Why 49ers' Richard Sherman right to blast NFL draft's Wonderlic tests

Why 49ers' Richard Sherman right to blast NFL draft's Wonderlic tests

Standardized test-score shaming is a staple of every NFL draft season.

Prospects take the timed, 50-question career aptitude test known as the Wonderlic each February during the NFL Scouting Combine. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told teams in 2012 that results are supposed to be confidential, but like clockwork, they leak every year prompting personnel, media and fans to apply Goldilocks-level thinking to each reported score.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa reportedly scored the lowest among draft-eligible quarterbacks, but Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported Saturday that Tagovailoa's leaked score was incorrect. The initial report of Tagovailoa's results prompted ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky to note Friday in a since-deleted tweet that the rumored score score “bothers me more than [Tagovailoa’s] injuries.”

Richard Sherman didn’t directly respond to Orlovsky, but the outspoken 49ers cornerback slammed the Wonderlic’s usefulness in a tweet Friday night.

Orlovsky, to his credit, deleted the tweet questioning Tagovailoa’s reported score and said he was wrong to tweet it in the first place. But the analyst, who played seven seasons as an NFL quarterback, admitted he was still “sorting out” how Tagovailoa’s football IQ and decision-making were so good while his Wonderlic score was so low.

There shouldn’t be anything to sort out for Orlovsky, or anyone else. Sherman's right: Wonderlic scores have little to do with on-field success.

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Study after study has shown the Wonderlic has next to no predictive ability for NFL careers. Joseph Stromberg noted in a 2014 Vox piece that multiple studies indicate Wonderlic scores have no correlation with NFL success. A pair of studies even found a slight negative correlation, meaning that lower scores were a better predictor of players’ success than high scores.

Michael Callans, a former Wonderlic executive, argued in 2012 that the studies are inaccurate because they rely upon leaked scores that Callans contended are often incorrect. Given the initial report of Tagovailoa and other quarterbacks' scores this year were disputed within a day, that's an important point to consider when examining the Wonderlic's usefulness.

So is the fact that the Wonderlic has also faced criticism for having a built-in racial bias, as have many standardized tests. As writer Stephanie McCarroll observed in a Twitter thread Friday, a 2012 study showed that teams drafted white prospects nearly 15 spots sooner if they had a higher Wonderlic score as opposed to just six spots for black players.

McCarroll also pointed to the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1971 ruling that using the Wonderlic and other standardized tests that aren't “demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance” as a “controlling force” in hiring violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which barred discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. The Wonderlic isn’t the only piece of the NFL draft evaluation puzzle, but that context begs the question of why it’s a piece at all.

The NFL clearly recognized the Wonderlic’s inherent flaws in 2013, when it instituted the Player Assessment Tool (PAT) to be used alongside it. The NFL said in a 2013 memo that the PAT “measures a wide range of competencies.” Cyrus Mehri, an attorney and the co-founder of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told USA Today Sports’ Jarrett Bell that year that the PAT “kind of levels the playing field from a socio-economic point of view.”

Yet, PAT scores don’t seem to leak with the same frequency as Wonderlic results.

[RELATED: Why 49ers should sign ex-Bears TE Burton, pair with Kittle]

Sherman, and other players who joined in, are right to rip the Wonderlic test’s utility. The test itself is a bygone tradition, which has bred another bygone tradition of pundits dedicating column inches and air time to interpreting its results without much consideration of its inherent flaws.

Maybe the 2021 draft will be the year analysts stop falling into the same trap.

George Kittle, 49ers get to only reasonable destination with extension

George Kittle, 49ers get to only reasonable destination with extension

When teams get good in a hurry, as the 49ers did last season, there are difficult decisions that must follow.

Trading defensive tackle DeForest Buckner? Yes, that qualifies.

Holding onto George Kittle? Not exactly.

Sure, it took a while to arrive at the years, dollars and structure that agent Jack Bechta negotiated with the 49ers, but this was something that had to get done. There was no other reasonable option.

It is a five-year, $75 million contract with a signing bonus of $18 million, Bechta told NBC Sports Bay Area. The contract includes $30 million guaranteed at signing and $40 million in total guarantees.

[RELATED: Jaquiski Tartt didn't worry Jamal Adams would replace him on 49ers]

Even during a pandemic with an uncertain salary cap for future seasons, this makes complete sense for the 49ers. This was the wise decision. The recent past dictated that there was no other decision for the present and future of the franchise.

After all, if you’re not going to pay George Kittle, who are you going to pay?

It’s not hyperbole to recognize that Kittle is the most impactful offensive player -- not playing quarterback -- in the league.

At the very least, with his combination of receiving production and dominance as a blocker in the run game, there’s no other offensive player who possibly could be more valuable to the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.

Kittle is getting what he deserves.

And this is a load off everybody’s mind heading into the season.

George Kittle is not going anywhere for a while.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Jaquiski Tartt did not worry Jamal Adams would replace him 49ers' secondary

Jaquiski Tartt did not worry Jamal Adams would replace him 49ers' secondary

Jaquiski Tartt is a five-year NFL veteran, but for a few moments this offseason he was transported back to his days as an under-the-radar small-college prospect at Samford University.

Tartt was with family and friends in Florida when his cousin noticed Tartt had an incoming call from a 49ers teammate.

“It’s Richard Sherman,” his cousin told Tartt.

“So I was like, ‘Yeah, it is Richard Sherman,’” Tartt said on video call with Bay Area reporters. “So I had a little fan moment then.”

The call came during a time when a segment of 49ers fans on social media were calling for the team to acquire Jamal Adams in a trade with the New York Jets. There was no indication at the the 49ers were interested, and general manager John Lynch later revealed they were not.

“He was just trying to see what I was up to,” Tartt said of Sherman. “It had nothing to do with that (Adams). But for me, it was a moment. I remember me thinking about being in college and watching Sherm in the Super Bowl and stuff like that.”

Tartt said he never seriously considered the possibility that Adams could replace him in the 49ers' secondary.

“It’s quarantine and the media need some kind of attention, so I don’t worry about that,” he said. “It’s just social media.”

Five weeks later, Adams ended up in the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks in a blockbuster trade that involved the Seahawks parting ways with two first-round draft picks. It was important for Seattle to acquire Adams, in part, to deal with 49ers tight end George Kittle.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Meanwhile, Tartt goes about getting ready for his contract year. He said his main focus during the offseason was on getting healthy. Tartt missed the final four regular-season games after sustaining fractured ribs from taking an inadvertent knee to his right side from Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram.

Tartt returned to play in each of the 49ers’ three postseason games, including Super Bowl LIV. He registered five tackles and a sack in the 49ers’ 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“To be honest, I don’t even know how I was out there,” he said. “I knew my team needed me, so I made sure I was able to play and be ready. It’s football. It’s part of football, being injured, and some things stop you from playing. I’ve been through that injury before, like in 2017, it’s something you can play through.”

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The 49ers rewarded fellow safety and his high-school teammate, Jimmie Ward, with a three-year, $28.5 million contract in the offseason. Together, as the last lines of defense, Tartt and Ward held things together last season. No team in the NFL surrendered fewer pass plays of 20 yards or more.

“This defense has a lot of good players, and we play as a team,” Tartt said. “So for us, it’s just trying to stay on the little things.”