One of the interesting moments of every NFL combine is the day that the players’ Wonderlic scores begin leaking to the press. Who scored high? Who scored low? It’s always big news, particularly when the scores are attached to high profile picks like the top quarterbacks.
In today’s NFL in particular, there’s a premium on the quarterback position, particularly what’s inside their helmet. As offensive schemes become more complex and teams depend on line of scrimmage adjustments, teams expect a balance of the expected physical tools like arm strength and mobility along with the ability to make quick, intelligent decisions.
Since being used by Tom Landry’s Cowboy teams many years ago to assess players’ cognitive ability, the NFL gradually jumped on board and used the popular test as part of the annual combine. Each year pundits weigh in on the value of the Wonderlic test, but like it or not it’s become a mainstay in the evaluation process. Certainly some players have scored poorly and gone on to have successful careers. Much was made a few years back when A.J. Green scored an eight but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most successful receivers in the NFL. For skilled position players there doesn’t seem to be a fear of drafting someone with a low score, but the quarterback position seems to be a different story altogether. A look at first round quarterback picks from 2010 forward shows that each player selected at the position had at least a 20.
So while it can’t be said that the Wonderlic scores of these players dictates the order they’re picked in the NFL draft, it certainly seems as if there’s a baseline minimum that teams like to see before using a valuable first round pick on a prospective signal caller.
Here’s the breakdown of the first round quarterbacks selected since 2010 with their score and the position in the draft where they were selected:
- 1st pick: Jameis Winston – 27
- 2nd pick: Marcus Mariota – 33
- 3rd pick: Blake Bortles – 28
- 22nd pick: Johnny Manziel – 32
- 32nd pick: Teddy Bridgewater – 20
- 16th pick: EJ Manuel – 28
- 1st pick: Andrew Luck – 37
- 2nd pick: Robert Griffin III – 24
- 8th pick: Ryan Tannehill – 34
- 22nd pick: Brandon Weeden – 27
- 1st pick: Cam Newton – 21
- 8th pick: Jake Locker – 20
- 10th pick: Blaine Gabbert – 42
- 12th pick: Christian Ponder – 35
- 1st pick: Sam Bradford – 36
- 25th pick: Tim Tebow – 22
There seems to be a clear line on the top quarterbacks available in the 2016 draft. Though the order changes depending on which draft expert you choose to listen to, the consensus seems to be that North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, Cal’s Jared Goff, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, and Michigan State’s Connor Cook. Carson Wentz scored a 29 on the Wonderlic and Jared Goff scored an impressive 36 – both seem to be first round locks. Connor Cook scored a 25 and Paxton Lynch scored a 18, both of which are mostly considered 2nd round picks at this time – it will be interesting to see if the streak of quarterbacks drafted in the first round with a Wonderlic test score of 20 or higher continues through 2016.
If you’re curious to try the test for yourself, there are a few different sample Wonderlic tests around the web, including this practice test that gives you an accurate experience with the full 50 questions and a twelve minute time limit.