Smartest Players in the National Football League

Brains and Brawn: Smartest Players in the NFL

The editors at Best Masters Degrees decided to research the topic of

Brains and Brawn: Smartest Players in the NFL

Regardless of the position, proof of intelligence plays a profound role in the success of every individual on a team. It’s not enough to have physical ability. Players have to be smart and think quickly to succeed on the field.
– 53: number of players each NFL team can have on its roster (plus a 5 player practice squad)
– 32: number of teams in the NFL
– 1,696: number of players, total in the NFL

Measuring Intelligence in the NFL
– WPT: 50 question intelligence test that measures players’ ability to think on their feet, follow directions, and make effective decisions under the pressure of a time clock.
– 1937: Year the WPT was developed, as a tool to quantify the mental abilities of potential job candidates;
– 2.5 million: number of applicants in all types of companies that take WPT as part of the hiring process.
– Early 1970s: first use of WPT in NFL by Dallas Cowboys
– Fact: For the NFL, years of testing shows that the higher a player scores on the Wonderlic, the more likely he is to be in the starting lineup – for any position.

Average Wonderlic scores in the NFL (by position):
– Offensive tackle: 26
– Center: 25
– Quarterback: 24 (a quarterback’s intelligence may affect his passing performance in the NFL even if it does not in college) Guard:
– Tight end: 22
– Safety: 19
– Linebacker: 19
– Corner back: 18
– Wide receiver: 17
– Fullback: 17
– Halfback: 16
– FACTOID: While an average football player usually scores around 20 points, The Wonderlic, Inc claims a score of 10 points suggests a person is literate.

Examples of scores from everyday professions show average scores of:
-Chemist – 31
-Programmer – 29
-News writer – 26
-Sales – 24
-Bank teller – 22
-Clerical Worker – 21
-Security Guard – 17
-Warehouse – 15

Rating 2013 quarterbacks by their Wonderlic score
– Blaine Gabbert – 42
– Alex Smith – 40
– Eli Manning – 39
– Matt Flynn – 38
– Colin Kaepernick – 38
– Matt Stafford – 38
– Andrew Luck – 37
– Tony Romo – 37
– Sam Bradford – 36
– Christian Ponder – 35
– Aaron Rodgers – 35
– Ryan Tannehill – 34
– Tom Brady – 33
– Matt Ryan – 32
– Matt Schaub – 31
– Phillip Rivers – 30
– Andy Dalton – 29
– Nick Foles – 29, Mike Vick – 20
– Drew Brees – 28
– Kevin Kolb/ EJ Manuel – 28
– Peyton Manning – 28
– Mark Sanchez – 28
– Russell Wilson – 28
– Joe Flacco – 27
– Josh Freeman – 27
– Brandon Weeden – 27
– Jay Cutler – 26
– Carson Palmer – 26
– Ben Roethlisberger – 25
– RGIII – 24
– Cam Newton – 21
– Jake Locker – 20

– Pat McInally, once a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, is the only football player to record a confirmed perfect score of 50. (1976-1985)
– Frank Gore, San Francisco running back (still active), scored one of the lowest Wonderlic scores: 6. But has confounded the critics by being an all star.
– Current player Ryan Fitzpatrick, a Harvard University graduate like McInally, has also been rumored to have scored a perfect score of 50.
– Scouts highly value attributes such as height, quickness, arm strength, vision, leadership and intelligence (CNN/SI, 1998)

College football conferences (Brains vs. Brawn) with players represented in NFL
– Ivy League: 7
– SEC: 329

The 5 smartest teams in football in 2012 (based on efficiency in terms of yards per points scored and yards per points allowed)
– 1. Seattle Seahawks
– 2. New England Patriots
– 3. Atlanta Falcons
– 4. Chicago Bears
– 5. NY Giants

The 5 dumbest teams in 2012 (based on the same factors)
– 1. Kansas City Chiefs
– 2. Philadelphia Eagles
– 3. Oakland Raiders
– 4. Detroit Lions
– 5. Jacksonville Jaguars
– Reigning NFL champion Baltimore Ravens is the 10th smartest NFL team.

Top 5 smartest players
– 1. Ryan Fitzpatrick: A Harvard economics major, was selected the MVP of the Ivy League in 2004. His SAT score was nearly flawless 1580. Tennessee Titans.
– 2. Greg McElroy: The Alabama grad scored an impressive 43 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test. His high football IQ makes his prospects as a coach. N.Y. Jets.
– 3. Matt Birk: The six-time Pro Bowler graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics. Recently retired from Baltimore Ravens.
– 4. Desmond Bryant: The Cleveland Brown defensive tackle received an academic scholarship to attend Harvard. He’s only the 29th player from Harvard to make it to the NFL.
– 5. Bryan Walters: As a senior at Cornell University, Walters was elected into the Sphinx head society, one of college’s oldest and most respected honor societies. Plays for Seattle.

Top 5 head coaches (current)
– 1. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (3 Super Bowl wins)
– 2. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (2 Super Bowl wins)
– 3. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens (1 Super Bowl win)
– 4. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (1 Super Bowl win)
– 5. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (1 Super Bowl win)


Sports Technology at the VMAC
DVSports Video Tech at the Seahawks VMAC helped make the Seattle Seahawks the 5 smartest NFL football team in 2012

Wonderlic Scores

With the first NFL weekend upon us, understanding the smarts of 1,696 NFL football players can be accomplished by sorting through Big Data and drilling down on the resulting information. This sports trend is certainly worthy of a Sports Techie community blog.

It is fascinating to note that the Wonderlic test was conceived back in 1937. Last season, offensive positions dominated the top scores for all 32 teams. NFL tackles scored the highest WPT number of 26 followed by the Center at 25 and Quarterbacks at 24. One can guess why the defense does not rate until the Safety and Linebacker each scored a 19, respectively. That reminds me of the old football adage that most defensive backs are wide receivers because they cannot catch.

Contrasting these scores to everyday jobs we do as humans is interesting because at the top scores created by a Chemist – 31, Programmer – 29, and News Writer – 26, would make them an NFL genius.


Before you get excited about this fact, remember that the most important position in football is the quarterback. Blaine Gabbert – 42, Alex Smith – 40, and Eli Manning – 39, lead the way and actually help inflate the NFL average score. Without P.H.D level QB brains, the NFL’s average score would be significantly lower.

Rated Values

According to the Infographic numbers, football scouts highly value attributes such as height, quickness, arm strength, vision, leadership and intelligence. Former Bengals wide receiver, Pat McInally, (1976-1985) is the only football player to record a confirmed perfect score of 50. Frank Gore, the San Francisco 49ers starting running back in 2012, scored one of the lowest Wonderlic scores of 6.


The Ivy League has 7 players in the NFL who also help bring up the curve while the SEC has 329 total players in the league who vary it their score impact.

The 5 smartest teams in the NFL during 2012 are some of the NFL’s winningest franchises or are headed in that direction; this includes the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, and the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. On the flip side, notice that the bottom five teams intelligence are mostly perennial doormats, including the number one Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. I would personally say the Eagles are an acceptation to the rule.

Of course, of the three smartest players in the NFL, three hail from the Ivy League. Of the smartest coaches in the National Football League, all of the top five are previous Super Bowl winners.

Sports Techie, It does not take a rocket scientist to play in the NFL, having said that, those that score at this level of brain power perform at the highest levels and win the majority of the time. Because Gore is an All-Pro, his score of 6 must have an asterisk by it because either he did not try or else the score reflects his real world score and was not accurate as to his actual football smarts.

Coaches and teams that value smart players win Super Bowl Lombardi trophies. Those that do not value intelligence appear to rank as a perpetual bottom feeding team. Here is a Sports Techie salute to Peyton Manning who scored a 28 test score and last night, tossed a NFL record tying 7 touchdown passes in the Denver Broncos opening day win over the defending Super Champions, the Baltimore Ravens, who themselves scored 10th lowest of all teams last year. I wonder how the absence of the WPT score by Ray Lewis will affect their team score this season. No doubt about it though, Peyton knew it would drop.

As you watch the NFL and play Fantasy Football this year, be sure and factor in the Wonderlic like the teams do when drafting and signing free agents, and win.

I will see ya when I see ya, THE Sports Techie @THESportsTechie –

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One response to “Smartest Players in the National Football League”

  1. […] Kaepernick reputedly scored a 38 on the Wunderlic, among the highest scores of current NFL […]