Why Did the NFL Get Rid of the Wonderlic Test?

The Wonderlic test was long used by teams at the NFL Combine to evaluate draft prospects, so why did the league do away with the exam?

The Wonderlic test is a cognitive assessment that the NFL used for many years to determine the mental accumen of draft prospects. The test was annually administered at the NFL Combine, but that tradition is no more. Today, we explore why the league got rid of one of the staples of the pre-draft process.

Why Did the NFL Stop Administering the Wonderlic Test?

Starting with the 2022 NFL Combine, the NFL removed the Wonderlic test from its set of assessments for NFL draft prospects during the annual event in Indianapolis.

In 2022, the league revamped several of the activities in which Combine participants would partake, including some positional drills for wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, and offensive linemen. As part of what NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent called “an overall audit of all of the assessments,” the league also removed the Wonderlic test.

“Frankly, it’s been an outdated process,” Vincent explained.

Historically, the use of the Wonderlic test had been criticized by media outlets for a variety of reasons, most notably because of the exam’s apparent irrelevance to players’ on-field success.

According to Robert O’Connell of the New York Times, “No statistically significant correlation between a player’s Wonderlic score and his on-field performance has ever been documented.”

MORE: NFL Combine Records

Despite performances on the Wonderlic failing to correlate to how well a player would actually produce, scores did seem to affect their draft stock. In fact, former punter Pat McInally, the only player to ever receive a perfect 50 out of 50 score, believes that his high score actually hurt his draft stock.

“Coaches and front-office guys don’t like extremes one way or the other, but particularly not on the high side… I think they think guys who are intelligent will challenge authority too much,” McInally explained in 2006.

McInally, a Harvard grad and member of the College Football Hall of Fame, was selected in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft and went on to become a first-team All Pro.

While NFL teams surely use other ways of gauging a player’s intelligence, such as quizzing players on formations, their previous game film, and other football-related information, the Wonderlic test is no longer a key part of that process.

At the same time the league did away with the Wonderlic, the NFL also implemented a policy stipulating that teams could forfeit draft picks and sustain fines for any conduct that is “disrespectful, inappropriate, or unprofessional” during an interview.

What Is the Wonderlic Test?

The Wonderlic test is a 50-question multiple choice exam that is designed to measure mental aptitude and problem-solving ability. Originally invented in 1936 by Eldon F. Wonderlic, then a psychology graduate student at Northwestern University, the test allows participants 12 minutes to take the exam, with a score of 20 indicating average intelligence.

Legendary Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry is thought to be one of the first members of the NFL community that placed a great deal of emphasis on the results of the test in his scouting process.

MORE: 2023 NFL Mock Draft Simulator

Historically, other organizations that have used the test to determine the aptitude of applicants for certain positions includes the United States Armed Forces and companies like AT&T.

In an article written in Psychological Reports, a peer-reviewed academic journal, T. Matthews and Kerry Lassiter wrote that the Wonderlic test “was most strongly associated with overall intellectual functioning,” but that it’s valid applications may be limited. A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology also found that the test’s validity is limited.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles