Bright NFL futures for Dalton, McElory & Ponder, in theory

Intelligence. Experience. Accuracy.

Are those the ingredients a college quarterback must possess in order to become a successful pro?

That’s the thinking behind the 26-27-60 theory, which SI.com’s John P. Lopez popularized with this article. The theory says quarterbacks who score at least a 26 on the Wonderlic test (a passing grade), start at least 27 games in college and complete at least 60 percent of their passes will likely have success in the NFL.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that Florida State’s Christian Ponder, TCU’s Andy Dalton and Alabama’s Greg McElroy are the quarterbacks from this year’s incoming draft class to win the triple crown (Auburn’s Cam Newton and Washington’s Jake Locker fall short in two categories, see below).

Lopez says the theory was inspired by conversations with NFL scouts and from his own examination of scouting reports. He notes the theory is hardly foolproof, but believes it’s a solid measuring stick.

Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers, for example, have passing grades. In contrast, celebrated busts such as Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith and JaMarcus Russell fall short in at least one of the categories.

Of course, it’s not quite so simple.

Rookie sensation Sam Bradford has a passing grade. But so does sensational flop Matt Leinart. And Rex Grossman.

Two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger (25-38-65.5) just missed the mark due to his 25 on the Wonderlic. However, the exact same thing can be said for Byron Leftwich (25-38-65.1), Roethlisberger’s less-successful teammate who has eerily similar numbers.

Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb, a much-discussed potential rising star, aced the test (28-50-61.6). But so did Arizona’s Max Hall (38-39-65.3), an undrafted free agent last year who is not often discussed.

Carson Palmer barely missed due to his completion percentage (26-45-59.1). And so did, ahem, Patrick Ramsey (32-32-58.9).

We could go on. And will.

Brett Favre – heard of him? — scored a 22 on his Wonderlic and completed 53 percent of his passes at Southern Miss.

Ditto for some slob named Dan Marino (16 Wonderlic, 57.6 completion percentage).

Michael Vick (20-19-56.4) whiffed every 26-27-60 category.

You get the idea. The point isn’t to belittle the theory, but provide perspective before anyone gets too hysterical over the numbers from this year’s college quarterbacks (whose Wonderlics have been reported):

Passing Grades (3 of 3)

Andy Dalton, TCU: 29 Wonderlic, 49 starts, 61.7 completion percentage

Greg McElroy, Alabama: 43-27-66.3

Christian Ponder, Florida State: 35-34-61.8

Not Quite (2 of 3)

Blaine Gabbert, Missouri: 42 Wonderlic, 26 starts, 60.9 completion percentage

Colin Kaepernick, Nevada: 37-48-58.2

Ryan Mallett, Arkansas: 26-29-57.8

Ricky Stanzi, Iowa: 30-35-59.8

Uh oh? (1 of 3)

Cam Newton, Auburn: 21 Wonderlic, 16 starts, 65.4 completion percentage

Jake Locker, Washington: 20-39-53.9

Note: I’ll follow with a blog on the 26-27-60 numbers for current NFL quarterbacks. Teaser … Alex Smith doesn’t quite pass the test. And neither does Tom Brady.

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