You ever wonder why Peyton Manning is an Elite quarterback in the NFL? You ever stop and think about why certain players excel to the highest level and others don’t?  The Denver Broncos are willing to sign Peyton Manning to a 96 million dollar contract at 36 years old and for fives years too.

Today you may have seen a report which states “Top corner-back prospect Claiborne reportedly bombs Wonderlic test”. Do you really think it matters what score this guy received on a test that makes a NFL prospect answer 50 questions in twelve minutes? It may matter in the case of a Peyton Manning, not so much for other position players in the NFL. People have their own unique Brain Codes. You say “Brain Codes” I never heard of such a thing.  Sit tight and continue reading this article and hopefully it will help you to understand how far athletic training has evolved in the modern era of sports.

NFL teams are investing huge sums of money into the players they are drafting these days. The teams, the players agents and the players are being accessed to how they are wired. Their Brains are being evaluated to see how they will perform in-game time situations and to see if they can handle the pressure of making split second decisions which will help their teams win. It may sound like something out of a science fiction moving, I assure you it is not. This is real science and it has been put to use in almost every form of athletics today.

Getting back to the difference in assessing the talent levels of different NFL players is a tried and tested science. Brain Codes can determine how a player is going to react and how successful a player is going to be at the highest level of competition.  A lot has been made out of the fact a guy like Morris Claiborne did poorly on his Wonderlic test, they even said, the revelation of what Claiborne did on the test might give the teams most interested in him a point to ponder. I am here to tell you none of this may matter.

NFL teams are having players analyzed to see how their Brian’s are wired. Read this about this Wonderlic test; What the Wonderlic fails to consider with problem solving ability is differences in innate mental wiring which is not indicative of intelligence. Some of the most intelligent people may not process the written word or math in a quick fashion (50 questions in 12 minutes) but can given an appropriate time. Here is what this person said about their Wonderlic test, I never did well on standardized testing  but I have above average intelligence.

The Wonderlic Test 50 Questions in 12 minutes
Number of correct answers corresponds to an intelligent quotient:

  50 = highest possible score, superior intelligence
  21 = average intelligence
  14 = not good
  Below 14 = poor

Now we start taking a look at Brain Codes;

Sports performance at the highest level is often associated with what we call an SP Brain Code. So, a typical elite athlete’s intelligence cannot be evaluated well with that test. And, research indicates it IS a poor indicator of success in the NFL.

Athletes typically learn best by being hands on…by doing… and this evaluates an innate make up that is more written/vocabulary inclined…a different Brain Code.

Most coaches and scouts will tell you it means nothing unless there is a low score then there is a ‘red flag’ noted.  Where it can be a decision-making factor would be if you are trying to decide between two guys of equal physical talent and perhaps other intangibles appear equal.

Taking the test and preparing to take the test can have mental benefits. For instance, the study methods I use can be good training for learning a playbook thrown at you in training camp and your expected to KNOW it and do it.

Lets take a Closer look at where Athletic Assessments are heading, or should I say where they are at now.

RUNNING HEAD:  Determining NFL Performance Success


SPP Ethical Dilemmas in Determining NFL Performance Success:

Evaluating talent and deciding on personnel  


Nancy Skaer, Ph.D.

Argosy University

Professor of Psychology

Kip Watson, MA, LPC, CPT

SP6300 Professional & Ethical Issues

August 9, 2011



Every April, the National Football League (NFL) holds an employee draft. All 32 teams select athletes to attend training camp and possibly fill specific team openings. College football players are evaluated throughout their colligate careers but most notable during their final season of eligibility. Teams invest incredible amounts of time and money during this scouting process with the main objective to find the key players who fit their team schematics.

Every year far more athletes compete for these job openings than are positions available. Furthermore, less than 9% of the players selected on draft day and those signed as undrafted free agents actually make a team roster on opening day (Packman, 2008). This suggests a gap exists in evaluating eligible players and what determines success in making an NFL roster.

Typical evaluations of eligible colligate athletes involves looking at both physical and mental attributes. Physical attributes include game performance and stats. And, it includes data from 8 Combine or pro-day workout physical performance tests along with weight, height, wing span, and hand span. All these physical perimeters are collected, compiled, and analyzed as predictors for NFL success.

So why is the percentage so low of those who are drafted along with undrafted free agents? This paper briefly looks at the current research, along with some key personnel interviews, and aims to answer that question focusing more on the mental/psychological evaluations as predictors when physical abilities are general viewed as essentially equal.

Research Questions to Consider

               This review is designed to begin an investigation on whether psychological or non-athletic data on colligate draft eligible athletes improves and/or predicts success in the NFL and if so, what types of ethical issues may be present in that collection and examination. Possible research questions to consider include:

  1. Can psychological tests such as the Human Resource Tactics (HRT), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Sixteen Personality Factor (16PF) and/or the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) distinguish between athletes who are drafted into the National Football League (NFL) and athletes who are not drafted?
  2. Can these psychological tests further distinguish between athletes who will actually make an NFL roster and those who do not?
  3. Can these psychological tests further distinguish between athletes who will actually play in an NFL game and athletes who do not?
  4. After controlling for athletic ability, how wells do these psychological tests predict success in the NFL—number of season played in the NFL?
  5. Once administering these psychological tests, what professional and ethical standards govern the examination and personnel decision making process?


Literature Review

               Mental evaluations of eligible colligate athletes vary by team, however, all draft eligible candidates are required to take the Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT), a timed test of general intelligence. While this test is basically dismissed by most NFL personnel as being non-indicative of success, tradition dictates its utilization (NFL Director of College Scouting, 2010). Recent empirical research supports this notion (Kuzmits, 2008; Robbins, 2010). While the Wonderlic is a valid predictor of job performance in traditional employment settings, football is considered non-traditional. Recent empirical results suggest there is a near-zero relationship with performance across positions and unrelated to NFL Draft selection or the actual number of games started during an NFL season (Lyons, Hoffman, & Michel, 2009).  Nonetheless, media hype and scores connecting characteristics related to problem solving and general cognitive ability have been incorporated into player performance by position within football. More specifically, according to average WPT scores listed by position, scores increase the closer an athlete position to the ball prior to the snap—offensive tackles, centers, and quarterbacks receive and need high scores than players in the defensive secondary or wide receivers (Packman, 2008).

Other paper and pencil assessment tools employed by various NFL teams for selection purposes include Human Resource Tactics (HRT), Jonathan Neidnagel’s Brain Typing utilizing neuroscience, biomechanics, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and trait theory assessment in the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) and the 16 Personality Factor (16PF).

HRT is a customized per team mental characteristics assessment developed and implemented by former military special operations psychologists. Psychologists believe that utilizing psychomotor, personality, and intelligence test results accurately predicted success among military personnel. Hence, given observable similarities between the military and football, the same is true in predicting success in the NFL (Packman, 2008; Sanders, 2010). Depending on specific team schematics, HRT measures and assesses for such personality and mental qualities as mental and physical toughness, submitting to authority, self-discipline, motivation, work ethic, combativeness or inflicting bodily harm, collaboration, etc. (Sanders, 2010).  Currently, 16 teams employ HRT and the small group of military psychologists has produced a data base of thousands of athletes. According to the HRT firm founder, ‘past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior’ (Sanders, 2010). This behavioral approach, however, also takes into account how a player’s coach perceives an athlete. A coach does not necessarily tell the truth about an athlete’s work ethic if it’s not good because that would impact recruiting; hence, HRT realizes the coaches’ evaluation of a player is rarely honest (Sanders, 2010). Similarly, HRT does not look for or diagnose psychopathology or issues of social maturity which may impact NFL success (Sanders, 2010).

Niednagel’s Brain Typing utilizes Jungian based psychological theory with the most widely used personality assessment instrument in the MBTI. Corporate America and the U.S. military employ the tool with success. Human Resource departments customarily utilize the MBTI to improve employee selection and efficiency and quality of decisions and on the job learning and training. The MBTI measures four innate mental processes athletes have, and while it’s been criticized for lacking validity as it relates to sports performance, it has been utilized with effectiveness to examine tendencies and patterns in football players. Niednagel  combines neuroscience and biomechanics along with the MBTI to predict athletic performance and success. Niednagel suggests every person is cerebrally designed to excel in some sport and while no athlete is precluded from pursuing a sport they desire, his years of research reveal they will perform much better at sports and positions within the sport which they are mentally and physically designed (Niednagel, 2004).

One interesting note, Niednagel’s work was profiled in 1998 when two highly regarded college QB’s, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, debuted in the NFL. Niednagel boldly predicted that one of the two had the top Brain Type for a QB and his prediction proved to be true (Niednagel, 2004).

A final psychological assessment utilized by some NFL teams is based on trait theory. According to this theory, personality consists of innate traits which directly and indirectly influence behavior. The CPI has been used to profile athletes in women’s basketball, field hockey, golf, bowling, and male athletes in track and field and American football (Packman, 2008). The CPI examines an athlete on 20 different scales which are separated into four classes measuring self-assurance and interpersonal skills; socialization, responsibility, flexibility, and character; achievement potential and intellectual efficiency; and interests.

The 16PF, another trait theory assessment, looks at sixteen scales of personality deemed necessary for understanding and studying differences in human behavior: warmth, reasoning, emotional stability, dominance, liveliness, rule consciousness, social boldness, sensitivity, vigilance, abstractedness, privateness, apprehension, openness to change, self-reliance, perfectionism, and tension (Packman, 2008).

Similar to the MBTI work, there are questions about trait theory validity, but researchers suggest it examines a new direction in team selection based on perimeters that are key for that occupational position. Gross (1998) administered the 16PF to 30 athletes who had at least four years of NFL experience and 30 players who did not make it the NFL. Results suggested success in the NFL hinged on concrete thinking, emotional stability, and self-indulgence; moreover, he found players who exhibited higher athletic ability, rigidity, and irritability also increased their likelihood of playing in the NFL (Gross, 1998). The chief limitation to the results of this study centers on the low sample size.

Several other trait studies including Schaubhut et al. (2006) and Packman (2008) provided more insight utilizing larger sample sizes of 1,100 football players and 2000 players respectively. Results did not find differences in CPI scores among athletes drafted verses not drafted in Schaubhut et al. (2006); however, Packman (2008) found significant group differences in nine of the 20 CPI scales between drafted and undrafted athletes. Players drafted were higher in Self-control, Good Impression, and Femininity/Masculinity and lower in Social Presence, Self-acceptance, Tolerance, Achievement via Independence, Intellectual Efficiency, and Flexibility than those who not drafted (Packman, 2008). Her findings also suggested athletes who were found to be higher in Good Impression and Intellectual Efficiency and lower in Tolerance were more likely to play in an NFL game than those who did not (Packman, 2008).

Overall, Packman states her results were only marginally useful in predicting draft and game play status. Moreover, there exists little significance as to long term NFL success. Of particular interest, the nine significant perimeters found among athletes drafted versus those undrafted fits in accordance with Schaubhut et al. (2006) which also found drafted athletes higher in Self-control and Good Impression than athletes not drafted. Packman notes that given players are required to adhere to a tight schedule and have to follow orders, it makes sense players who are drafted were higher in emotional control and prefer a predicted and rigid schedule (Packman, 2008).

These findings actually contradict Niednagel’s research findings which indicate better athletes in the NFL have a personality Brain Type which struggle to stay on task and definitely do not like a rigid and tight schedule (Niednagel, 2004). In fact, SP Brain Types are found at the top of most elite sports and very oriented towards flexibility and adaptability in schedule; thrive on freedom and do not achieve optimal performance under a rigid regime (Niednagel, 2004). Niednagel correctly discerned that high-risk behavior may be necessary for success in football and Packman draws this same conclusion based on investigating whether behavioral risk status influenced game performance after controlling for athletic ability (Niednagel, 2004; Packman 2008). For example, she notes, a wide receiver who decides to jump up to catch a pass while a defensive player is running full speed at him to make a tackle, is at high-risk of injury for the success of one play. Thus, she suggests, using risk status to select players would be a wise consideration towards the probability the athlete will engage in high-risk behavior on the field (Packman, 2008). Niednagel would suggest that high-risk behavior on and off the field is the innate make-up of athletes with an SP Brain Type (Niednagel, 2004).

Significance and Discussion

               Given the above brief look at current literature on psychological testing as a predictor of NFL draft status and NFL success, it appears more significant and valid research needs to be conducted to improve the efficiency and quality of the use of such testing. Certainly the direct implications aim at increasing that low percentage of 9%. Other direct implications are associated with financial risk and reward for the teams—ever so evident after the recent lockout and issues surrounding that for both players and owners. Teams need to know who they are investing in and if their chosen candidates will succeed.

Returning to the example noted above between the two 1998 drafted QB’s, Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf, one can physically see they were of similar skill and their stats comparable in suggesting NFL success. While Manning clearly has the label of ‘success’ in the NFL having played for more than a decade and winning a Super Bowl, Leaf holds the title of the ‘biggest draft bust’ in history. Shortly after being drafted, Leaf exhibited poor performance on and off the field and after four seasons on inconsistent play, he retired. Niednagel correctly predicted this outcome based on the Brain Type of each athlete—Manning as an ESTP and Leaf as an ESTJ (Niednagel, 2004). While there is not sufficient information available on the other noted psychological tests, it appears none of the others would have correctly predicted this outcome. In fact, the CPI results tend to suggest that Leaf’s Brain Type as an SJ, one who prefers a rigid and predicted schedule are more draft able than those were lower in such psychological scales (Packman, 2008; Schaubhut, 2006).

No matter what psychological assessment is used, the media frenzy to find out key information on notable draft candidates creates an ethical dilemma for test administrators, Teams, and agents. As a clinical professional, all ethical codes indicate this information is private information unless the athlete signs a waiver indicating release and even then, it is generally regarded that this type of information stay private and used for directly profiling athletes (ACA, 2010; ACSM, 2007; APA, 2010; Gardner, 2001; Texas State Department of Health Services, 2010; Whelan, 2007).

It is unclear as to standard operation procedure when administer these tests at different Senior bowls, NFLPA games, and the Combine. I have witnessed both a strong private stance and then a loose stance on informed consent and confidentiality of the athlete’s information. It is clear notable first round candidate’s information, particularly in key positions like quarterback, often is leaked to the media and thus may have significant draft status impact.

Information from psychological measures certain can assist in predicting draftability and NFL success, but as noted before more research is needed to find any significance and validity. Reality also suggests there is more at work than just physical and psychological perimeters. For instance, several NFL Scouts I have talked including one Director of College Scouting have indicated solid results with HRT testing and ‘swear by it’ when the Team is indecisive on a particular player (NFL Director of College Scounting, 2010). Still others say HRT testing is either ‘dead on or totally off.’

The NFL is a business machine. Sports agencies are business machines. Sports performance training facilities are business machines. Sports marketing companies are business machines. Without the thousands of young men pushing themselves to secure roughly 1900 NFL slots including practice squad rosters, the NFL, the agents, and the training centers would be out of business. Athletes are commodities. ‘Hope’ is dangled in front of each of these young men when most of them have not shot whatsoever of making a roster as indicated by the low 3% invited to the NFL Combine and the roughly 9% of draft candidates who make roster any given year (Hendricks, 2003; Kuzmits, 2008; Robbins, 2010; Sierer, 2008).

Ethical issues arise by the given fact that many times a player is selected for a team roster not based on physical ability or even psychological readiness but simply due to political reasons or economic gain. Like any other business, the NFL is a system of connections and ‘who knows who’. If your agent is not among those in that ‘inner circle’, it is much more difficult to get an opportunity. Similarly, an athlete who can garner a certain level of media and public relations status while being average on the field may constitute a roster spot simply due to the money he generates for the team and himself. If he can get ‘butts in seats’, then he is a valuable asset to the team regardless of whether he can achieve peak or optimal position performance.

Draft punditry also has become a profession and big business in and of itself. It’s a media event and hours upon hours of coverage leading up to the three-day media bidding event puts economic theory and sporting obsession into the forefront of our live (Beattie, 2008). Millions gather to watch and listen to the unveiling of the pecking order and analyze the exhaustive analysis when early picks are somewhat predictable in nature (Beattie, 2008; NFL Director of College Scouting, 2010). Political, PR and economic tactics matter as much as physical and mental evaluations.

Combating the fact an athlete may be hired or secure a roster sport regardless of physical and psychological ability suggests that sports psychology professionals need to clearly understand and administer their given craft with appropriate standards of informed consent and confidentiality with whichever third party may directly employ him or her in the assessment and evaluation process. Issues in addressing the media, responded to coach and/or agent inquiries must be thought out ahead of time during the draft selection process or team selection evaluation examinations.


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American Counseling Association Governing Board. (2005). ACA Code of Ethics. American Counseling Association.

American Psychological Association. (2010, June 1). Ethical Principles of Psychologisst and Code of Conduct. Retrieved July 8, 2011, from American Pschological Association:

anonymous. (2010, May 29). Director of College Scounting for an NFL team. (K. Watson, Interviewer)

Beattie, A. (2008). Unnatural Selection. Financial Times .

Boulier, B. L., Stekler, H., & & Rankins, T. (2009). Evaluating National Football League draft choices: The passing game. International Journal of Forecasting , 589-605.

Dr. James Whelan, U. o. (2007). AASP Ethics Code: Ethical Principles and Standards. Retrieved July 8, 2011, from Association for Applied Sports Psychology:

Gardner, F. L. (2001). Applied Sport Psychology in Professional Sports: The Team Psychologist. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice , 34-39.

Gross, D. (1998). Predictors of NFL football player success: Implications for student-athletes. Doctoral Dissertation, The University of Southern California .

Hendricks, W., Lawrence, D., & & Koenker, R. (2003). Uncertainty, Hiring, and Subsequent Performance: The NFL Draft. Journal of Labor Economics , 857-886.

Kuzmits, F. E., & Adams, A. J. (2008). The NFL Combine: Does it Predict Performance in the National Football League? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 1721-7.

Lyons, B. D., Hoffman, B., & Michel, J. W. (2009). Not Much More than g? An Examination of the Impact of Intelligence on NFL Performance. Human Performance , 225-245.

Niednagel, J. (1997). Your Key to Sports Success. Laguna Niguel: Laguna Press.

Packman, S. F. (2008). Relationship between Psychological Characteristics and Performance in Professional Football. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses , 1-119.

Robbins, D. W. (2010). The National Football League Combine: Does Normalized Data Better Predict Performance in the NFL Draft? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 2888-99.

Sanders, M. (2010, May 20). Sports Psychologist. (K. Watson, Interviewer)

Schaubhut, N. D. (2006). Personality profiles of North American professional football players. Industrial and Organizational Psychology .

Sierer, S. P., Battaglini, C. L., Mihalik, J. P., Shields, E. W., & Tomasini, N. T. (2008). The National Football League Combine: Performance Differences Between Drafted and Nondrafted Players Entering the 2004-2005 Drafts. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 6-22.

Texas Department of State Health Services. (2010, April 5). Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Code of Ethics . Austin, TX, USA: Texas Department of State Health Services.


I hope you have made it this far. This is intersting stuff if you ever wondered why a guy or gal is so good at what they do. You want to hear more? Be sure to tune in to see the Cleveland Sports 360 show Monday night 4-9-12 only at when our guest will be Kip Watson and Anthony Dorsett jr.. Both Watson and Dorsett Jr. work in the field of athletic training and assess Brain Codes all the time. Watson and Dorsett Jr. run a company called  NeuroSport
Brain Coding: performance enhancement assessments & clinical services

They will be the guests Monday night on the Cleveland Sports 360 show. Be sure to log on to hear more about how guys like Peyton Manning are wired. It will be an interesting show.






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