Cam Newton’s Wonderlic Test Score

There’s no doubt that Cam Newton was the most talked about and sought after quarterback during the 2011 NFL draft. After excelling at Auburn and winning the Heisman trophy ahead of Andrew Luck, there was little doubt that Carolina was going to select him as the number 1 pick in the NFL draft – which they did.

Still there were a number of questions regarding his future performance and whether or not he would make it in the NFL or be added to the list of great college quarterbacks that couldn’t fit their skill sets in the NFL. One of the frequently referenced statistics from his NFL combine was Cam Newton’s Wonderlic test score of 21.

Think You Can Beat Cam Newton’s Score? Take the Wonderlic Sample Quiz:

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By most estimates a score of 21 is about the median score for all NFL players, but quarterbacks are expected to have a higher than average score than other NFL players. With the need to memorize vast amounts of information between games, a Wonderlic score of a quarterback is analyzed in much greater detail than any other football position.

Many people wondered if Cam Newton’s score of 21 was going to be good enough to make it in the NFL, or if would his score would be an indicator of future performance and a red flag of things to come?

Clearly Cam Newton’s Wonderlic score of 21 was not only good enough to make it in the NFL but to dominate. While many rookie quarterbacks take a seat and learn from the more experienced, Cam Newton exceeded expectations right from the start. He holds a large number of NFL quarterback rookie records including most total yards and most total touchdowns for any rookie quarterback, ever. He also has several NFL records and achievements including the fastest player to throw for 1,000 yards, and he is on pace to break many more records currently held by hall of famers.

This year he is a shoo-in for the NFL MVP award and is leading a (currently) undefeated team with high playoff expectations. Many other factors have contributed to these fantastic accomplishments, but it’s crystal clear that an average Wonderlic score does not guarantee an average NFL career.

Does a Below Average Score Mean a Below Average Future?

There have been many examples like Cam Newton of quarterbacks that scored lower than average on the Wonderlic but went on to have great NFL careers. Some examples would be Dan Marino scoring 16, Terry Bradshaw scoring 15, and Jim Kelly also with a score of 15.

At the same time, the Wonderlic has “predicted” the negative future outcomes of many highly drafted quarterbacks including JaMarcus Russell with a score of 24, Jeff George with a score of 10 and Vince Young with a score of 6, or 16, no one’s really sure.

Amazingly, many of the highest scorers ever are current NFL quarterbacks including Alex Smith with a score of 40, and Ryan Fitzpatrick with a nearly impossible score of 48. It should be noted that since being drafted he’s gone from a 3rd string quarterback to the starter on one of the top offenses in the NFL. So maybe there really is something to these tests!
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Obviously the argument of whether or not a Wonderlic score is a strong indicator of future performance is just one of many factors that are evaluated during the NFL combine. You can make the arguments using Cam Newton or Ryan Fitzpatrick as examples, but the fact that the Wonderlic has been a part of the NFL combine for nearly half a century clearly means that someone finds this data important.

What makes the Wonderlic fun is that you can also take a sample test to see if you’re smarter than your favorite NFL player and if you, theoretically, could also be a starter in the NFL!

P.S. – Another interesting and random statistic is to look at the scores of the Manning brothers. Peyton Manning scored a respectable 28 on the Wonderlic but his younger brother scored a really high 39. Unless you’re only counting Superbowl rings, it’s hard to argue that Eli has had a more successful career than his big brother.