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Why try to keep the intelligence test scores private in the first place?

By Jacob Feldman
April 02, 2018

It must be that time of year. Over the weekend, the supposedly confidential Wonderlic scores leaked for the 2018 draft quarterbacks, as they seem to do every spring. The unconfirmed scores have probably been used as the backbone of a thousand online arguments by now, while the true numbers are being used similarly across the league. And yet, it's still unclear if the results have any true predictive value.

The Wonderlic test predates World War II and has been used in the NFL for over 40 years, at once simple—12 minutes to complete 50 multiple choice questions—and inscrutable, a single score taken as a stand-in for intelligence. Because the full results are never published, a complete analysis of the test's effectiveness is impossible, but studies conducted using the (copious) leaked information have often found no direct link between score and career. Even Eldon Wonderlic's daughter has reportedly said, "The first time I heard they were using it, I had to laugh."

NFL decision-makers defend the results as a useful piece of a larger puzzle, a jumping off point for further research or validation for observations made during film-study and interviews. Maybe they use them as a tie-break between prospects. Or maybe they even steer away from players who do too well on the tests. (As former Giants GM Jerry Reese once said, "You have to watch out for the smart ones.")

There's only one way for us to know the real value of the numbers, and that's for us to get all of them, at least for top prospects. Faced with the mountain of evidence, fans will have to accept that there are far too many exceptions on both ends of the spectrum to assume the number ends any debate about a prospect's potential, while doubters could finally be handed real proof for the significant correlations the results might include.

Of course, this is the NFL we're talking about it, so don't just imagine a data dump. The league could turn the test-taking into a couple days worth of programming, at least, with a B-list celebrity host/proctor and an uncomfortable amount of game show shtick. Journalists and take-artists are already making hay off what could be insignificant data. The league might as well, too.

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1. The Raiders released punter Marquette King in what was reportedly a "(Jon) Gruden-led decision." A second-team all-pro in 2016, King has developed a sizable fan base (including 356,000 Instagram followers) with a personality outsized for the position.

2. "I suffer from a complex stew of mental health conditions," Super Bowl and Pro Bowl quarterback Mark Rypien says. "Dark places, depression, anxiety, addictions, poor choices, poor decisions, brought about by dozens of concussions and thousands of sub-concussive injuries from playing this sport." Rypien, who KHQ linked to a domestic violence incident and a prostitution ring, said he is speaking out to help others. Asked if he regrets playing football, he replied, "As much as I love sports, I'd try something else."

3. Speaking for the first time since joining the Broncos, safety Su'a Cravens gave his perspective on how things ended in Washington and shared how Von Miller surprised him with a text message.

4. Malcolm Butler generated countless headlines during his SI documentary shoot, most notably saying the Patriots probably would have won had he played, but that he was too scared to ask Bill Belichick why he didn't see the field during the Super Bowl.

5. With each passing inscrutable Instagram message, it becomes more difficult to envision a long-term harmonious relationship between the Steelers and Le'Veon Bell. Thursday he wrote, "It’s so hard to be a hero in a city that paints you out to be the villain."

6. Why do the Bengals keep sticking with Vontaze Burfict? "Our over-riding thought is how to field the best football team," director of player personnel Duke Tobin said.

7. It's time to adjust the Gronk-O-Meter for 2018 to "'pretty certain' he'll return."

8. Geno Smith is a Charger after signing a one-year deal.

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