You can argue about whether or not Wonderlic scores matter for some positions, but quarterback Wonderlic scores are generally scrutinized by teams because they do have an impact on future success. Conventional wisdom has it that teams want a quarterback prospect to score at least a twenty, lest the speed and complexity of the NFL game overwhelm a signal caller.
So how did this year’s crop of quarterbacks fare and how do those numbers look in the context of past quarterback scores?
Let’s dive in.
This year’s quarterback scores run the gamut from Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib posting a 41 to Arkansas’s Tyler Wilson notching a 20.
Here was the roster of overall scores:
1. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse 41
2. Matt Barkley, USC 30
3. E. J. Manuel, Florida State 28
3. Landry Jones, Oklahoma 28
5. Mike Glennon, N.C. State 26
6. Tyler Bray, Tennessee 24
6. Geno Smith, West Virginia 24
6. Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio) 24
9. Matt Scott, Arizona 22
10. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas 20
Wilson’s bringing up the rear for the quarterbacks at 20 isn’t an awful score — two years ago Jake Locker was the lowest scoring quarterback as well, posting a 20 in the class of 2011 — but it probably comes as a bit of a surprise. It’s worth noting that Ryan Mallett, Arkansas’s previous quarterback before Wilson, scored a 26 on the Wonderlic two years ago. Sources at Arkansas have indicated that Mallett had a better grasp of Petrino’s offense than Wilson did. So this score shouldn’t really be much of a surprise.
Is it a coincidence that Nassib and E.J. Manuel’s stock both seems to be surging going into the draft while Wilson and Bray’s is flagging?
But a strong Wonderlic score can be a pretty decent security blanket when it comes to spending millions on a quarterback. And in a year like this one, where no one seems certain who the top players are, a Wonderlic score might be a more useful tiebreaker than other points of study.
If you’re wondering about past quarterback Wonderlic scores in recent drafts, the quarterback class of 2011 posted these numbers:
Greg McElroy, Alabama- 43
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri- 42
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada- 37
Christian Ponder, Florida State- 35
Ricky Stanzi, Iowa- 30
Andy Dalton, TCU- 29
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas- 26
Cam Newton, Auburn- 21
Jake Locker, Washington- 20
The quarterback class of 2012 had these results:
Andrew Luck, Stanford- 37
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M- 34
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State- 33
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin- 28
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State- 27
Kellen Moore, Boise State- 26
Brock Osweiler, Arizona State- 25
Robert Griffin III, Baylor- 24
So in the past two years the six first or second year quarterbacks who have led their teams to the playoffs have averaged a 31.6 on the Wonderlic with a high score of a 37 (Luck and Kaepernick) and a low of 24 (RGIII).
How about the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL?
There are seven.
Here are their Wonderlic scores:
Eli Manning, Ole Miss 39
Aaron Rodgers, Cal 35
Tom Brady, Michigan 33
Peyton Manning, Tennessee 28
Drew Brees, Purdue 28
Joe Flacco, Delaware 27
Ben Roethlisberger, Miami (Ohio) 25
Right now the average Wonderlic of a Super Bowl winning quarterback presently playing in the NFL is a 30.7, which is pretty similar to last year’s playoff crop of first or second year quarterbacks which averaged a 31.6.
These numbers become even more similar if you plug in the number of Super Bowls each of these guys has won, Brady has three, Eli has two, and Big Ben has two. The average Wonderlic score over the past 11 Super Bowls?
31.3, which is almost identical to the 31.6 average Wonderlic posted by the six first or second year quarterbacks in the playoffs.
So is 31 a magic number of sorts?
I’d want to dive into the numbers over more years to see whether the numbers continue to measure out, but for right now if you want to draft a Super Bowl winning quarterback, he’d better score a 24 or higher on the Wonderlic.
Other notable current or recent quarterbacks in the league and their scores:
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Harvard 48
Alex Smith, Utah 40
Matthew Stafford, Georgia 38
Tony Romo, Eastern Illinois 37
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma 36
Matt Ryan, Boston College 32
Philip Rivers, N.C. State 30
Josh Freeman, Kansas State 27
Jay Cutler, Vanderbilt 26
JaMarcus Russell, LSU 24
Tim Tebow, Florida 22
Mike Vick, Virginia Tech 20
Vince Young, Texas 6 (although he purportedly retook it and scored a 15)
Retired quarterback scores:
Steve Young, 33
John Elway, 29
Brett Favre, 22
Dan Marino, 15
Donovan McNabb, 15
Jim Kelly, 15
Terry Bradshaw, 15
This probably makes Terry Bradshaw the lowest scoring Super Bowl winning quarterback on the Wonderlic of all time.
Intelligence would also seem to matter more and more every year at the quarterback position since the overall complexity of NFL offenses continues to grow.
Scoring high on the Wonderlic doesn’t guarantee success — look at Ryan Fitzpatrick — but there’s no Super Bowl winning quarterback currently playing in the NFL right now who has scored below a 25. Also, while those who ridicule the Wonderlic are quick to point out high scoring quarterbacks who haven’t become stars, keep in mind that scoring high may allow players who otherwise aren’t as talented to play in the league. Put a simpler way, would Ryan Fitzpatrick be able to play in the NFL if he’d scored a 20 on the Wonderlic?
My guess is no, his intelligence is probably his greatest asset on the field.
These scores are worth pondering as the NFL Draft inches closer and closer and so much uncertainty remains with this year’s crop of quarterbacks.