March 17, 2011
As proof of general intelligence, the Wonderlic test is a dubious judge in any context; as a measure of NFL potential, it probably means nothing at all. But it might help explain one of this blog's burgeoning obsessions: The fast, mysterious rise of Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert to the top of mock draft boards across the NFL despite two ordinary seasons as a starter in the usually quarterback-friendly Big 12.
Gabbert banged out a 42 out of 50 on the Wonderlic at last month's NFL combine, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, better than all but one of last year's NFL starters (the Buffalo Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick, a Harvard grad, reportedly came close to acing the test in 2005) and just one point behind this year's resident brainiac, Alabama QB Greg McElroy, whose off-the-charts score of 43 was taken as proof that maybe he's a little too smart. Add that score to Gabbert's prototypical size, arm and speed, and you've got a guy who increasingly looks the part enough to get the hype ball rolling. If he impresses during Thursday's "pro day" workout for scouts and coaches on Missouri's campus, the amplified buzz could turn that ball into an avalanche.
The Wonderlic score is also the one and only metric separating Gabbert from his only real rival in the draftniks' minds, hyper-productive Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, who reportedly turned in a 21 on the test. It's well out of dumb-as-a-brick territory (a 21 is better than reported scores for Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, and only one point back of the 22s allegedly posted by Brett Favre and Tim Tebow), but certainly not great (Hall of Fame head case JaMarcus Russell reportedly scored a 24) and obviously in an entirely different stratosphere than Gabbert's score. Considering Newton is bigger, faster and in an entirely different solar system than Gabbert statistically, it's good to know the scouts who prefer the latter aren't just, you know, totally winging it.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.