Dave Boling: Wonderlic worthless as a measure of leadership, toughness

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comApril 15, 2014 

If Colin Kaepernick scored a 37 on his Wonderlic test and Russell Wilson scored a 28, Kaepernick’s score was what percentage higher than Wilson’s?

Don’t bother with the calculation. It doesn’t matter.

These are the kinds of questions, though, that are asked on the Wonderlic tests given to NFL draft prospects.

It’s a topic of the day since so many are hailing Johnny Manziel’s score of 32 as unexpectedly high, and the best among quarterback prospects in this upcoming draft class.

Apparently, some franchises now consider Johnny Algebra as a less risky investment up near the top of the draft because of his smarts.

The Texas A&M product had drawn critical attention for some of the headlines he generated after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.

Many considered that he had been juvenile in his judgment, if not a complete off-the-field knucklehead.

Well, yeah, he was 19 years old. He’s 21 now. It appears that young football players might mature over time. Possible, too, they might actually go to class on occasion.

The Wonderlic itself has been considered a tool with flawed or at least limited application over the years.

It’s a quickie (50 questions in 12 minutes) test that is believed to give a rough indicator of a prospect’s intelligence. The results are supposed to be kept secret but always seem to be leaked, so the reported numbers on players aren’t always considered reliable.

With the huge financial investments that franchises make on these players, it’s obviously prudent to try to use every evaluation imaginable — even if it has become obvious they have very little to do with an athlete’s capacity to shed blockers or outrun a half-crazed linebacker.

Fair to think that such a test might at least hint at a player’s ability to absorb information and catch on to schemes quickly.

But results have provided many dramatic exceptions.

Blaine Gabbert’s impressive 42 score on the Wonderlic might have helped his being drafted by Jacksonville with the 10th overall pick in 2011. But with little blocking or diversionary offensive threats, he struggled to a 66.4 passer rating in three seasons and was traded to San Francisco for a sixth-round draft pick.

Although, he might end up being the best “Jeopardy!” player on the 49ers.

A popular comparison whenever contrasting careers are evaluated is the 1998 draft when Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf went 1-2, and there was debate in some quarters that Leaf might be the pick with the best upside over time.

Manning scored a 28 on the Wonderlic to Leaf’s 27. But the dedicated and driven Manning has earned five NFL MVP awards, 13 Pro Bowl appearances, and passed for 491 touchdowns.

The troubled Leaf washed out and ended up with 14 touchdown passes in his career. And he’s currently in prison in Montana serving a seven-year sentence for felony burglary and drug possession.

More glaring to Seattle fans, is the comparison between Wilson and San Francisco quarterback Kaepernick.

Kaepernick’s reported 37 Wonderlic score was as high as that of Stanford grad Andrew Luck. Wilson’s has been reported as somewhere between 24 and 28.

Kaepernick led the Niners to a Super Bowl and an NFC title game. But Wilson has guided Seattle to a Super Bowl win with almost unerring management of the Seahawks’ offense.

Leadership, toughness, motivation and competitiveness are not functions of intelligence. And the brightest player doesn’t always fit into the requirements of a team’s scheme.

Some analysts says that a Wonderlic below 20 might cause evaluators to steer away from a quarterback.

We might ask those in Miami how they felt about Dan Marino (15 Wonderlic) and his more than 61,000 passing yards, or Steelers’ fans about the four Super Bowls won by Terry Bradshaw (16 Wonderlic).

So, the wise talent scouts will go back to Manziel’s videos and see a wickedly competitive kid with the capacity to improvise and come up with huge plays at the most crucial of times.

And that has nothing to do with calculating the answers to story problems.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440
dave.boling@thenewstribune.com
@DaveBoling

ANSWERS TO QUIZ

  1. 300 feet
  2. 40 years old
  3. .33
  4. $560

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