While most NFL prospects flex their muscles on the field at the NFL Combine to try and dazzle scouts, a their brains will come under a different kind of scrutiny with the Wonderlic test.
The Wonderlic test is similar to an IQ test, created in 1936 by E. F. Wonderlic to measure general cognitive ability in math, vocabulary and reasoning. It was used by the Navy during World War II to determine candidates for pilot training and navigation.
Tom Landry, a two-time Super Bowl champ as head coach of the Cowboys and innovator of the now-popular 4-3 defense, started using the Wonderlic test in the 1970s to evaluate players. With the success Landry had, many teams began to follow suit, and now it’s regular practice in the NFL for draft prospects to take the test.
Over time, players have benefited from taking the test while others never even got to sniff the NFL because of it. Here’s a look at the best and worst reported scores in NFL history.
MORE: Wonderlic scores by current players, from Tom Brady to Ryan Fitzparick
Highest Wonderlic scores in NFL history
50 — Pat McInally (punter)
The only known player to get a perfect score on the Wonderlic test came from Harvard and played primarily on special teams (though he was used occasionally as a wide receiver and hauled in five TDs throughout his career). Go figure. McInally was chosen in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft by the Bengals and appeared in one Pro Bowl and one Super Bowl. He also completed 3 of 4 career passes for 81 yards. Consider him an Ivy League Taysom Hill.
49 — Mike Mamula (defensive end)
Mamula’s tale is a cautionary one for NFL GMs. The Eagles were so impressed by his Wonderlic scores and his combine performance they traded up to select him seventh overall, ahead of Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Mamula played six seasons and never made a Pro Bowl.
48 — Kevin Curtis (wide receiver)
Curtis posted the highest recorded Wonderlic score by a wide receiver in NFL history and was selected in the third round in 2003 by the Rams. He played eight seasons, compiling 253 catches for 3,297 yards and 20 touchdowns.
48 — Ryan Fitzpatrick (quarterback)
It’s no surprise that Fitzpatrick, another Harvard product, wound up on this list. He’s certainly seen some highs and lows throughout his career, playing for eight different teams since being drafted by the Rams in 2005. But 15 seasons later, “Fitz Magic” is still going strong.
48 — Ben Watson (tight end)
Watson posted the highest Wonderlic score for a tight end back in 2004, catching enough interest for the Patriots to select him with the 32nd pick in the first round. Watson won a ring his rookie year in Super Bowl XXXIX, though he only played one game before getting injured and missing the rest of the season. He won the Bart Star in 2018 with the Ravens and has played 16 seasons in the NFL.
Lowest Wonderlic scores in NFL history
6 — Vince Young (quarterback)
Coming off a National Championship at Texas, expectations were high for Young coming into the league, though some were concerned about his low Wonderlic score. Still, the Titans gambled on him by taking him third overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. The gamble didn’t pay off, though. In six seasons, Young threw 46 touchdowns and 51 interceptions.
6 — Frank Gore (running back)
Gore’s poor Wonderic score might have had a negative impact on his draft stock, as he was selected 65th overall in the third round by the 49ers in 2005. It doesn’t look like it ever affected his productivity, though; he’s accumulated 15,347 yards and 79 touchdowns in 15 seasons. He currently stands third in all-time rushing yards in NFL history, just 290 yards behind Walter Payton.
6 — Oscar Davenport (quarterback)
Davenport was projected to be a late-round prospect with developmental upside in 1999. Then the North Carolina QB scored a 6 on his Wonderlic test and went undrafted, never making it onto an NFL roster.
5 — Ed Prather (safety)
Another player who never played a down in the NFL, “Pig” Prather had a bad reputation for blowing coverages, and to NFL GMs, his poor Wonderlic scores seemed to reflect poor decision-making skills on the field as he went undrafted in 2001.
4 — Darren Davis (running back)
Davis rushed for 3,763 yards in four seasons at Iowa State. Then he scored a 4 on the Wonderlic exam at the 2000 NFL Combine and went undrafted, eventually going on to play four seasons in the Canadian Football League before being cut.
4* — Morris Claiborne
While most players with low Wonderlic scores have seen teams shy away, the Cowboys actually traded up to get Claiborne with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. In eight seasons, he’s managed seven interceptions and 265 tackles. He sat out the first four games of the 2019 season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but still won his first Super Bowl ring as a member of the Chiefs despite being inactive for the game.
Claiborne’s score should come with an asterisk, as he was later reported to be diagnosed with a learning disability.
MORE: NFL mock draft 2020
What is a good score on the Wonderlic test?
The average score for the Wonderlic test is 20 out of a possible 50, according to Wonderlic Inc. The test is timed and composed of 50 questions, with one point awarded for each correct answer. A person who scores a 10 or above is considered literate, while anything lower might suggest illiteracy.
While the average score on the Wonderlic is 20, the definition of what is a good score on the Wonderlic test varies. Often times, the quality of the score can be equated to the types of position or job an applicant or test taker is pursuing. Here’s a look at average scores by job title:
Average Wonderlic score in the NFL by position
Based on data gathered from wonderlictestsample.com (which is not a complete aggregation of all Wonderlic scores from NFL combines, but does include scores from 622 different players), here’s a rough look at the average score for NFL prospects by position.
It might come as a surprise to some that the big hog mollies on the offensive line had the highest average score, narrowly edging out tight ends, though it makes sense if you consider all of the blocking schemes they have to learn and blitzes they have to read. Quarterbacks come in a respectable third, while linebackers, defensive tackles and defensive ends all come in with above average scores.
Want to see how you compare to NFL players? Try taking a sample Wonderlic test.
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