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NFL Combine: Why prospects are now skipping the S2 Cognition Test

S2 Cognition Test, C.J. Stroud
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Ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, quarterback C.J. Stroud’s S2 score was leaked leading to one NFL executive calling him a ‘bust’ and an undraftable player. With the Houston Texans star coming off a historic rookie season and the 2024 NFL Draft approaching it’s time to revisit the S2 Cognition Test.

Most football fans were completely unfamiliar with the S2 Cognition test before Stroud’s numbers were revealed. While there were a few leaks of high scores by quarterbacks like Bryce Purdy and Bryce Young, most people didn’t know what the S2 test was.

Related: 2024 NFL Combine guide

Before the S2 Cognition test, everyone knew about the Wonderlic. For decades, draft-eligible players would show up at the NFL Combine and take a Wonderlic test designed to gauge their cognitive ability and general intelligence.

While the two tests are designed to gauge similar things, they go about them in vastly different ways. In the Wonderlic test, players have 12 minutes to answer 50 questions with examples of those questions ranging from “Sand is to beach as ____ is to road” to “Which vowel is halfway between C and P?”. It’s a race against time with the questions getting progressively harder, but it pales in comparison to the S2 test.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft order, picks by team

What is the S2 Cognition Test?

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The S2 Cognition Test is made up of eight different tests, which include testing nine cognitive functions and they are all graded individually. While the Wonderlic focuses on pure intelligence, the S2 test has been compared to a decathlon that judges how a person processes and reacts to information.

In the S2 test, participants receive percentile grades for the nine different cognitive skills.

  • S2 Cognition Test skills: Perception speed, search efficiency, tracking capacity, visual learning, instinctive learning, decision complexity, distraction control, impulse control and improvisation

“The S2 Eval uses decades of scientifically validated measures to evaluate cognitive capacity as it relates to high-speed decision-making. These measures have been in the literature and used by labs around the world for years ( i.e., strong psychometrics). The data from the S2 Eval was vetted by professional analytics groups and academics. We also consulted with coaches, front office personnel, and scouts to create the S2 Eval.”


The S2 test isn’t just used for NFL prospects either. It’s been used to gauge those same abilities in police officers and soldiers, helping to see how they process and react to things in the heat of the moment.

Revisiting the C.J. Stroud S2 score, S2 Cognition test ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft

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Before the 2023 NFL Draft, it was reported the quarterback prospect Bryce Young recorded one of the highest-ever scores (98) ever recorded on the S2 test. In comparison, Stroud reportedly had one of the worst scores ever leaked.

  • C.J. Stroud S2 score: 18 out of 100

Of note, per The Athletic, the company conducting the S2 test told Matt Barrows that of the 27 scores among starting quarterbacks in the NFL, 13 had a 90-plus career passer rating and the average S2 score of those players was in the 91st percentile. The other 14 quarterbacks with QB ratings under 90 had S2 scores in the low 60s. This test has been conducted on NFL players for the last seven years. However, those low scores require context that even the S2 founded recognizes.

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Brandon Ally, a neuroscientist who founded the S2 Cognition test, appeared in an episode of Pablo Torre Finds Out. During that podcast, he talked about what the S2 test is meant to do and even explained why the S2 score itself isn’t a predictor of success in the NFL.

“A low score doesn’t mean you can’t play, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to make it. A high score doesn’t mean you’re going to be an All-Pro quarterback…There’s no team out there that’s drafting off S2, S2 is one piece of the puzzle, you’ve got to put it in context.”

S2 Cognition test founder Brandon Ally

While Ally wouldn’t directly address Stroud’s score, Torre revealed that a source involved in the testing noted that Stroud’s score was flagged with the designation “QUESTIONABLE DATA” atop his results. Furthermore, 10-20 players get flagged like this on average each year, either because they didn’t try, didn’t care, or were too tired to truly take the at their normal abilities.

“I’m a football player. … I’m not an S2 taker. But shout out to S2, man, they probably have a good system, what they do, no diss to them. But I know who I am, and I know what I can do on that field. And I’ll do that at the next level.”

C.J. Stroud on his S2 Cognition Test results

If the Carolina Panthers used the S2 test to determine whether they should take Stroud or Young, that was a poor process on their part.

However, there’s also a reason the agency Athletes First and other sports agencies representing NFL Draft prospects have told their clients to boycott the S2 test. NFL teams, specifically anonymous executives, will use anything to ding a player’s reputation if it could potentially push them further down the draft order to help their own club’s interest. Furthermore, the negative public image of a low S2 score is something no agent wants their player to experience.

It’s critical to remember that there are people who simply don’t take tests well, which occurs most often in school. The moment college football season ends, draft-eligible prospects are devoting every hour of the day to physically and mentally preparing for the NFL Combine, private workouts and individual meetings with general managers and coaches. These workouts and interviews will have a heavy influence on where they are drafted, which has a profound impact on the trajectory of their careers.

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The S2 Cognition Test very well might be good at gauging a person’s mental sharpness, how they process information and decision-making in the span of milliseconds. However, those things can also show up on game film and that matters far more. Considering what happened to Stroud last year at this time and the very acknowledgment from Ally that his test is only a small part of the evaluation process, there appears to be far more downside in taking the test and risking a score being leaked than participating and getting a good score.

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