Science Says: Morris Claiborne's low Wonderlic score bodes well for his NFL career

Morris Claiborne's Wonderlic score has ignited an epic battle of sports writers flinging poo at eachother in indignation. It's really quite hilarious. Gregg Doyel gets angry with Mike Florio, Florio gets angry with Doyel, Aaron Nagler throws in his piece of mind. It's full-on, writer-on-writer violence - if only we could get them all into a cage together.

But that's not the point I want to make. Apparently, getting a low score on a Wonderlic test is actually good (h/t Deadspin) - if you're an NFL defensive back or tight end. The Austin Chronicle spoke to Dr. Brian Hoffman, who co-authored a study with Brian D. Lyons in 2009 on the Wonderlic and NFL players. These are their conclusions (emphasis mine):

1) NFL performance on the football field was only found to have a statistically significant correlation with Wonderlic scores among two positions: Tight end and defensive back. Correlations were statistically negligible across all other positions. (Yes, even QB.) In other words, with the exception of TEs and DBs, a player's Wonderlic score (high or low) gave no predictable projection for their eventual productivity as an NFL player. It was worthless.
2)Tight ends and defensive backs showed a negative correlation.

Yes, you're reading that right. On average, defensive backs and tight ends that score low on the Wonderlic test do better than those that get a high score. Hoffman suggests that perhaps instincts are most important at those positions, and the Wonderlic doesn't test that. In fact, it tests the exact opposite - and scoring well in the Wonderlic might mean that a player is prone to paralysis by analysis, rather than simply reading and reacting. There are a few problems with this paper, although I can't comment in-depth without actually reading it. Deadspin points out a few of those problems, though.

One issue: Hoffman said that apparently there is a correlation between low Wonderlic scores and off-field issues. I wonder what Aqib Talib's Wonderlic score was.

Of course, given Claiborne's reported learning disability, all of this probably means nothing for him specifically. But it's interesting, nonetheless.

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