Ray's Replies: Breaking down the Wonderlic

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Ray's Replies: Breaking down the Wonderlic

Q. With the NFL scouting combine coming up, I was thinking about the Wonderlic test. I’ve heard so much about it but I still don’t know what it is. I’ve also heard some people say it has no validity whatsoever. I’m just wondering if you could explain what it is and give me your opinion on how useful -- or not useful -- it is.

--Scott S.
Cherry Hill, N.J.

A. The Wonderlic test dates back to the 1930s. It was created as a means to evaluate candidates for jobs in business. It was not created as a measuring stick for football players but that’s how it is viewed by many people because they never heard of the Wonderlic in any other context.

The test consists of 50 questions with a 12-minute time limit. It is not like some standardized tests, which ask questions about history or literature. The Wonderlic test is more about comprehension and puzzle solving. A sample question: “If rope is selling for 20 cents for two feet, how many feet can you buy for $15?”

What does that have to do with football?

Good question.

The Wonderlic doesn’t measure IQ and it doesn’t reveal a lot about your educational background. It is more about your ability to think through a problem. There is also the matter of pressure, working against the clock, trying to answer all the questions before time runs out. Most people do not finish the full test.

Some media members have taken the test (I never have). Most agreed the questions are not that difficult but, for the players, knowing how much is riding on everything they do at the combine, it can be a nerve-wracking experience.

In all the years of testing, only one player -- Pat McInally, a receiver and punter from Harvard -- has scored a perfect 50. McInally was selected in the fifth round of the 1975 draft by Cincinnati and played 10 seasons in the NFL. Another Harvard man, Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, completed the test in nine minutes and scored a 48.

A high Wonderlic score was another factor in Mike Mamula’s dramatic rise in the 1995 draft. In addition to running a fast 40-yard dash, Mamula aced the Wonderlic, reportedly scoring a 49. What did it mean? As it turned out, not a lot. He played five seasons with the Eagles and finished with fewer sacks (31.5) than Wonderlic points.

There was a better correlation with Brian Westbrook. The Villanova star had the highest Wonderlic score among the running backs at the 2002 combine. That was one reason why Andy Reid felt confident in drafting Westbrook in the third round: he wanted a back who was smart enough to learn multiple positions in his offense. Westbrook could do that and it made him one of the most versatile weapons in the league.

To me, the Wonderlic is just one more piece of the puzzle in evaluating a player. I take it all -- the 40-yard dash, the vertical leap, the bench press, the Wonderlic -- and use it to fill in any gaps that are left after studying the game tape. That’s still the most important part of the evaluation process -- seeing how a player actually plays -- but the combine tests, the individual workouts, the one-on-one interviews help complete the profile.

What does a low Wonderlic score mean? It doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Two years ago, LSU’s Patrick Peterson scored a nine, lowest among all cornerbacks. Arizona didn’t care. The Cardinals drafted him in the first round and Peterson is now one of the league’s rising stars.

That same year, Curtis Marsh scored a 30, tied for second among cornerbacks. Marsh has been with the Eagles for two seasons and done zilch.

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

On verge of Super Bowl, Eric Rowe responds to Eagles, Roseman

The Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago with a 7-9 record. 

In a couple weeks, Eric Rowe might be playing in the Super Bowl. 

Rowe, of course was the Eagles second-round pick in 2015 and went on to have a promising rookie season. But in 2016, the change of head coaches brought a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme, which Rowe apparently didn't fit. So a few days before the season began, he was dealt to the New England, where he has become a big part of their defense. 

In his after-the-season press conference on Jan. 4, Eagles vice president of football operations Howie Roseman was asked about the trade and gave a somewhat curious answer. He said the team made the move because the front office had already determined they were not going to give Rowe an extension, even though he wouldn't have been eligible for two more seasons. 

If that sounded weird to Eagles fans, they weren't alone. It sounded weird to Rowe too, when the Wilmington News Journal's Martin Frank caught up with him this week. 

“That’s a long time away," Rowe said. "If that’s the reason, that’s really, really weird. You know, it’s whatever. If he thinks that, then I guess that’s what it was. They’re thinking way down the line.” 

Rowe, 24, ended up starting seven games during this regular season for New England, but played just 43 percent of the Patriots' defensive snaps. If Rowe played 50 percent of defensive snaps in 2016 or if he does it in 2017, the fourth-round pick the Eagles get back in the trade will turn into a third-rounder, so there's still a chance next year. 

While a third-round pick wouldn't be bad, the Eagles gave up on a young, talented corner just a year after drafting him because he didn't fit what they wanted to do. 

Shortly after the trade, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called Rowe a good cover corner but cited the development of Jalen Mills as a reason why Rowe became expendable. Schwartz said he appreciated Rowe, but the personnel staff "decided to use him as an asset, and as coaches, we just deal with that and keep playing." 

It was pretty clear during training camp that Rowe had fallen out of favor with the Eagles. He was buried behind Mills and others on the depth chart, so maybe the trade was the best thing for him. 

"That was frustrating, just kind of like thinking, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Rowe said to the Wilmington News Journal. "Yeah, I made mistakes, but everybody makes mistakes. I'm not making bad mistakes. I'm making plays. Why am I sliding down? That was frustrating times. I would just go home and my girlfriend's there, and I'm telling her all this stuff. I'd tell my parents, and they're like, 'Just keep your head up, just keep working because you never know. Then boom, the trade comes up." 

And now he might get a chance to play in the Super Bowl, while the Eagles desperately need to fix their cornerback position before next season. 

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers-Trail Blazers 5 things: Streaking Sixers meet tough stretch

Sixers vs. Trail Blazers
7 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 6:30

Coming off of an impressive win over the Raptors Wednesday, the Sixers (14-26) welcome the Trail Blazers (18-26) to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday night for the first game of a back-to-back. 

Here’s what to watch for the matchup:

1.  Streaking Sixers
What a new year it’s been for the Sixers.

Winning seven of their last nine games has Joel Embiid thinking playoffs. The Sixers are 5½ games out of the eighth seed in the East, and should get even better if (or when) Ben Simmons makes his debut.

With five teams ahead of them, it seems unlikely the Sixers get in, but why not enjoy the streak while it lasts and give Embiid and the youngsters a taste of their first success in the NBA?

2. Heating up
Speaking of enjoying the streak while it lasts, the schedule gets tougher from here on out.

With five sets of back-to-backs over the next two weeks, the team will be forced to play at least five games without Embiid. And the difference with "The Process" on the floor and off is staggering. The Sixers are 12-17 with Embiid, but a putrid 2-9 without the rookie sensation. Much of that can be attributed to Embiid’s stellar defense and Jahlil Okafor’s um, less than stellar, whatever he calls what he does on the defensive end.

3. Super Dario
Dario Saric’s improved play has been another catalyst for the hot streak. Saric has elevated his game during the 7-2 run, raising his numbers in points and rebounds, giving the Sixers a solid second unit. In fact, Saric is second (behind Embiid) among rookies in points (9.7) and rebounds (5.9) per game. 

“If Joel Embiid weren’t in the league, you’d have to talk about him in consideration for Rookie of the Year,” head coach Brett Brown said after Wednesday’s win.

4. Another one
After slowing the Raptors' All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on Wednesday, the Sixers face another dynamic backcourt in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The duo averages a combined 49.5 points per game, nearly half (46 percent) of the Blazers' total points per game.

Luckily for the Sixers, the Blazers are an abysmal 7-17 on the road this year, including 5-10 vs. the Eastern Conference. 

5. This and that
• The Blazers have given up an average of 114 points over their three-game losing streak. The Sixers have scored 114 or more points in five of their 30 games this season. 

• The Sixers are 3-4 in the first game of back-to-backs and 1-6 in the second leg. The Sixers face the Hawks Saturday.

• After signing a four-year, $70 million contract with the Blazers in the offseason, former Sixer Evan Turner is averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game, all down from his four-year average while with the Sixers. 

• Nearly every Sixer received a player vote for the All-Star Game: Embiid (43), Sergio Rodriguez (8), T.J. McConnell (4), Okafor (4), Simmons (3), Jerryd Bayless (2), Robert Covington (2), Nerlens Noel (2), Gerald Henderson (1), Ersan Ilyasova (1), Richaun Holmes (1), Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (1), Saric (1).