Following a Thursday morning that saw an innocent 17-year-old accused of being a terrorist by those who used hasty judgement, one would assume that we'd all take pause before assuming the worst based on scant information. Unfortunately this wasn't the case, as the Wonderlic test scores for wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin were leaked, allowing the masses to get their shots and punchlines.
Make no mistake: There's a world of difference between being labeled as 'dumb', and a 'terrorist,' but the two accusations come from a similar place.
Herein lies the awkward dichotomy of the NFL draft -- the pageantry and fish market. Where fans are forced to play catch-up in an attempt to play armchair general manager on draft weekend. Years ago only the most stalwart of draftniks had access to college film and pro days, now it's a 24-hr business. With the advent of YouTube and social media, it became easier than ever for the media and the public to have a mock draft, a big board, and a depth chart of players at a variety of positions.
The problem is when pundits and fans start looking at human beings without care or concern. The anonymity of the internet plays a vital role too, and enhances the ability to look at those in the limelight as if they were gutted pieces of tuna being evaluated for their physical attributes.
Are Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin unintelligent human beings? It's possible, but it's also entirely plausible either (or both) suffer from a learning disability, don't test well, or simply lack the tools needed to succeed at a standardized intelligence test. This second part of the picture, the one the public doesn't have access to, is only available to NFL teams -- the same way their test scores should be. The more human side of a player can be learned only through personal interviews, experience, and talking with coaches. It's this element to the scenario that can't be reduced to a number.
The majority of people judged speed solely by 40-times until recently. Now analysis has evolved to looking at game speed and change of direction. The landscape now is one where judgement isn't so hastily thrown on a player as 'slow' without having more information. There's no YouTube film that can help a fan understand if a player is smart.
Leaking poor Wonderlic scores could be a draft strategy by teams looking to torpedo a player's standing, or could simply be the case of someone with loose lips -- either way, it has to stop. Giving the public access to a player's medical records and test scores needs to be as strictly monitored as helmet-to-helmet hits or free agency tampering. It adds nothing to the public side of the pre-draft process, and only serves to have young men shamed, and chided for their perceived lack of intelligence.
There is a role for Wonderlic tests in the NFL, no matter how misguided they may seem. Carolina Panthers' general manager Dave Gettleman was asked about his opinion on scores in his pre-draft press conference Thursday, and with his team looking strongly at wide receivers it was apropos he was asked.
"If you have concerns about a guy's learning, bring him in. (He) spends four hours with the coaches, they put him on the board, and you can make a better indication... an indicator of sorts."
This is the complete view of a player. Just as a medical red flag could be a sign to re-test, so too a poor Wonderlic is nothing more than a sign a prospect may need to be looked at more closely. The main difference: nobody is relentlessly mocking you for having a bad knee.
"It's just part of the process. You're not going to draft a guy based on the Wonderlic test score or you'd be taking everybody out of the Ivy League. You're not going to do it. It's just part of the process."
Assume there's no learning disability, or players simply not testing well, and there's a far greater problem with situation -- how players are making it through multiple years of college with being unable to score well on a basic intelligence test. Each year a score is leaked it's the player who has punchlines written about them. Meanwhile universities get to skate along, above reproach or reprimand. Instead of teasing the player, perhaps schools should be criticized. Forcing them to evaluate their programs to determine whether their student athletes are getting an adequate education -- but that's assuming college sports are wholly altruistic.
These are human beings. Too often the human aspect is ignored in favor of playing draft evaluator. Everyone having an opinion is part of what makes the draft great, but it crosses the boundary of decency when players are called 'idiots' and 'morons' for their perceived lack of intelligence. It's okay to accept that we don't have access to the whole story, and leave it at that -- before hitting 'tweet', or thinking of the perfectly pointed barb to skewer them with.