Now that the 2011-2012 NFL season is long-gone, football fans look to the next most important NFL event.
No, not the 2012 NFL Draft.
No, not free agency.
NFL fans will start to look forward to the next installment of the famous football video game, Madden NFL.
Even though the game is set to drop in the late summer, fans can start placing bets on who will be the coveted cover-boy right about now.
EA Sports are once again letting fans choose the athlete to appear on the popular game, and here are the top 10 candidates to grace Madden NFL 2013.
Jones-Drew is a dark horse to get the nod, but he has to be included. The Jaguars' only star was arguably the best running back this past season and even picked up the rushing title with 1,606 yards.
His biggest flaw is that most of America doesn’t know a thing about Jacksonville. He still isn’t a real star. It doesn’t matter that he carried his lowly team all by himself or that his offensive line was one of the worst in the league.
The case for Maurice Jones-Drew is strong, but the fans will end up handing the cover to a star that plays in a bigger market.
This season, the NFL had more rags-to-riches stories than a list of Hollywood movie proposals. One of those stories happened in Cincinnati, on the backs of these two young stars.
The red-headed rookie threw for 3,398 yards and 20 touchdowns, while the Georgia product reeled in 1,057 yards for seven touchdowns, en route to a 9-7 record and playoff berth.
Sure, having at least one of them on the cover would be enough to make a Bengals fan giddy, but just imagine having the QB-WR combination of Andy Dalton and AJ Green in households everywhere.
It is clear that Dalton and Green are the future of the league and by putting them on the cover, fans would acknowledge the ever-present youth movement in the NFL.
Manning is likable and connects well with fans. Most casual fans aren’t in tune with players such as Jones-Drew or Green. These fans are like the Groundhog and only come out once a year to watch the Super Bowl.
They immediately will be able to connect with the younger Manning, and he will have a shot at getting past the first few rounds.
Manning dominated the postseason and won another battle for younger brothers everywhere.
The star power of Rob Gronkowski faded considerably after his injured ankle, Super Bowl loss and “Dancing-Gate”.
But the fact remains that Gronkowski still has a pretty large fan base. The Patriots' young tight end could be a dark horse to win the whole competition. His “Gronking” only faded in comparison to the ever-popular “Tebowing”.
The Gronk broke out for a miraculous season with 1,327 yards and an eye-popping 17 touchdowns. He was a defining factor in the new wave of the emergence of tight ends.
If Gronkowski can get out of the play-in round, he has a shot at the cover. After all, he already won the fans' hearts.
Rice is a popular workhorse-back. With Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on the decline, the Rutgers product will become the new face of the franchise. It could start with a Madden cover deal.
Rice just won a vote-off to make the virtual cover of NFL Blitz, so it’s obvious that EA has good relations with the Ravens' star. But the vote will come down to the fans.
Rice plays in a popular market and carried his team to the AFC Championship, so his stock is high. He finished the season with 1,364 rushing yards, good for second in the league. Rice also added 12 touchdowns on top of that amazing total.
The young Baltimore stud is set to conquer the NFL world. Let’s see if he can conquer Madden first.
Foster is a three-headed monster. He has great likability, a big name and has great value on the fantasy football circuit. In short, Foster can easily win this bracket.
In my list, he ranks under a star wide receiver and three quarterbacks. It is nearly impossible to compete with that. But if any one player could put up a good fight, it would be Foster.
Foster and his Houston Texans are coming off the franchise's first playoff appearance. The undrafted running back was at the forefront of that amazing season.
He is loud and reps his team well. The Texans need that and fans will be able to connect with that attitude, as well as his 1,224 rushing yards and 10-touchdown season.
Being the leading rusher in the postseason doesn’t hurt either.
In my childhood, Calvin Johnson is the type of athlete that I would stay up late to watch. He is exciting and explosive. In fact, even the word explosive doesn’t fit him. Calvin Johnson is more then explosive. He is Megatron.
Megatron is the type of athlete that can rejuvenate a fan-base, as shown by the Detroit Lions' playoff appearance. He is nationally well-known and liked. If any Lion can land the cover, it would be this guy.
He dominated the competition this year, reeling in 1,681 yards and finding the end zone 16 times. Johnson regularly burns defenses.
He doesn’t just stretch the field, he breaks the poor gridiron.
Megatron has the best chance at the cover out of all the non-QBs.
If you thought your high school's student council elections were a popularity contest, then you obviously have not been part of a Madden cover vote.
But Newton can back up his popularity with real talent. He is an extremely likable young man and plays the game of football pretty well.
The Rookie of the Year set a rookie season yardage record with his 4,051-yard performance. Newton smashed records left and right and gave hope to a disgruntled franchise.
No one—including this blogger—gave the Auburn star a chance when he came into the league, citing work-ethic issues, among other “problems." But he proved all the skeptics wrong and is on pace to become one of the league's biggest stars.
The NFL MVP was unable to get it done in 2011. Voters might want to not name him the next cover boy because of those shortcomings, but then they would be blind to a great season.
Sure, the Pack lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions—but Rodgers was awesome this year.
But his 45 touchdowns—compared to only six picks—speak for themselves. To state the obvious, this guy is a star, and he has a bright future in the league.
Rodgers' 122.5 quarterback rating led the league, and the only trait better than his game is the way he carries himself. Rodgers is down to earth and humble.
Those qualities stick well with fans, and Rodgers should be in the thick of the race for the cover.
I would pee in my pants if EA Sports would be able to recreate the “Discount Double Check” advertisements on the cover. Madden, make it happen!
I just want the Tebowmania to stop. But it won’t. It is probably better to accept the fact that Tim Tebow is the league's most popular player by a couple miles.
This is his tournament to lose. Tebow will run past the competition like he did to the Jets that fateful night. Tebow is undeniably the most compelling story of this past season.
He has enormous name recognition. His fans are known to be loud and prominent, so once the word gets around that Tebow is in this bracket the voting won’t subside.
Fans have a love of giving the cover to players with one great season and a great story (see: Hillis, Peyton).
This game is about to run on Tebow time.
My thoughts and opinions are all well and good, but this vote will come down to the fans. So whom do YOU want to see on the cover? Comment below.