According to multiple reports, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne -- almost universally viewed as one of the six elite prospects in the 2012 NFL draft -- scored just a four on the Wonderlic test, an intelligent test whose results are distributed to all 32 NFL teams.
There is plenty of debate as to how much importance NFL teams place on the test. While a four (testers get 12 minutes to answer 50 questions) is certainly alarming, let's take a moment to remember just how little functional reading, writing and arithmetic is required to be a very good football player. Without naming names, I can tell you that some annual Pro Bowl players could barely read and write after leaving college -- and at least two of them play positions where teams generally value intelligence more than cornerback.
Prior to focusing more time college scouting, by background was in Education (and coaching). Frankly, I put more value in my own impressions of a prospect's (or student's) intelligence based on how one performs during normal interactions with others than what score they received on any standardized test. Claiborne sent off a few alarms in my head after answering questions posed by the media at the Scouting Combine. I'm not going to claim that I anticipated a score as low as the one Claiborne reportedly received, but I can tell you five other players who I've either personally interviewed or sat in on their interviews that also caught my attention.
Because the results of the Wonderlic tests are fiercely guarded by NFL employees there is no way of knowing (at least not yet) how these athletes performed on this one intelligence test that some teams may not value at all. I believe all five players listed below will be (and likely should be) selected within the first few rounds of the 2012 draft and will go on to enjoy stellar NFL careers... just like a few Pro Bowlers I alluded to earlier...
Still, I have concerns...
DT Michael Brockers, LSU: When I asked Brockers' questions during the Combine, he repeatedly provided answers that didn't match up, indicating that he didn't understand the initial question. Considering LSU's less than sterling track record, don't be surprised if another Tiger underclassmen performed poorly on the exam.
OLB Zach Brown, North Carolina: While many were touting Brown's athleticism throughout the 2011 season, I've preached caution due to his lack of physicality and questionable instincts. The lack of recognition skills aren't just based off tape...
ILB Mychal Kendricks, Cal: Of the six players listed in this report, if Kendricks scores as poorly on the Wonderlic as I've been told scouts expect based on his struggles on the white board during team interviews, his stock could drop significantly. Teams hold inside linebackers to a higher standard than many other positions when it comes to intelligence.
RB Lamar Miller, Miami: Scouts will tell you that Miller could slip on draft day because he's only started at Miami for one season. Another reason is because some worry that he'll struggle to handle a complicated playbook.
WR Kendall Wright, Baylor: I worry about natural IQ levels less at wide receiver (and cornerback) than at any other positions so I don't worry that a poor showing in this test could push Wright (or Claiborne, for that matter) down the board. Like Brockers, Wright struggled with some multi-tiered questions at the Combine and didn't help his cause during interviews.