Do Wonderlic Scores Matter For Quarterbacks?

As the ongoing Marcus Mariota vs. Jameis Winston debate continues, we have some new data to throw into the equation — both men’s Wonderlic scores have leaked. Mariota scored a 33 on the test and Winston scored a 27. While this is new information to us, the teams have had this information for a while. If you’re interested in the Wonderlic, you can read about it here. Basically it’s a rough intelligence test. The average person would score a twenty on the test.

If you’re not a pro athlete — so 99% of you reading this right now aren’t — these scores roughly correlate with professions:

Systems analyst 32
Chemist 31
Electrical engineer 30
Engineer 29
Programmer 29
Accountant 28
Executive 28
Reporter 28
Teacher 28
Copywriter 27
Investment analyst 27
Librarian 27
Electronics technician 26
Salesperson 25
Secretary 24
Dispatcher 23
Drafter 23
Electrician 23
Nurse 23
Bank teller 22
Cashier 21
Firefighter“ 21
Clerical worker“ 21
Machinist 21
Receptionist“ 21
Train conductor“ 21
Craftsman 18
Security guard“ 17
Welder 17
Warehouseman“ 15
Janitor 14

Again, these are averages. I don’t want your emails pointing out that you’re a bank teller who scored a fifty on the Wonderlic. 

For NFL positions these have been the average scores:

Offensive tackle 26
Center 25
Quarterback“ 24
Guard 23
Tight end“ 22
Safety 19
Linebacker“ 19
Cornerback“ 18
Wide receiver“ 17
Fullback 17
Halfback 16

So do these scores tell us anything about whether Mariota or Winston will be successful NFL quarterbacks? Not really. Otherwise Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick would be a hall of famer. That’s because the Wonderlic seems to be a pass/fail proposition. Ideally, you want to score a 25 or higher. 

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet when it come to forecasting NFL quarterback success. 

Let’s take a look at the current crop of quarterbacks and how they scored on th test. 

Current Super Bowl Winning Quarterback scores:

Eli Manning, Ole Miss 39
Aaron Rodgers, Cal 35
Tom Brady, Michigan 33
Peyton Manning, Tennessee 28
Drew Brees, Purdue 28
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 28
Joe Flacco, Delaware 27
Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio) 25

This means current Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have an average Wonderlic of 30.4 (It would be even higher if you counted Brady four times and Eli twice.) This means that the average Super Bowl winning quarterback is roughly as smart as an electrical engineer or chemist in the real world. 

That’s pretty damn smart. 

How about playoff quarterbacks last season and their scores:

AFC:

Tom Brady, 33

Peyton Manning, 28

Ben Roethlisberger, 25

Andrew Luck, 37

Andy Dalton, 29

Joe Flacco, 27

NFC:

Russell Wilson, 28

Aaron Rodgers, 35

Tony Romo, 37

Cam Newton, 21

Matthew Stafford, 38

I’m leaving out the Arizona Cardinals because they played so many quarterbacks last year. 

This means last year’s playoff quarterbacks averaged a 30.7 on the test, pretty much identical to the 30.4 average score of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks. (Of course this isn’t that big of a surprise since last year’s playoffs featured six Super Bowl winning quarterbacks).

The average of Mariota and Winston’s scores? You guessed it, thirty. Both men are right in the middle of what Super Bowl winning and playoff quarterbacks typically score.   

So what about other quarterbacks in the league who haven’t won Super Bowls? 

Other notable current or recent quarterbacks in the league and their scores (Super Bowl winners in bold):

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard 48
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri 42
Alex Smith, Utah 40
Eli Manning, Ole Miss 39
Matthew Stafford, Georgia 38
Tony Romo, Eastern Illinois 37
Andrew Luck, Stanford 37
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada 37
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 36
Aaron Rodgers, Cal 35
Matt Leinart, USC 35
Christian Ponder, FSU 35
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M 34
Tom Brady, Michigan 33
Matt Ryan, Boston College 32
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M 32
Philip Rivers, N.C. State 30
Andy Dalton, TCU 29
Peyton Manning, Tennessee 28
Drew Brees, Purdue 28
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin 28

E.J. Manuel, FSU 28
Blake Bortles, Central Florida 28
Joe Flacco, Delaware 27
Josh Freeman, Kansas State 27
Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt 26
Carson Palmer, USC 26
Ryan Mallet, Arkansas 26
Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio) 25
Robert Griffin III, Baylor 24
Geno Smith, West Virginia 24
JaMarcus Russell, LSU 24
Tim Tebow, Florida 22
Cam Newton, Auburn 21
Jake Locker, Washington 20
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville 20
Mike Vick, Virginia Tech 20
Vince Young, Texas 6 (although he reportedly retook it and scored a 15)

Right around a thirty seems to be the present day sweet spot for a quarterback’s Wonderlic score when it comes to making the playoffs or winning Super Bowls. 

Successful retired quarterback scores of note:

Steve Young, 33
John Elway, 29
Brett Favre, 22
Dan Marino, 15
Donovan McNabb, 15
Jim Kelly, 15
Terry Bradshaw, 15

Interestingly, in our modern era of the NFL Ben Roethlisberger has the lowest Wonderlic score to win a Super Bowl at 25. But guys like Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly, Donovan McNabb, Dan Marino and Bret Favre all had very successful careers with below average Wonderlic scores. But there are several interesting hypotheses as to why scores of successful quarterbacks are climbing. Is it because the game is becoming more complex and intelligence matters more at the quarterback position or could it simply be with the money at stake and the scrutiny involved in all aspects of the draft that this generation’s players are better prepared for the test? Or could it be a combination of both? 

Regardless, this year’s top two quarterbacks in the draft, Mariota and Winston, both passed this test. 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.