What is the S2 Cognition Test and Does it Even Matter?

by Joe Beldner · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

“Brains over brawn” is an expression that is often overlooked in professional sports. Athletic gifts and physical traits have instead been the primary focus when evaluating collegiate prospects. It’s true a powerful arm, elite athleticism, and meeting desired size thresholds should continue to be essential when evaluating quarterback prospects. However, the S2 Cognition Test can prove to be an invaluable tool in predicting how a prospect can translate from the collegiate level to the pros. With that said, there are a plethora of other integral tactics that are just as, if not more essential in evaluating prospects at the position. 

What is the S2 Cognition Test?

It is worth noting that this test that has been dominating news headlines surrounding the NFL Draft is not new. In fact, NFL teams have been using the S2 Cognition Test for the last seven years. It is an evaluation that scientifically measures an athlete’s game-speed cognitive abilities down to a millisecond level. Key mental instincts that this test measures include perception speed, visual search efficiency, trajectory prediction, impulse control, and improvisation.

Why do these factors matter when evaluating collegiate prospects? These players will have significantly less time in the pocket. They will need to perform under immense amounts of pressure at the next level. We have witnessed countless quarterback prospects who were stars at the collegiate level but could not translate to the pros. At the very least, evaluating a player’s performance on this test could help reveal their potential decision-making process when under pressure. 

Does It Really Matter? 

At this point in time, this question is difficult to answer with confidence. It was not all that long ago that the now outdated Wonderlic test seemed of great importance. The hope is that the S2 Cognition Test can take an analytical approach in getting inside of a quarterback prospect’s mind. It has been stated that elite NFL quarterbacks such as Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, and Patrick Mahomes have all scored extremely high on this intriguing test. Brock Purdy, who was the last pick in last year’s NFL Draft, scored very favorably on it as well. Transforming from an unheralded prospect to having such great success when thrown into the starting role has raised alarms about the potential significance of this modern testing. 

A common misconception about the S2 Cognition Test is that it measures a prospect’s intelligence. Although it has seemed to have replaced the Wonderlic, this test is more about measuring cognitive skills that are directly correlated to performance on the football field. The evaluation has little to do with a player’s IQ or how well they can read a playbook. With that said, there is now data that signifies that the upper-echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL tend to score higher on this test than those of lesser quality. This would signify that performing well on the test does indeed matter.

The 2023 NFL Draft Class

NFL Network Draft Analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently leaked information that Bryce Young scored the highest on the S2 Cognition Test out of all quarterbacks in this year’s draft class. Young has often been criticized for lacking prototypical size for a quarterback at the professional level. When critiquing him as a prospect, there is little to criticize other than that. Due to this, it is not surprising at all that he excelled on an evaluation of cognitive response and split-second decision-making. 

With that said, his odds of becoming the first player drafted this year increased tremendously after it was reported that he scored higher on the S2 than Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, and Justin Fields. The maturity and quick decision-making is what truly make Young a special prospect. He is like Houdini in the pocket. It is respectable to state that he sees things unfold before they actually happen. These unique mental intangibles could prove to help him become an outlier to prototypical size thresholds at the position. Maybe he is truly similar to Drew Brees

Are These Reports Even Accurate?

Although players like Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis were reported to have scored well on the S2, that was not the case for other prospects. Most notably, C.J. Stroud was reported to have scored in the 18th-percentile. It is worth noting there has been an abundance of uncertainty on how valid the scoring reports are. Co-founder of the test Brandon Ally even stated that he would take these reports with a “grain of salt.” There are few sources that would know better than him on the validity of these scores. With that said, there have been rumors swirling that Stroud’s draft stock has been falling. This can just be smoke leading up to draft day. However, if a player does slip in the draft because of poor scoring, it is most definitely significant.

With the accuracy of the scores being in question and the current reports lacking further context, it might be most advisable to ignore them until more accurate information comes out. C.J. Stroud has often been praised for his accuracy and decision-making as a pocket passer. There is little in his film that would make you question how he performs under pressure. There have been equal concerns over how Will Levis handles pressure in the pocket. He is most commonly criticized for lacking awareness in the pocket. This trait often leads to sacks or making questionable throws. Even if a player scores well on this test, it is imperative that their performance on the field matches their performance on the evaluation.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, how a prospect scores on the S2 Cognition Test should not fully define them as a player. With that said, the test can prove to be an invaluable asset into potentially evaluating how a collegiate prospect will handle pressure at the next level. For a prospect like Bryce Young who is undersized, the test can prove to be a key factor. It can indicate that he is a true outlier at the position who will succeed in the NFL.

The quarterback position is unique from other positions in football. To be at the summit of talent at the position, you need to have a certain level of mental fortitude and capacity to pick up on things before they unfold. This involves the ability to run through a full-field progression while under unpredictable pressure. Although there are still uncertainties with the effectiveness of the S2 Cognition Test, it can prove to be a true difference-maker when evaluating prospects. Combining the scoring on the test with other measurable factors can help to make a more accurate evaluation of future franchise quarterbacks.