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Face of the NFL? Essay

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Updated: Jun 17th, 2021


In the modern-day, mass and social media place tremendous emphasis upon individual and personal behavior, particularly of professional athletes who are in the spotlight. This leads NFL draft prospects to face scrutiny beyond athletic ability, regarding their previous behaviors, psychological and personality analysis, and an evaluation of future stability. This would allow them to consider their viability as future professionals without endangering the reputation of their respective teams and the NFL. This report will examine five players in the recent NFL draft and attempt to determine psychological tendencies that would make them viable players.

Issues in Psychology

The Wonderlic test was designed as a measurement of cognitive intelligence and mental ability. This examination has been used by the NFL since the 1970s and is considered an indicator of future performance as the game requires some level of strategic planning and rapid cognitive thinking, particularly for quarterbacks. The problem-solving ability determined by the Wonderlic test is predicted to be a sign of success as it leads to better choices, both in professional and personal lives. However, it is not a straightforward personality indicator as persons with high cognitive abilities may have low levels of integrity (Post, 2018).

Meanwhile, social media is now a prevalent aspect of drafting prospects, which most teams having a dedicated employee monitoring all social media for rookies. Potentially controversial images, behaviors, or opinions are flagged and evaluated in order to protect teams from public relations controversies (Walker, 2017). From a psychological standpoint, past behavior is said to influence future behavior to some extent since the action was based on certain influencing cognitive activity.

Unless there was a specific consequence or feedback which may have drastically changed an individual’s attitude, it is likely that repetitive behavior could be expected. The consistency of personality traits and motivational factors for the individual performing the behavior will lead to reoccurrences if similar situational factors arise (Harris, Lee, Thompson, & Kranton, 2015).

Player #1

Baker Mayfield is a successful rookie quarterback, who was the no. 1 NFL draft pick for 2018. He was eventually selected by the Cleveland Browns. There is a general consensus amongst NFL professionals, coaches, mass media, and fans that Mayfield is a highly skilled and fresh perspective for the Browns, who are ready for professional football. Mayfield uses social media responsibly and utilizes it to increase positive public visibility.

He has embraced the medium during his career and is endorsed by sponsors through his profiles on various platforms (Hangst, 2018). Mayfield scored a 25 on the standard Wonderlic test, which places him average with quarterback scores. However, he did extremely well on a modernized and modified version of the Wonderlic (Kirshner, 2018).

Mayfield has exemplified some potentially controversial behavior on the field during his college football career. This includes unsportsmanlike behavior such as refusing to shake hands or inappropriate celebrations. He has also openly participated in “trash talk” against other players, often exceeding appropriate limits to this practice. According to Mayfield, these have been acts of passion and energy without malicious intent (Martinelli, 2018). During his college career in 2017, Mayfield was arrested on charges of public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and fleeing and resisting arrest. The athlete pled guilty to misdemeanor charges and was charged $300 in fines which he paid (Trotter, 2017).


Generally, Mayfield’s indicators demonstrate a level of personal stability and responsibility which make him viable as a professional player. He has exhibited the quality of character, sportsmanship, and foresight for the future of his career. He has demonstrated some irresponsible behavior on the field and in life. The circumstances of the arrest are not malicious and are a result of drunken behavior. It was a one-time incident for which Mayfield paid the consequences. As for his competitive and energetic attitude, Mayfield himself has noted that it is a manner which he uses to overcome doubt about himself.

The psychological principle of compensation could be applied to Mayfield, who has used his hyperactivity and aggression on the field as a defense mechanism to feeling undervalued since childhood. He strives to achieve dominance and superiority through selective compensation which affects his happiness (Teshale & Lachman, 2016). As Mayfield exhibits this behavior in a relatively healthy manner in the process of the game, it is appropriate and will unlikely be a concern for personal issues. Personal evaluation of the player stands at 80/100.

Player #2

Saquon Barkley is a quarterback for the New York Giants who was no. 2 on the 2018 NFL draft. Barkley is considered a talented player with a very personable and kind personality. Sports mass media consider him to be the poster boy player that the NFL wants for its brand. Someone who is fully dedicated, without any disciplinary or attitude problems. Despite notably practicing and studying for the Wonderlic test, Barkley scored a sub-average score of 18.

However, coaches note his intelligence and curious demeanor, which does not suggest cognitive issues (Baskin, 2018). Barkley is partially active on social media which he uses as a platform to promote his values and endorsements as well as the sport, wishing to inspire younger athletes. He exemplifies role model behavior both on and off the field and engages in numerous NFL initiatives that advocate for others and demonstrate family-friendly behavior (Raanan, 2018).


Barkley demonstrates extreme responsibility and dedication to his career at the NFL. He demonstrates what is psychologically identified as a Type-B personality which is more passive and relaxed. He is patient, not aggressive, and focused. Furthermore, Barkley has continuously used his voice and platform for advocacy, serving as a role model player. The comfort level with this player is 100/100 as there are no indicators of any potential personality issues from all examined sources.

Player #3

Sam Darnold was the no. 3 overall picks in the 2018 draft for the New York Jets. He is considered an all-around quarterback with a dedication to winning. Mass media and sports commentators label his personality as tough and gritty, but also fun and lighthearted. Darnold has scored a 28 on the Wonderlic test which is above average, highlighting his cognitive ability to process information. During interviews, Darnold seems to be self-aware and concentrated on his goals. He avoids social media, not registered on high-profile platforms such as Twitter. Although a rarity for a young NFL player, Darnold attributes this to feel like social media is a waste of time.

He wants to know the public opinion about himself but does not actively communicate with anyone outside of friends and family (Weinstein, 2018). During his signing, Darnold was in a contract negotiation dispute with the New York Jets over a clause that his guaranteed salary may be offset over any potential NFL suspensions or fines. His agents considered the wording aggressive to the interests of the player since he has demonstrated no history or tendencies for irresponsible behavior either on or off the field (Cimini, 2018).


Darnold demonstrates a calm and introverted type of personality. He has no evident issues or personality-related problems as well as any disciplinary history which may cause concern. Research indicates that personality is suggestive of professional engagement. Character traits such as control, independence, and toughness that Darnold demonstrates are a combination that correlates with the highest work engagement (Arora & Adhikari, 2013). The comfort level with this player is 95/100 due to few factors other than the contract negotiation potentially indicating abnormal behavior in the future.

Player #4

Josh Rosen was selected as no. 10 in the draft pick by Arizona Cardinals. Mass media and football pundits portray him as one of the most controversial and polarizing draft picks in recent years. Scouting reports indicate despite his raw talent, he is known to be candid, outspoken, and brash. There is a generally negative attitude which makes him unlikable by the public as well as those around him (Davis, 2018). Rosen received a 29 Wonderlic score which is above average for a quarterback.

He has demonstrated intelligence and curiosity but does not channel it correctly. His off-court behavior is criticized for being insensitive and outspoken, although not always for the wrong reasons. In interviews, Rosen demonstrates a considerable level of audacity, pride, and egoism, remarking his position in the last draft as unacceptable as he is privileged to receive more (Pesca, 2018). On social media, Rosen has been involved in several controversies which violated university regulations or did not adhere to social norms.


There is a significant concern for Rosen as a personality. Despite his talents, he continuously exemplifies attitude and rebellion against authority. Some critics have questioned his motivations for playing professional football, suggesting he may only be seeking fame. Rosen is an extroverted personality type who is easily provoked and outspoken. Psychology research indicates that talent in professional sports is often conceptualized as a fixed measure that either ensures some level of success or not.

However, early identification does not ensure success without proper decisions and dedication on behalf of the athlete. Athlete development is based strongly on the key decisions and consistency, which an athlete like Rosen may not offer (Baker, Schorer, & Wattie, 2018). The comfort level with this player is 40/100.

Player #5

Shaquem Griffin is a linebacker who was drafted (90th pick) by the Seattle Seahawks. He is a one-handed player due to a congenital birth defect, a first in the NFL, for which his pick received extensive media coverage. His Wonderlic score is unavailable, but he is known for running the fastest linebacker 40-yard dash in more than a decade. Griffin is portrayed by the media as a highly dedicated athlete that has overcome challenges and strives for the best. However, his teammates noted that it more than a feel-good story, but that Griffin continuously works to improve. He is described as open and accepting. Griffin utilizes his social media to advocate for athletes with disabilities and inspire others (McMahan, 2018).


Griffin exhibited the principle of psychosocial adaptation to disability. Using positive psychology, he focused on personal strengths and qualities in order to flourish. As humans are inherently adaptive entities, positive psychology plays a critical role in rehabilitation or living with a chronic disability. Such individuals commonly demonstrate the focus, stability, and overall positive attitudes (Livneh & Martz, 2015).

Giffin has not demonstrated any issues with behavior or attitude. He is continuously at work, striving to better himself and inspire others. He creates a significantly positive image for public relations. The comfort level with this athlete would be 90/100.


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