INDIANAPOLIS -- The Wonderlic Test, administered to players during the NFL Scouting Combine, is a 50-question quiz with a 12-minute time limit. The number of questions answered correctly is your score, plain and simple. The best way to describe the questions is that they are similar to those found on the SAT test. In my experiences, players who struggled academically had trouble with this test.
During my NFL days, we performed a study on the Wonderlic Test scores of all active players. The NFL average on first attempts was 20.4, with offensive centers averaging the highest score (26) and running backs averaging the lowest (17). Quarterbacks boasted an average of 25, and the other positions broke down as follows: offensive tackle (22.5), offensive guard and tight end (22), safety and linebacker (21), defensive end (20), defensive tackle and fullback (19), cornerback and wide receiver (18).
Of all the players I was around during my 29-year career in the NFL, I cannot remember anyone who scored more than 20 and had trouble learning our system -- regardless of position.
Players who scored less than 20 were not necessarily unable to learn our system, but I always thought it was a red flag when a player scored in the teens. Not an absolute indicator that the player can't learn, but a concern. When that happened, we would explore other avenues to find out if the player would be able learn our system. We looked to determine "football intelligence" through these methods:
» Asking the player's college coaches about his learning ability.
» Having our coaches devise a blackboard test purely covering football.
» Watching tape to see if they routinely made mistakes.
» And finally, administering the Wachs-Berger Test. (This test, designed by Harry Wachs and Ron Berger, did not consist of any reading or writing. And we found the test to be the most accurate predictor of a player's ability to learn our system.)
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We never relied on just one of these methods -- everything factored in.
Regardless of raw intelligence, I found the single most important characteristic in determining whether a player will fit into your system is his desire to learn.
However, a player's ability to learn a system is only half the story. Often, less intelligent players have trouble managing their lives off the field. And of course, off-field issues can affect on-field performance. Player aptitude is important, both on and off the field.
At the end of the day, the Wonderlic Test is a helpful evaluation tool, but it is certainly not foolproof.