Further proof that it's possible to think too long and hard about the draft:
The psychological test the New York Giants give prospective draft choices is the NFL's version of "Fear Factor."
It totals 380 questions, four or five times more than the tests most other teams use, and nearly eight times as many questions asked during the standard Wonderlic intelligence test given to every potential draftee.
The main reason for the Giants' giant version is simply to wear players down. At some point, examiners believe, they get real answers instead of the ones players have been programmed to respond with.
Test subjects, though, aren't so sure. Instead of the exam's difficulty, what impresses most of them is its preoccupation with suicide.
"They asked that a lot of times in a lot of different forms," former Utah wide receiver and current Carolina Panther Steve Smith said in a recent interview. "You know, like, `Have you ever thought the world would be better off without you?"'
Smith told the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer that he'd already practiced that day and taken three or four other teams' exams when somebody dropped the Giants' test on his desk. He got through some 50 questions before fatigue set in, then resorted to an old college ruse: "If you don't know the answer, just mark `C."'
Looking back, it's no wonder he didn't wind up with the Giants.
"They probably thought I was a psycho," Smith said.
Yet, on such wacky evidence are multimillion-dollar decisions made.
Young men, sudden fame and fortune, and a livelihood that rewards reckless behavior made for a volatile mix long before there were full-time draftniks like Mel Kiper Jr., and detailed report cards handed out to every organization afterward. But the draft remains a maddeningly inexact science.
For all the sophisticated timing, measuring and poking that takes place at the scouting combines and smaller workouts, there's still precious little effective probing of what's taking place between a draftee's ears. The Wonderlic test in use today was first developed in the 1930s and is still given to 2.5 million job applicants in professions across the board. Whether it has any relevance as far as NFL players are concerned depends on whom you ask.
While some agents encourage clients to spend the months after their final season working out in the gym, Memphis-based Brian Parker believes there's still at least as much to be gained in the classroom.
"Teams used to evaluate on just height, weight and speed. Now, they're at least as interested in character, consistency and smarts," he said.
In that sense, Parker considers the 2001 draft a formative experience. He was representing linebacker Matt Stewart, a Vanderbilt grad the top scouting services projected to go in the seventh round. Instead, the Falcons and coach Dan Reeves decided to grab Stewart early in the fourth.
"He told me they looked at Matt and another linebacker with equal ability, and that basically it came down to who was the smarter player," Parker said.
A 32 score (out of a possible 50) on the Wonderlic sealed the deal and nobody has had any regrets since. Stewart got his degree in mechanical engineering and Atlanta got a defender who started 13 of 16 games last season, finishing third on the team in tackles.
Parker, meanwhile, got an object lesson that he used to persuade Memphis lineman Wade Smith to finish his degree this spring. Apparently, that impressed the Dolphins enough to take Smith (and his 29 on the Wonderlic), in the third round, four rounds higher than the consensus the scouting services arrived at.
But like more than a few general managers, not every agent is sold on the idea a good Wonderlic score translates into football intelligence. Pittsburgh-based Ralph Cindrich said more than one of his clients said a reputation as a "brainiac" can get a football player in trouble.
"I think Tim Ruddy, who was from Notre Dame and whose parents might have both been teachers, came within a point or so of a perfect score on the Wonderlic. But he wanted to keep it quiet and I think I understand why," added Cindrich, a tough-guy linebacker in the NFL some 30 years ago. "I've been around a lot of guys who were too smart to be good football players."
Ruddy, a second-round pick who's developed into Miami's starting center, was exactly the sort of pick who used to worry the late George Young.
The New York Giants' front-office executive shaped his team's personnel decisions for decades, but never stopped fretting about players having other career paths to pursue.
"We don't like to draft a guy who's too smart because he could do something else with his life," Young said, "besides play this silly game."
Jim Litke a the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org