When it comes to evaluating college prospects, the National Football League is known for leaving few stones unturned.
In the weeks, months, and even years leading up to this weekend's NFL draft, conducted in New York, teams have used an array of tools at their disposal - game tapes, interviews, medical reports, workout results, and bulging dossiers of facts and figures - to compile profiles of hundreds of players.
And, oh, yes, don't forget the Wonderlic. That's the 12-minute, 50-question test for cognitive ability taken by most draft candidates. The test is administered by a pro football scouting service and the results are treated as confidential information by the NFL's 30 teams.
A sample question: If 3-1/2 yards of cloth cost $24.50, what will five yards cost?
How NFL clubs use the test results and how much weight they give them varies, but the scores can help differentiate players of near-equal physical ability.
The Dallas Cowboys, who are known for trying out new ideas, were the first team to use the Wonderlic tests in the 1960s.
Charlie Wonderlic Jr., president of Wonderlic Personnel Test Inc., says thousands of organizations have used the tests to "help match people with jobs and training programs that are within their mental capabilities."
The average test score of college graduates, Wonderlic says, is 29, with the mean score for football players roughly equal to the 21 for all people tested. Harvard University's Pat McInally, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1970s and '80s, reportedly once scored a perfect 50.
Players from schools with the best academic reputations often do well, Wonderlic says, not because of the education they enjoy, which is not the point of the tests, but because of their schools' selection procedures. "When you go and test people at Harvard, what you find is they're bright," says Wonderlic, who notes that quarterbacks generally score higher than players at other positions.
Ivy Leaguers are generally not serious NFL prospects, but this year the Ivy League could produce its first first-round pick since 1969, when San Diego drafted Columbia quarterback Marty Domres and Dallas took Yale halfback Calvin Hill.
Marcellus Wiley, a 6 ft., 5 in., 281-pound defensive lineman from Columbia, is high on just about every team's list going into the April 19 - 20 draft, which will consist of seven rounds.
Wiley went to the NFL's pre-draft player audition in February and made an impression with the scouts. He was mostly an unknown with his fellow players, he says, until it came time to take the multiquestion intelligence test. "All of a sudden, a lot of guys wanted to sit next to me," he says.
To Wonderlic's surprise, no other pro sports leagues have come to the Libertyville, Ill., company about player testing. "Even if they didn't do it across the board, you'd think you'd get an occasional hockey team," he says, while acknowledging that sophisticated playbooks make the NFL a logical test user.
Wonderlic speculates that more types of assessment will be used in pro sports. These might zero in on specific areas, such as hand-eye coordination or human relationship skills. He'd like to determine how athletes view being role models and how they respond to sudden wealth.
The very first pick of the draft is assured of a mega-contract, and this year that selection belongs to the New York Jets, who own it by virtue of finishing with the league's worst record last season (1-15).
The Jets might trade the choice. They had to give up a number of high draft picks over the next few years in order to pry coach Bill Parcells away from the New England Patriots, and Parcells must plug many holes.
Whichever team ends up with the first overall choice may use it to grab University of Southern California defensive lineman Darrell Russell, who is as big as a house (6-5, 312) and as fast as a mobile home (40 yards in 4.85 seconds). If not Russell, No. 1 could be huge Ohio State lineman Orlando Pace, who is known as the Pancake Man for the way he flattens opponents.
Draft experts are predicting that the first quarterback selected probably will be Virginia Tech's Jim Druckenmiller and not the far better known Danny Wuerffel, who led the University of Florida to a national championship and won the Heisman Trophy. Druckenmiller has the stronger arm; Wuerffel just wins. Wuerffel is looked on as the quintessential college QB, Druckenmiller as the more promising pro prospect.