The Wonderlic Does Not Matter In Predicting QB Performance in the NFL


This week was “let’s leak the QB Wonderlic scores” time in the NFL. So it’s now that I must remind you that it doesn’t matter in predicting who will be a bust and who will not. In fact, you can make a pretty good argument that knowing the Wonderlic and reacting to it could lead to worse decisions at the position.

But to best demonstrate, let’s go to the actual results. I took all the compiled reported scores here for quarterbacks and pulled the bottom group of QBs listed and top group in terms of Wonderlic score going back to 1978. But, I then limited it to 1st and 2nd round picks to account for other scouting factors and look at guys who were perceived at the time as starting prospects.

Here were the guys in the bottom 25 that I could find, all with Wonderlic scores of 22 or lower:

I listed the first 4 year stats for the guys drafted in 2014 or earlier. ANYA+ is an adjusted score where 100 is average and a higher score is better.

Here are the top 24 reported scorers, with scores of 32 or higher, among first and second round picks.

The High Scorers were drafted on average at a better position (average of pick 14 versus pick 20). 60% of the High Scorers went in the Top 10. 44% of the Low Scorers did. So we would expect that maybe the High Scorers would have slightly better numbers based on that.

But it’s the opposite. The low scorers started more games (40.9 to 32.5) in the first 4 years and had better passing stats (ANYA+ of 96 versus 87). The low scorers played in more games, with a winning percentage of 50.1%, while the high scorers were at 46.4%. In looking over those two lists, the bust rate was twice as high with the second list.

I’m working on a larger piece on scouting and public comments on quarterback prospects pre-draft. One thing I’ve noticed is that when a quarterback is described as “smart” that tends to be a bad indicator. It’s not that intelligence is a bad trait to have for a quarterback, in fact, it’s a very good one. But standardized testing intelligence may not be equivalent to sports intelligence and processing, and second, if that’s the trait that someone is choosing to highlight, it may be like damning someone by praising them for their “personality.”