The S2 cognition test may go the way of the Wonderlic. According to a report from The Athletic one sports agency is directing its NFL Draft prospects to not participate in any cognition tests in their pre-draft process this year. The organization, Athletes First, emailed NFL teams last month to notify them of the move.

“After much internal discussion, the agents at Athletes First have directed our draft prospects to respectfully pass on participating in any cognitive or psychological testing during the pre-draft process (e.g. AIQ, S2, etc.),” the email read, per The Athletic.

“We understand that many of your teams use these tests or protocols as part of your prospect evaluation process, however our recent experience with these exams has been less than positive,” the email continued. “Specifically, the fact that certain results and performance were leaked publicly last year demonstrates that there truly is no confidentiality with these tests. It is not right for a player’s intelligence, aptitude or mental processing to be subject to public discussion and ridicule — no other job interview carries the same scrutiny.”

Multiple Athletes First agents were unable to be reached by The Athletic for comment, while a representative from S2 declined to comment. According to The Athletic, two other agents from major agencies confirmed they had not issued any similar blanket bans on cognition tests.

Athletes First represents over 100 Pro Bowlers and over 100 first-round picks, according to the Athletes First website. According to The Athletic, the agency also currently represents 29 prospects in the 2024 draft class. They represent major NFL names like Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, Jalen Ramsey, and – most notably for this story – Houston Texans quarterback and Offensive Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud.

The NFL phased out the Wonderlic test – a 12-minute, 50-question cognitive assessment used in the NFL Combine – in 2022 because the test was considered outdated. However, that didn’t stop owners from finding new ways to test supposed mental aptitude. Fifteen teams now use the S2 test. First used by teams in 2016, it measures the processing of split-second information and speed of response time over general intelligence.

Stroud’s S2 test was a reported major red flag in his pre-draft process. Go Long reporter Bob McGinn obtained a handful of S2 scores for the 2023 rookie quarterback class. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young scored the highest in the class at 98%, while Ohio State’s Stroud scored 18%.

“Stroud scored 18,” an executive told McGinn at the time of reporting. “That is like red alert, red alert, you can’t take a guy like that. That is why I have Stroud as a bust. That in conjunction with the fact, name one Ohio State quarterback that’s ever done it in the league.”

One of the biggest believers in the S2 program: Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper. Multiple sources reported how much the hedge fund billionaire believed in the data point. Considering reports that Tepper overruled then-head coach Frank Reich by drafting Bryce Young over C.J. Stroud, the test may have played some factor in the decision.

What happened? Stroud led the Texans to their first playoff victory since 2019 and secured an Offensive Rookie of the Year. Young finished the season with 62 sacks – second to only Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell – finished tied for the league’s worst success rate, and posted the league’s third-worst QBR behind Zach Wilson and Will Levis.

The founders of S2 had played damage control about their scoring results ever since the scores leaked. Co-founder Brandon Ally appeared on Pro Football Focus before McGinn’s article but after some scores had been rumored to leak online. He asked people to take all leaked scores with a “grain of salt.”

“We have seen, ‘Hey, so-and-so scored the highest in the class, or the highest ever, and so-and-so scored low,’” Ally said. “And it’s like, ‘Yeah, that’s not true,’” Ally continued. “With that being said, this class as a whole—all the guys in the discussion—have scored really, really well.”

Ally then made an appearance on Pable Torre Finds Out several months later, citing positive correlation results for the test.

“It’s a numeracy thing,” Ally told Torre, who took the test prior to Ally coming on. “When people are writing about Brock Purdy–who aced the test–last guy taken, who’s playing very well. Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, all these people came out, they kept saying, ‘Oh we need more data, that’s not real’. But when CJ takes it, now we get s**t on for one test.”

Ally went on to claim that the Stroud results hurt his mental health.

“It’s not good for my mental health,” the neuroscientist and co-founder said. “CJ is a phenomenal quarterback. He reads defenses very good. He’s poised. He’s super accurate. We are not allowed to talk about what CJ specifically scored.”

He added that, because the testing data is owned by an NFL consortium team, the company cannot discuss test scores and share results. He did, however, note that some of the leaks “intentionally happened for a specific narrative” and advocated for more public access to the data.


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