Ray's Replies: Breaking down the Wonderlic


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.

Best of NHL: Penguins beat Panthers in Sidney Crosby's debut

Best of NHL: Penguins beat Panthers in Sidney Crosby's debut

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored in his season debut as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied to beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday night.

Crosby, who scored on a power play, missed the team's first six games with a concussion. Carl Hagelin and Eric Fehr also scored for the Penguins, who extended a seven-game unbeaten streak against the Panthers.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who has started the first seven games of the season for Pittsburgh, stopped 20 shots. Matt Murray, who backstopped the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in June, served as the backup to Fleury after missing the first six games with a broken hand.

Reilly Smith scored a power-play goal and Mark Pysyk also scored for the Panthers, who have lost 11 of 12 against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

James Reimer made 19 saves in his second start of the season (see full recap).

Kings top Blue Jackets in overtime
LOS ANGELES -- Alec Martinez scored 1:14 into overtime, and the Los Angeles Kings rallied to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 Tuesday night for their third straight victory.

Drew Doughty scored the tying goal with 5:57 left in regulation for the Kings, who won their third straight overtime game after an 0-3-0 start to the season. Captain Anze Kopitar also scored, and third-string goalie Peter Budaj stopped 19 shots in his third consecutive win.

Cam Atkinson scored a tiebreaking power-play goal late in the second period, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves for Columbus. Brandon Saad also scored for the Jackets, who had won two straight after an 0-2-0 start.

Martinez ended it by putting a rebound into an open net for the defenseman's second goal of the season (see full recap).

Lightning strike for seven goals in win
TORONTO -- Steven Stamkos matched a career-high with four points -- two goals and two assists -- and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-3 on Tuesday night.

Frederik Andersen gave up seven goals on only 24 shots, the third time in five starts he has allowed at least five goals and fourth time he's allowed four or more. The 27-year-old has an .851 save percentage so far this season.

Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jonathan Drouin added goals for Tampa Bay, while Ben Bishop made 40 saves.

William Nylander, James van Riemsdyk and Auston Matthews scored for the Maple Leafs, who outshot the Lightning 43-24 (see full recap).

Report: Eagles make inquiry about Bears WR Alshon Jeffery

Report: Eagles make inquiry about Bears WR Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles could be looking for a bigger name outside.

In need of a deep threat — and reportedly in talks about a trade for 49ers wideout Torrey Smith — the Eagles are interested in Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and attempting to make a move for the 2013 Pro Bowler, according to a report Tuesday night by Benjamin Allbright of Mile High Sports Radio.

We followed up with Allbright, who clarified the Eagles simply made an inquiry.

Jeffery, much more of a do-it-all, dynamic wide receiver than the one-dimensional Smith, is 26 years old and can become a free agent at season's end. He'll warrant good money, but would make the Eagles better in more ways than one compared to Smith.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder put up 89 catches for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, followed by 85 catches, 1,133 yards receiving and 10 scores in 2014.

This season, he has 520 yards receiving and has yet to find the end zone playing for the quarterback-challenged Bears, who are 1-6 and more than likely thinking about next season.