Every February, shortly after the Super Bowl, the NFL invites more than 300 college players to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. Once there, the players are weighed, measured, poked and prodded and undergo a battery of tests and drills in front of representatives from each team. Two months later, the vast majority of players are divvied up in the NFL draft, which took place last week.
One of the biggest stories this year is the Dallas Cowboys' move up to select former Louisiana State University cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth pick. Claiborne was considered the best defensive player in the draft but gained a measure of infamy in early April when his score on the Wonderlic test — administered each year at the Scouting Combine and intended to measure basic intelligence — was leaked. He reportedly scored a 4 out of 50.
But it turns out that Claiborne might be smarter than his score indicated. He told reporters that he didn't take the test seriously because he didn't see the relevancy. "I mean, I looked on the test and wasn't nothing on the test that came with football, so I pretty much blew the test off," he said.
To many observers, Claiborne's score made him a laughingstock and a symbol of college sports' brokenness. Whether admissions policies, coursework and grades are up to par for college athletes is one thing. But everyone agrees that Wonderlic scores are virtually meaningless in predicting a player's success or failure in the league. Some have even suggested that the NFL is stupid for mandating the test, which wasn't designed for football players and doesn't discourage NFL teams.
"As a general manager, I have had to make decisions on players with very low Wonderlic test scores," Charlie Casserly wrote on his NFL.com blog prior to the draft. "I can tell you there are starting players in the NFL who have been to Pro Bowls that had single-digit test scores … I expect [Claiborne] to come off the board between No. 3 and No. 6. He is the best defensive player in this draft and the Wonderlic score would not affect my thinking in the least."
Claiborne realized that the Wonderlic score wouldn't affect his standing. If you look at samples of the test, like this one or this one, you might understand his reasoning. It's enough to wonder why agents don't advise some clients to bypass the exam.
Some folks simply don't do well with standardized tests, period. Others, including Claiborne, have learning disabilities that can affect their academic performance. A writer in New England recommends that such players in particular should skip the test, just say no. "It's like telling a lawyer he has to take the bar and bench 225 [pounds] as many times as he can," wrote Tom Curran.
Claiborne said he would have taken the test more seriously if he knew his score would become such a big story. He knew that it wouldn't hurt him in the draft, but the public mocking bothered him.
"When it came out, some of the things that were said … I'm human, so I had a problem with some of it, but I didn't let that get me down," Claiborne told reporters. "I know what type of person I am. I know that test doesn't reflect on how I learn or what type of a person I am."