The Wonderlic Test: The Test That Means Nothing

posted April 5, 2012 in CommRadio, NFL Draft by Joe Garofalo

The Wonderlic Test is an aptitude test used by many businesses to test the aptitude of potential future employees. One of the businesses employing the test is the National Football League. Every year at the NFL Combine, all players present are given a 50-question exam and a 12-minute window to complete it. It tests their basic knowledge of all things from football to math to reading comprehension.

While the players present at the NFL Combine have all attended several years of college, average scores are typically not good for prospects. The average NFL prospect scores a 20 out of 50, or a 40 percent, on the test each year. Fortunately for the players, the scores are kept anonymous and are only sent to the NFL's 32 franchises.

But that's where the system is flawed. Each year, several Wonderlic Test scores are leaked to the media. This year, the victim was cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU. The top rated corner reportedly scored a 4 out of 50 on the test, for an 8 percent.

Morris Claiborne’s awful Wonderlic score shouldn’t affect his world class draft status

For most, scoring a 4 would be a tough blow for employment opportunities. Claiborne's score is the lowest reported score since 2000, when Iowa State running back Darren Davis posted the same score.

But the real question is, does the test truly matter for NFL players?

Over previous years, dozens of scores have been leaked to the public. It is, in fact, a relatively common occurrence for quarterback scores to be leaked, as the position is generally considered the most mentally challenging. While the average for all players has been 20, the average for quarterbacks has been slightly higher, at 24. It seems like a good time to examine some of these scores and what they really mean, if anything.


Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB - Buffalo Bills) - 48


The former Harvard quarterback's 48 test was the second highest score ever posted by an NFL player. But looking at Fitzpatrick's numbers, it does not seem to have helped him excel at the position.

Fitzpatrick has thrown 68 career touchdowns and 65 interceptions, and holds a career quarterback rating of 75.0. In his seven year career, Fitzpatrick has not started a playoff game and has never made a Pro Bowl. His high Wonderlic score has not translated to success on the field as of yet.


Aaron Rodgers (QB - Green Bay Packers) - 35


Like Fitzpatrick, Rodgers was a member of the 2005 NFL Draft class. And also like Fitzpatrick, Rodgers fared well compared to the competition, scoring a 35 on his Wonderlic Test.

But unlike Fitzpatrick, Rodgers' NFL career has been very successful since he took the starting job in Green Bay in 2008. He has won a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl and regular season Most Valuable Player award and has been to two Pro Bowls.


Eli Manning (QB - New York Giants) - 39


Like Rodgers, Manning has become one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He too had a very good score on the Wonderlic Test, earning a 39 when he took it in 2004. Manning has two Super Bowls and two Super Bowl MVPs.


Brett Favre (Former QB - Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings) - 22


Favre is one the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, and his long career brought with it many awards and records. He is the all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, interceptions and games started by any player in the league's history.

But if the Wonderlic Test were an indicator of success, Favre would probably not be a three time Most Valuable Player. Favre's score of 22 falls below the average for quarterbacks, and puts him well behind scores earned by the likes of current quarterbacks Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco.


Dan Marino (Former QB - Miami Dolphins) - 16


Marino's career may have been even better than Favre's. The nine time Pro Bowler was a First-Team All-Pro selection three times and won the NFL MVP award in just his second season. He also showed himself to be very apt in the clutch, leading 51 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime, making him the all-time leader in that category.

Yet Marino had Vince Young-like numbers on the Wonderlic Test. Marino scored just a 16 on the test, and yet would go on to have one of the greatest careers the NFL has ever seen.

It seems that the Wonderlic Test has little significance in measuring how successful NFL players will be. Just last season, Blaine Gabbert scored a 42 while Cam Newton scored a 21. Yet it is Newton who seemed to establish himself as the quarterback of the future for his Carolina Panthers, while Gabbert struggled.

The bottom line is that Claiborne's score is irrelevant. He could be a great cornerback or a bust, but whatever happens will have little to do with his score on the Wonderlic Test. No one questions Claiborne's talent or his character, so to question his intelligence in the face of such evidence to the contrary would be a mistake for any team looking at him in the first round.


Joe Garofalo is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email