Another NFL Draft is upon us and that means it’s time for the annual leak of players’ scores on the Wonderlic test. This year’s
loser winner is former LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, who allegedly scored a 4/50 on the test.
This latest leak – and all the tee-heeing at the low score that came with it – was followed by a fairly angry memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, warning teams that anyone caught leaking Wonderlic scores or other personal information:
“You should be reminded that disclosure of inappropriate private or confidential information concerning draft-eligible players is conduct detrimental to the league and will be met with significant discipline when a violation can be established,” Goodell wrote.
“Private or confidential information” means the Wonderlic score and also drug tests, family histories, and interview questions used in face-to-face meetings with potential draftees. This is, of course, meant to protect their privacy. And I don’t think anyone is going to argue that these kids who are fresh out of college football don’t deserve at least a little privacy.
However, the leaks of Wonderlic scores happen every, single year, and as the ESPN article says, often because teams are trying to affect the draft stock of whatever player’s scores they’re leaking. Sort of a despicable shadow game the teams play with each other every year as they jockey for position.
So instead of firing off angry, threatening memos to the front offices of all 32 (?) teams, maybe it’s time the league re-assessed its approach to the Wonderlic and maybe the combine altogether. Three modest proposals follow:
1. Just make the scores public
Virtually everything else about the NFL Combine is televised on the NFL network. I watched Robert Griffin III run both of his 40-yard-dashes live the morning they happened. It didn’t make for especially interesting television, but Twitter nearly exploded. Buzz is a good thing sometimes even if the 40 is largely overrated as an assessment tool for football players.
By the end of the combine, we know virtually every physical capability every player has. The only things we don’t see or find out about from ESPN or the league itself are the results of the interviews and the players’ Wonderlic scores. I can understand keeping the interviews private if for no other reason than not embarrassing the league like the Dolphins did a few years ago.
But keeping the test scores private just adds to their sense of importance and incentivizes the teams to keep leaking scores as long as they don’t get caught. It also just adds meaning to the scores, which don’t necessarily prove anything about a football player’s ability to play football anyway (kinda like the 40-yard-dash. Dan Marino famously scored a 16 on the test – well below average for quarterbacks – and went on to be Dan freaking Marino. Just make the scores public and publicly call them what they are: an evaluation tool, not an assessment of how “smart” a player is.
That way we can all stop being dicks to some kid who has a learning disability.
2. Stop giving the Wonderlic
Other businesses use the Wonderlic test for essentially the same reasons the NFL does. They’d like a picture of how well a potential hire solves problems and thinks quickly on their feet. But how well does a test really do that when it doesn’t actually cover anything related to the actual job? There’s no football on the Wonderlic just like there isn’t any banking or lawyer-ing, so a good player with a high score can still suck in the NFL just like a low-scoring player can be very good.
The importance of the score is also extremely position-dependent. Most believe that you need quarterbacks to score highly on the test to prove that they can think quickly. Then again, see: Marino, Daniel. It is conventional wisdom that a cornerback like Morris Claiborne doesn’t need a good score because the demands of the position are different.
And with both of those major caveats, why keep giving this test when the data from it just needs to be interpreted subjectively anyway? Why go through all the secrecy when the results may or may not be meaningless? Stop giving the test and use the interview time to make the players prove they know what the f–k they’re talking about when it comes to football.
Besides, we’ll find other ways to make fun of football players. Especially when they go Jordan Jefferson at the combine.
3. Players should refuse to take the test
I heard this one on The Dan Patrick Show this morning, and I have to agree with him. There is no reason for a player to take this test anymore since most people seem to generally agree that this test doesn’t really prove anything. It’s become something that’s just a part of the NFL Combine and no one really asks why anymore.
But in the day and age of players refusing to do parts of the workouts at the combine, they should start refusing to take the test too. Like having a bad throwing session or a slow 40 at the combine, the test can really only do damage to a highly touted prospect. They can either score below expectations, making them look like dumbasses to the entire league, or they can meet expectations and everyone forgets about it.
Remember all that hype and pressure on Andrew Luck’s pro-day and how he only had like four incompletions for the entire workout? No one was blown away by that since we all thought he was good already. It was impossible for him to impress at the workout.
The test works exactly the same way. There’s no incentive to take it, and there is no way to exceed expectations, making it a lose-lose for every player whose score “matters.”
Just my three cents to solve this problem. But still, the league has to do something because this has been ridiculous for over a decade now that everyone is obsessed with the combine.