Monday, March 21, 2011

The 2011 Wonderlics


As you well know, I have written about the Wonderlic Cognitive Inventory several times. For the benefit of those who do not know, this is a standardized intelligence test that has been around since the 1930s. It is the only IQ test the NFL relies upon for evaluating its prospects. This test is considered most important vis-à-vis quarterbacks.

Some four days ago, leaks began to surface about who scored what in the most recent round of NFL Combine Wonderlics. Let’s just say that there were some big surprises.

The Most Notable Scores

1. Greg McElroy, QB Alabama 43

2. Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri 42

3. Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College 41

4. Danny Watkins, OT/OG Baylor (via Canada) 40

5. Scott Tolzien, QB Wisconsin 38

6. Steve Schilling, OG Michigan 35

7. Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska 35

8. Julius Thomas, TE Portland State 35

9. Christian Ponder, QB Florida State 35

10. Ricky Stanzi, QB Iowa 30

11. Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas 26

12. Cam Newton, QB Auburn 21

13. Jake Locker, QB Washington 20

14. Julio Jones, WR Alabama 15

15. B.J. Green, WR Georgia 9 or 10 {disputed}

16. Patrick Peterson 9

The Cossacks are Chuckling

Boy, this is some interesting material! If you have been following path to the draft, let’s just call this disruptive and disturbing. How so? Let me count the ways…

Greg McElroy is not really on anybody’s prospect list but he just busted the high score on the Wonderlic. This puts him in squarely in the Ryan Fitzpatrick zone. He might make it, despite being a low draft pick or a non-pick.

Blaine Gabbert may have just solidified his claim on the #1 pick in the draft. Prior to the leak of the test scores, many important voices (Mike Mayock) were already touting Gabbert as the #1 QB and possibly the #1 pick. That big score is usually interpreted by GMs as meaning “Super Bowl Material”. If the Panthers pass, the Bengals won’t. Gabbert goes no lower than #4 unless he gets into a car accident (God forbid). I want to warn you that Alex Smith once had a giant Wonderlic score like this. It didn’t stop him from going bust. I think Gabbert is considerably better than Smith, but I am still skeptical.

Despite being a heavy legged waist bender, Castonzo is ranked by many as the top lineman in the draft. Not by me. I say Pouncey is #1. Still, Castonzo has impressed everybody with his character and intelligence. His Wonderlic ain’t going to hurt him any. Herm Edwards says that offensive linemen are usually the smartest guys on the team. I am sure there are teams that aim for this goal, and plan to keep it that way. Castonzo is going to continue to be a factor.

Danny Watkins is an interesting case. He is a 27 year old Canadian kid who stands 6-4 and weighs in at 310. He is an intriguing candidate, but there are disputes about him. Most believe he is well past his growing spurt, so he is as big and strong as he is going to get. If you like him as-is, take him. If you want him to get stronger… well… maybe not. His IQ is going to help him out.

Scott Tolzien is in a similar boat as McElroy. Many do not regard him as a prospect, but he just helped himself.

Steve Schilling has been flying under the radar. I have not yet heard his name mentioned on ESPN or the NFL Network. He just got noticed.

Now we come to one of the great disruptions of the test: Prince Amukamara 35, Patrick Peterson 9. That’s a blowout victory. It resembles the score of Super Bowl 18. For those who don’t know Patrick Peterson is ranked by some as the top prospect in the draft, and certainly the top CB. Amukamara is the runner-up in the #2 corner, and a top 20 pick. The disparity in scores here is bound to faction the league. Defensive coaches who believe in instinct will certainly continue to extol Peterson. They will blow off the Wonderlic scores. DCs who love smart players are going to move Amukamara way up their boards. There are sizable factions on both sides of the instinct/intelligence question in the NFL.

Julius Thomas is a very small college tight end who was on nobody’s radar screen. He just got noticed. I would bet that somebody wants to interview him now. If the Big Tuna were still in the league, he would be interviewing this kid.

Christian Ponder has been slowly but surely creeping up everybody’s draft board. With a score 1 point lower than Sam Bradford’s last year, he just helped himself tremendously. He’s got one of those Super Bowl capable scores, and I guarantee that several important people now view him as a franchise QB. Although it looks doubtful, he may yet go in the 1st round, and ahead of Ryan Mallet. The kid has no significant negatives on his record.

Ricky Stanzi is another guy who just got noticed.

Now we come to another one of those interesting score in the test! Ryan Mallet is one of the hottest buzz guys in the 2011 draft… for good reasons and for bad. A famous St. Louis sports writer declared Ryan Mallet left Michigan because he was seriously addicted to several illegal substances at the time. Reportedly, he still has a drug habit, although it might just be marijuana. At the moment these claims have not been substantiated. Mallet has not tested positive to anything yet. He claims he is drug free. There are many who are in love with his arm, his accuracy, and the fact that he played under center. He reminds me of something between Drew Bledsoe and Jim Everett, but with sketchy aspects to him. 25 is the average score of an NFL QB. Mallet is 1 point higher than that, but his score is considerably lower than his competitors. 28 is considered the minimum score for a Super Bowl capable QB. Mallet is 2 points shy of this mark. Ryan’s score of 26 is going to microwave this debate.

Cam Newton scored 21 on his Wonderlic. While this is not a terrible score (like Vince Young’s 9) it is 3 points lower than Tim Tebow, and 2 points lower than Jimmy Clausen last year. When Tebow and Clausen scored their 24 and 23 point last year, howls went up from many league sources. It was not well received. This is because 25 is average, and 28 is the start of the sweetness zone. Those who love Cam are going to label the Wonderlic culturally biased, and they will take heart in the fact that his score is 233% of Vince Young’s. I will bet you dollars to donuts that there are experts in the league who now rate Christian Ponder higher than Cam Newton.

And now we come to a tragic case. It would seem my favorite QB prospect, Jake Locker, scored a 20 on this test. This just might be the death of his 1st round hopes. If you are one of the many out there wondering how Jake just fell out of the 1st round last week, look no further than this score. It’s 5 points below average, 4 points below Tebow, 3 below Clausen, and 1 behind Newton. It looks like a bottom of the barrel score. I don’t understand this. He does not strike me as a 20 guy. He must have had a bad day, or got off to a poor start. This kid is a Gemini, and he should be a smart guy. I continue to believe he will be a hell of a QB for the Seattle Seahawks. The hometown folks love him and believe in him, and sometimes that’s all it takes.

And now we come to the other big disruption brought to you by Mr. Wonderlic. B.J. Green capped his bad combine by making a 9 on his Wonderlic test. I still remember the NFL SoundFX clip where Warren Sapp was poking fun at Akili Smith for scoring a 9 on his Wonderlic. The QB killer regards this as a bad score. Mr. Green's response to this charge was that he actually scored a 10. Okay… Ad meanwhile, his SEC rival Julio Jones tacked down a 15. This is not a terrific score either, but it underscores the fact that Julio mastered B.J.’s ass at the 2011 NFL Combine.

It should be understood that the Wonderlic is not so heavily emphasized in the case of Wide Receivers. This is strange, because the WR is the other half of the passing combo, and it is considered the second most difficult NFL position to master for kids coming out of college. It stands to reason that good intelligence can help shorten that learning curve. I, myself, keep wondering how many signs NFL GMs and draft experts will ignore before the move Julio ahead of B.J. on the draft charts. Several may have already quietly done so, and not told.

I eagerly look forward to seeing which one of these of these two young men goes first in the draft. I continue to believe B.J. would have the better chemistry with Sam Bradford, but you have to love everything we are seeing these days about Julio Jones. Heads we win, tails we win.