Edgar Thompson at the Palm Beach Post reported on Wednesday that Sam Bradford nailed the Wonderlic test at the NFL combine last month, scoring a 36 on the 50-question intelligence test.
For a little bit of context, Ben Volin of the Post’s Gator Bytes blog notes that the average score of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks in 2009 was 28, while the average of all quarterbacks in the league was 24. In other words, 36 is very good.
I thought this was an interesting piece of news in the aftermath of my debate with Michael Felder over at In The Bleachers regarding the pro potential of Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen.
Oh, and Clausen’s score: 23.
Cue statistics guru Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders, who immediately tweeted when the scores were released, “Wonderlic has absolutely no correlation to pro viability at any position, including QB.”
Thank you, Aaron, for robbing me of all that smug satisfaction I was taking in having been proved right in my endorsement of Bradford.
I will dive into the numbers at some later date, but the data do seem to back Schatz up. For example, based on my calculations using Volin’s reported scores, the correlation between passer rating and Wonderlic score among the starting quarterbacks in the NFL in 2009 was -.05.
However, consider that of the top 10 starting quarterbacks in terms of passer rating in 2009, eight scored at or above the league average of 28. Only one, Brett Favre with a 22, scored below Clausen. Conversely, of the bottom 10, four scored below the threshold of 28.
“Statistically” speaking, Schatz and others of that ilk — and I consider myself of one those guys from time to time — might dismiss such findings as insignificant. Yet, I suspect that while the Wonderlic by itself is not a good predictor of success, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have value in evaluating a prospect.
Physical skills and factors beyond a quarterback’s control, such as the quality of his teammates, function as something like necessary conditions — Ryan Fitzpatrick of Buffalo scored a 48 and Matthew Stafford of Detroit scored a 38, and look where that got them last year.
At the end of the day, though, if I were a GM trying to decide between two quarterbacks who I thought had the physical tools to succeed in the pros, I know that I’d feel better staking my reputation on the guy who had the 36.