understanding how to answer to improve your score by half the points on the test doesn't mean you aren't still dumb as bricks.

  5. #5
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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    I don't really think it's that big a deal. But, how about we all write letters to the GM's of the teams picking ahead of the Rams and tell them how huge a deal it is

    On a completely different topic, it's amazing that we're giving some of these guys college degrees. I'm a senior in college now, and I work my butt off..some of these guys are just flat out dumb and yet seem to find time to get high GPA's and play college football..hmmmm

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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Ive never got why they just dont do a standardized IQ test.

    To me it would be much more useful to know that the guy I'm drafting has a high or low ability to learn, am I right?

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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Our #14 Jones catching some shrapnel in this article. I think this test is largely irrelevant.
    A defeated look of consternation, dissappointment, or even pain. The name derives from the look one often gets when challenged by a large BM.

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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Quote Originally Posted by TylerBishop View Post
    Ive never got why they just dont do a standardized IQ test.

    To me it would be much more useful to know that the guy I'm drafting has a high or low ability to learn, am I right?
    The IQ test takes several hours to administer, and has to be administered by someone licensed. It's very expensive, and it has more historical and vocabulary base information, whereas the Wonderlic seems to have some basic math and logic. IQ tests can also be studied for, aren't a very good measure of whether someone can learn or not, and strongly favor someone who's first language is English.

    I agree that there are better ways of measuring a players ability to learn than the Wonderlic, but I don't think an IQ test is it...perhaps coming up with 50 plays out of a playbook for each position. The players at the combine are given 48 hours to learn as many as they can. Or something like that..

  9. #9
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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Skill players have traditionally received lower scores, while QBs and O linemen tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum. There is little, if any, evidence that this test is a good indicator of how a player will do in the NFL.
    Exactly. Maybe teams put more emphasis on it for quarterbacks or offensive linemen, but there is definitely some question as to whether or not it has any effect on the success of a player. In fact...


    NFL's success using Wonderlic Test subject to interpretation
    By D. Orlando Ledbetter
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    At the NFL Scouting Combine, no stone in a player's background is left unturned.

    In addition to the ad hoc character analysis, teams also try to test the intelligence of the prospects.

    “One guy did ask me, which one would I take: a pillow or a blanket?," Georgia defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "I said, 'A blanket because with a blanket, if I get cold I can cover up and I can also use it as a pillow.' "

    One can conclude that Owens is a survivor and is pretty resourceful from his answer. But can he get to the quarterback or stop the run?

    The prospects are also given the Wonderlic Personnel Test, which was introduced to the NFL by the legendary Paul Brown in the late 1960s. The test requires the players to answer as many of the 50 questions as possible in 12 minutes.

    However, three professors -- Brian D. Lyons of Fresno State, Brian J. Hoffman of the University of Georgia and John W. Michel of Towson University -- have published a research paper questioning the validity of the test in the NFL employment setting.

    The paper was published in a journal called Human Performance in July 2009 and is entitled: "Not much more than g? An examination of the impact of intelligence on NFL performance."

    The group studied a total of 762 players from the draft classes of 2002 (256 players), 2003 (257) and 2004 (249). In sort of a Moneyball-styledanalysis, they crunched the performance numbers of the players' first three years in the league. The average player tenure in the league is 3-1/2 years, according to the NFL Player Association.

    The study concluded that general mental ability (GMA) was unrelated to future NFL performance, the draft selection process or the number of games started in the NFL.

    “The Wonderlic has limited return on investment with its use in the NFL," Lyons said. "That's kind of contrary to what the traditional employment context speaks to with GMA, which is, GMA is one of our strongest predictors of future employee performance. In [most] occupations, the smarter you are, the better you are going to perform.

    “But in this context, because it's so physically based, the results point to that [GMA] really doesn't matter."

    Traditionally, quarterbacks and offensive linemen tend to have the higher Wonderlic scores. Falcons left guard Justin Blalock had a 41, the highest of the 2007 draft class.

    “Those positions are thought to be more kind of cognitively based," said Lyons, whose expertise is human resource management. "You do need some degree of decision-making. You do need some degree of problem-solving type of skills.

    “The problem is that the Wonderlic really doesn't evaluate necessary football-related knowledge that you need to perform."

    Lyons contends that teams could get better predictors on performance by doing more football intelligence-based testing.

    “You are concerned about whether a person can retain playbook knowledge," Lyons said. "Then there should be tests or evaluations geared toward whether or not a person can memorize plays, memorize routes, schemes and defensive schemes, too."

  10. #10
    thermobee's Avatar
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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Skill players have traditionally received lower scores, while QBs and O linemen tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum. There is little, if any, evidence that this test is a good indicator of how a player will do in the NFL.
    Exactly. No real surprises here. I dont think any team uses the test as any real indicator. The interview process is probably a lot more important than this.

  11. #11
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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    Quote Originally Posted by AtlantaRamFan View Post
    The IQ test takes several hours to administer, and has to be administered by someone licensed. It's very expensive, and it has more historical and vocabulary base information, whereas the Wonderlic seems to have some basic math and logic. IQ tests can also be studied for, aren't a very good measure of whether someone can learn or not, and strongly favor someone who's first language is English.

    I agree that there are better ways of measuring a players ability to learn than the Wonderlic, but I don't think an IQ test is it...perhaps coming up with 50 plays out of a playbook for each position. The players at the combine are given 48 hours to learn as many as they can. Or something like that..
    I wouldn't think the cost of the test would be too much of a limiting factor when teams are making decisions about multi-million dollar investments. Of course, that also underscores the point that probably nobody is using this as a major indicator of success. In theory, IQ tests are not supposed to be teachable (although I personally question that, as well), and although they might favor native English speakers, it is worth noting that this also somewhat reflects the reality of challenges a non-native speaker might face in learning on the job.

    I would also note that the degree to which teams are looking for intelligence at various positions probably varies. The article mentions New England's defense. Another example would be Martz' offense that often required receivers to make reads on option routes. In either case, the issue wouldn't be whether a player can add and subtract so much as whether they could grasp how their responsibilities would be different depending on what they saw. Pattern recognition would be very important but also the "football intelligence" of knowing what it means to that particular player (e.g., Am I covering the tight end or the runningback? Do I run the comeback route because it's man coverage or the deep slant to find the hole in the zone?).

  12. #12
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: Low Wonderlic scores ding elite NFL prospects ..

    I have done business with the wonderlic people (they administer personality tests for employment screening purposes as their main line of business). I have had a number of discussions with their senior execs over the years about the test as it pertains to the combine.

    The most important thing to remember about the wonderlic is that like ALL standardized tests, its first and foremost a reading comprehension test. Agents dont spend a lot of time training players on the wonderlic (and some spend none at all) because its very difficult to improve someones basic reading comprehension skills over a six week period (the same reason its pretty hard to study for and materially move the needle on the SAT). There are test taking skills that can help you, but its very mentally taxing to practice it and these guys are wiped out physically after long days of training for the combine events and the agents want them to relax a bit at night to the extent possible. AJ Green's comment was a classic, "Sure, i only got a ten, but i only did 20 questions so i got half right." The fact is that if you cant read very well (and comprehend quickly) you are going to do very poorly on this test and you guys realize that many major college programs emphasize keeping kids eligible to play grade point average wise, but that does not mean that many of them are very good as students.

    A score under 10 indicates functional adult illiteracy, which doesnt mean that a guy cant learn the plays, just that it is likely to take him longer hours of study to be able to do it. The nfl playbook isnt easy, you can have a great wonderlic score, but you still need to study to learn it. In the case of a guy like Gilyard, what we dont know as fans is whether he was simply too stupid or he didnt make the effort. I would bet heavily on the later, rather than the former.

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