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During the NFL draft process, teams will do whatever they can to determine who will be a great pro football player and who will be a bust. The S2 Cognition test is the latest assessment teams are using to figure out who will succeed and who will fail at the next level. And with the 2023 NFL Draft just days away, the S2 Cognition test is in the news, as leaked scores show projected No. 1 pick Bryce Young in a positive light and (former?) projected No. 2 pick CJ Stroud in a negative one. What is S2 Cognition test? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the S2 Cognition Test the NFL Uses to Evaluate Draft Prospects?

What is the S2 Cognition test? NFL draft, CJ Stroud, Bryce Young
(L-R) CJ Stroud and Bryce Young | Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

S2 Cognition is a Nashville, Tennessee-based company that “helps athletes better understand why they excel and struggle in certain areas of their game by revealing how their brain is wired to perform,” according to the company website

The S2 Cognition test evaluates athletes in four categories with subcategories in the first three and then provides an overall score in the form of a percentile where the athlete falls among his or her peers.  

The categories and subcategories the S2 Cognition test appraises are: 

  • Visual processing
    • Perception speed
    • Trajectory estimation
  • Rhythm/timing
    • Rhythm control
    • Timing control
  • Motor control
    • Distraction control
    • Impulse control
    • Stopping control
  • Instinctive learning

As opposed to the Wonderlic test that tested general intelligence that the league used at the NFL Scouting Combine for over 50 years, the S2 Cognition test deals with sports-specific skills and functions that better illustrate how a prospect will perform on the field. 

The test is a series of quick-fire images and decisions to test how fast the participants can process information. For example, Matt Barrows of The Athletic explained several of the sections: 

  • “A series of diamonds flash on the screen for 16 milliseconds each. Every diamond is missing a point, and the test taker must determine — using left, right, up or down keys — which part is missing.”
  • A section is designed to test “how many objects an athlete can keep track of at the same time.”
  • “In another, there are 22 figures on the screen and the athlete must locate a specific one as quickly as possible. The object might be a red triangle embedded in other shapes that are also red.”

The NFL has used this test for the last seven years or so, according to Go Long’s draft expert, Bob McGinn. However, as part of the collective bargaining agreement, the league can’t administer the test at the combine. That means the test is administered on campus at Pro Days, postseason college All-Star games, or during top 30 visits. 

2023 NFL Draft QB S2 Cognition results 

The reason the S2 Cognition test is gaining popularity and notoriety is that it does seem to do a good job identifying players who will succeed in the NFL, particularly at quarterback. 

While there isn’t information readily available — before this season — on who’s done poorly on the test, the company does tout the fact that great QBs like Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen all scored near the top of players who’ve taken the test. 

Joe Burrow has publically released his number, and he scored in the 97th percentile. And at the 2022 NFL Draft, who scored at the top among all quarterbacks? “Mr. Irrelevant” himself, Brock Purdy, posted a score in “the mid-90s.”

This season, the S2 Cognition test has confirmed Alabama QB Bryce Young’s status as the No. 1 pick. He reportedly scored in the 98th percentile, according to McGinn. On the flip side, the supposed No. 2 pick, CJ Stroud, did incredibly poorly, posting a score in the 18th percentile. 

An NFL executive told McGinn, “That is like red alert, red alert, you can’t take a guy like that. That is why I have Stroud as a bust.”

The rest of the 2023 NFL Draft class at QB looks like this in terms of the S2 Cognition test scores, per McGinn and various other sources reporting the officially unconfirmed numbers: 

  • Tanner McKee, Stanford: 99%
  • Bryce Young, Alabama: 98%
  • Jake Haener, Fresno State: 96%
  • Will Levis, Kentucky: 93%
  • Jaren Hall, BYU: 93%
  • Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA: 91%
  • Clayton Tune, Houston: 84%
  • Anthony Richardson, Florida: 79%
  • Hendon Hooker, Tennessee: 46%
  • CJ Stroud, Ohio State: 18%

These S2 scores are just starting to come out, so in the next few years, we’ll see how predictive they really are. The first big test case is coming, though, and the Bryce Young vs. CJ Stroud debate will help answer some questions about this new NFL draft litmus test. 


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