On most draft boards, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is the top-rated defensive player in the 2012 NFL Draft. But there have been multiple reports the past few days that Claiborne scored very low on the Wonderlic Test. It begs the question: Will this affect where Claiborne is drafted?
As a general manager, I have had to make decisions on players with very low Wonderlic Test scores. I can tell you there are starting players in the NFL who have been to Pro Bowls that had single-digit test scores.
What does the score indicate?
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The Wonderlic is a 50-question test that must be completed in 12 minutes. Your score is the number you get correct. I have worked with learning specialists who have described the Wonderlic as a mini-SAT. My experience with it is that people who score low usually do so for probably one of two reasons, if not both: They either are not very smart or have a reading deficiency.
How important is intelligence for a cornerback?
Cornerback is not one of the most mentally challenging positions on the field. In fact, in my time with the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, we never had a player who was not smart enough to learn the position. Instincts are the most essential skill to have at corner, and the Wonderlic cannot measure that.
I do believe intelligence is important and needs to be measured, even if the position does not require a great deal of intelligence to play. My experience has shown me even though you may be smart enough to play football, a lack of intelligence can be costly in making everyday "life" decisions. You want smart players, ones who can learn their assignment and be able to function intelligently in their lives.
What do teams do when a player scores low in the Wonderlic?
We used it as an alert to check further into his intelligence level. We would ask the player's college coaches about his intelligence on and off the field, see if mental mistakes show up on the tape, interview him and then administer the Wachs-Berger Test.
The Wachs-Berger Test, created by Dr. Harry Wachs and Dr. Ron Berger, is a test that does not have any reading or writing in it and is not educationally biased. We used it for over 20 years and found it was a very accurate indicator of a person's innate ability to learn. And perhaps more importantly, it revealed the best way to teach each player. Some people learn best from traditional classroom instruction. Some must see it on the field. Others learn best by the use of plastic figures on a board, moving them around like chess pieces. The most important thing we took away from the test was a player's desire to learn. This test was very accurate in measuring that.
Can Claiborne learn to play cornerback at an NFL level?
In the case of Claiborne, I watched five games on tape and did not see him make any mental errors. In researching him, he seems to handle his off-field affairs without any issues. The reportedly low test score certainly has not affected his play. I do not see this impacting his draft status. I expect him 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.