Ah, the annual tradition known as the Leaking of the Wonderlic Scores. The results of the tests, administered to college prospects during February’s draft combine and meant to gauge problem-solving and critical-thinking capacities, are supposed to be kept secret by the league, but gosh darn it if they don’t find a way to emerge in cherry blossom-like fashion, every spring.
Wonderlic scores for the most highly regarded quarterback prospects this year hit the Internet recently, courtesy of NFL analyst and former scout John Middlekauff, and let’s just say that they look good for Josh Allen — and not so much for Lamar Jackson. Here are the scores, which can range from 1 to a high of 50, per Middlekauff:
- Josh Allen: 37
- Josh Rosen: 29
- Sam Darnold: 28
- Baker Mayfield: 25
- Lamar Jackson: 13
It’s worth noting that we don’t have official confirmation of these scores, but assuming they are accurate, it could be another reason to like Allen as something of a dark-horse candidate to be taken by the Browns with the draft’s No. 1 overall pick next month, instead of Darnold, the presumptive favorite. Allen has gained renown for his huge arm, but has also raised some major red flags with his inaccuracy (just a 56.2 completion percentage in three years at Wyoming), so the possibility that he’s the brightest of the top quarterback prospects adds an interesting facet to his résumé.
For Louisville’s Jackson, the leaked score adds ammunition to detractors of the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and two-time ACC offensive player of the year. Some NFL figures even think he should move to wide receiver, a position change he is resisting, including former NFL general manager Bill Polian, who has claimed that Jackson lacks the throwing talent to succeed as a quarterback but has the athleticism to make an impact elsewhere on the field.
On his “3 and Out” podcast, Middlekauff noted that a Wonderlic score “above 22, 25 for a quarterback is more than enough,” while “anything over 30 is fantastic.” He said of Jackson, “Just because you score low, [that] does not mean you’re going to be a bad player,” but added that NFL teams would look at his “concerning” score and wonder if he had “the ability to take everything in and play the quarterback position at the NFL from a mental level.”
“People in the NFL were already questioning his ability,” Middlekauff said of Jackson. “This is only going to make those questions become stronger.”
Jackson’s supporters can point to Hall of Famer Dan Marino’s notoriously low Wonderlic score, 16, as evidence that the test is far from the end-all-and-be-all measurement of quarterbacking aptitude. Other successful NFL signal-callers who scored in Jackson’s range (per wonderlictestsample.com) were Neil O’Donnell (13) Donovan McNabb (14) and Randall Cunningham (15).
On the flip side, while Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick set the standard for quarterbacks by scoring a 48 on the test, he’s had a journeyman career in the NFL, albeit with some stretches of above-average play. Alabama’s Greg McElroy, who quickly washed out of the league, is tied at the top with a 48, and Blaine Gabbert and Drew Henson posted elite scores of 42 without much NFL success to show for it.
Some observers, though, pointed out that the Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks still active in the NFL — Eli Manning (39), Aaron Rodgers (35), Tom Brady (33), Nick Foles (29), Drew Brees (28), Russell Wilson (28), Joe Flacco (27) and Ben Roethlisberger (25) — posted an average score of above 30, hinting that a very good result might actually correlate to the highest success.
The quarterbacks who went first and second in the 2016 draft, and have rewarded their respective teams by showing great promise, both posted excellent scores: the Rams’ Jared Goff with a 34 and the Eagles’ Carson Wentz with a 40. Meanwhile, the other quarterback who was taken in the first round that year, the Broncos’ Paxton Lynch (drafted 26th overall), scored just 18 and has looked poor in limited action.
Ultimately, it appears there is reason to look at a low Wonderlic score as a warning sign for a quarterback prospect, but not enough to dismiss him completely, particularly if he is highly athletic. In the same vein, a superior score hardly ensures a trip to Canton, but it can be cause for optimism.
The good news for Jackson is that he’ll still be expected to get drafted in the first round, giving him the chance to prove his worth. For his part, Allen’s stock may have risen even more, following combine and pro-day workouts in which he wowed NFL teams with his arm talent.
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