In what has become an annual rite of summer, the NFL player ratings for the ever-popular Madden video game series were released this week.
Admittedly, I’m no aficionado when it comes to playing Madden — I was always more of a Grand Theft Auto guy — but realize the amount of painstaking research its developers dedicate in order to make the experience as accurate as possible (while knowing almost every player who cares about it will complain his evaluation doesn’t properly reflect his off-the-charts ability).
Still, there are a few aspects of the Madden NFL 19 ratings that caused a double take to someone who follows the league closely. Here are nine:
1. New York quarterbacks are especially horrendous: OK, it’s no secret the Giants and Jets (especially) have struggled under center lately. But with a rating of 76, two-time Giants Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning ties at 35th league-wide at the position. Ahead of him: Jets passers Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater (both rated at 78), while rookie Sam Darnold barely trails with a 75. Manning is clearly on the back side of his career, but this is a little much for a guy who played better late in the 2017 season and certainly didn’t have much offensive support to lean on.
2. The speed ratings were revealing:Madden‘s overall evaluations are culled from dozens of sub-component rankings. Little surprise Kansas City receiver Tyreek Hill got the top speed ranking (98), followed by 2017 combine star John Ross (97). But you’d likely never guess any of the guys tied for third place: Carolina’s Damiere Byrd, Tennessee’s Rico Gafford, Jacksonville’s Corey Grant and Jalen Myrick, Miami’s Jakeem Grant and Arizona’s J.J. Nelson. More familiar names like Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller and Marquise Goodwin are in the next tier. Who knew?
3. ‘Madden’ loves offensive linemen more than players do: When NFL Network revealed its yearly Top 100 list this summer — active player voting determines the order — the top-ranked offensive lineman was Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith … at No. 39. However Madden had three blockers in its top 20 (Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari and Dallas’ Travis Frederick and Zack Martin) and six in the top 28. Smith, with a player ranking of 95, is one of nine players tied for 20th overall in Madden, along with Steelers guard David DeCastro and Raiders center Rodney Hudson (Odell Beckham and Earl Thomas also got a 95). I’d concede far more research goes into the Madden rankings than those of the Top 100, but I’m still with the players on this one. I love the big guys, but seriously?
4. Context of 92: Building on the placement of the aforementioned linemen, it’s worth noting both Seahawks star Russell Wilson and Rams running back Todd Gurley rated a 92. Wilson is the third-rated quarterback in Madden (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers both maxed out with 99s) — after all, he produced more than 80% of Seattle’s offense last year. Gurley, meanwhile, tied for third among running backs — after Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson (more on that later) — despite being the league’s reigning offense player of the year after leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage and TDs. To underscore the point, Wilson and Gurley are on a level with Eagles center Jason Kelce and Buffalo DB Micah Hyde … and behind Rodney Hudson.
5. Injury rating? So Madden does evidently incorporate an injury rating, but it sure doesn’t seem to count for much. Johnson (93 overall score) played one game last year. Rodgers, one of seven players with a 99, missed nine games in 2017. J.J. Watt has missed 16 of Houston’s last 24 regular-season games … but he got a 98. There’s no doubting the greatness of these guys, but if injury is going to factor into the rating … then why doesn’t it?
6. Rookies: Colts guard Quenton Nelson is Madden‘s top-ranked rookie (83). Giants running back Saquon Barkley got an 82. This seems reasonable for players expected to be perennial all-pros but still lacking pro experience. It seems less reasonable when noting Deshaun Watson (some NFL experience) and Kirk Cousins (a fair amount of NFL experience) also got an 82. Keep reading.
7. Browns QBs: Checking in after Nelson and Barkley, No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield was scored at 81 — the same as new Browns teammate Tyrod Taylor, not to mention new Broncos starting QB Case Keenum, who both took their previous clubs to the playoffs in 2017. In fairness, Mayfield also took Oklahoma to postseason, but … well, you get it.
8. Internal team rankings: Some of these should make for some interesting locker room banter. What, you want examples? Andrew Luck (87) is the third-ranked Colt after Jabaal Sheard and T.Y. Hilton (both 89) … even though we’ve already noted that injuries basically don’t seem to matter. Watson is eighth among Texans — no issue with him trailing Watt, DeAndre Hopkins or even Jadeveon Clowney … but Andre Hal, Johnathan Joseph and Lamar Miller? Then there’s Cousins. Talk about horrid cap management, apparently the Vikings just guaranteed $84 million … to their 13th-best player.
9. Kickers: Here’s the kicker (and punter) … literally. Baltimore’s Justin Tucker is almost inarguably the league’s best. The Rams’ Johnny Hekker is a tremendous weapon as a punter, partly because he’s got a nice arm, too. Both got a rating of 86. So did Carson Wentz. Insert face-palm emoji. (Wentz, by the way, was voted the league’s third overall player, behind Brady and Antonio Brown, on the Top 100 list and probably snatches MVP honors if his knee stays healthy.)
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis