Madden 25 is the most highly anticipated video game of the year. That's hardly a hyperbolic statement, as the NFL's annual release always seems to draw the same level, if not higher, than any other blockbuster.
Unfortunately, not every player has received the level of attention that Madden does. Certain stars fly under the radar and fail to benefit from Madden's valued ratings system.
The question is, which underappreciated players deserve superstar ratings?
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals
Position: Defensive Tackle
2012 Season Statistics
53 tackles, 39 solo, 12.5 sacks, 4 FF, 2 PD, 6 STF
Geno Atkins may not seem underappreciated, as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle has reached the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. With that being said, Atkins isn't a household name, nor is he recognized as he should be.
Is Geno Atkins the best defensive tackle in the NFL?
That's rather surprising seeing as Atkins is the most productive defensive tackle in the NFL, and there really isn't a close second. Haloti Ngata, Ndamukong Suh and Vince Wilfork are all outstanding players, but let's be clear.
No one was able to match Atkins in 2012.
Atkins was sixth overall and first among interior lineman with 12.5 sacks during the 2012-13 regular season. By comparison, the defensive tackle with the second-most sacks was Suh, who had 8.0.
A full 4.5 sack difference.
Not only was Atkins elite at rushing the quarterback, but he also had 53 tackles and four forced fumbles. Suh managed 35 and zero, Wilfork 48 and two, and Ngata 51 and none in 14 games.
This is not taking anything away from those three players, as they are all elite in their own right. What it's doing, however, is questioning how the players and fans of the NFL agree that Atkins is not one of the top 100 players in the NFL.
In terms of all defensive players, Atkins is closer to the top five, and he should be rated that way.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
Position: Wide Receiver
2012 Season Statistics
80 REC, 954 YDS, 8 TD; 10 ATT, 132 YDS; 31 PR, 292 YDS, 1 TD; 38 KR, 964 YDS
Randall Cobb made tremendous strides during the 2012 NFL regular season, catching 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns. Cobb also ran the ball 10 times for 132 yards—13.2 yards per carry—and amassed 1,256 yards and a touchdown as a return man.
When you combine each of those skills, Cobb must be one of Madden's elite players.
We aren't talking the NFL here, but what it means to be a playmaker in football's most revered video game. As a player who can beat you as a returner, runner or receiver, Cobb truly embodies what it means to be a do-it-all player.
With a combined 60 touchdowns and first downs on 90 plays from scrimmage, it's safe to say he's earned the reputation as an explosive player, as well.
With his hands rating high, his athleticism undeniable and his ability to return kicks established, Cobb should have a rating in the high 80s. This doesn't mean he'll catch 100 passes, but it acknowledges his all-around brilliance, just as we should see with Percy Harvin.
Playing with Aaron Rodgers may help, but only a fool would deny Cobb's world-class versatility.
Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
Position: Running Back
2012 Season Statistics
290 ATT, 1,263 YDS, 12 TD
According to NFL.com, fans ranked 17 running backs among the top 100 players in the NFL. Many popular names made the list, but one athlete was absent.
New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley.
In what range should Stevan Ridley's Madden rating be?
I'm just as much of a skeptic as the rest of the group, as it takes more than one great season to enter the ranks of the elite in the NFL. With that being said, Ridley wasn't only strong in 2012, but he was downright amazing.
Only six running backs topped 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns during the 2012 regular season, and Ridley was one of them.
While Doug Martin stole headlines, Ridley became the first consistent running back in New England since Corey Dillon. He ran for 1,263 yards and picked up 12 touchdowns in the process, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.
Here's the kicker: During New England's season-defining seven-game winning streak, Ridley ran for a touchdown in six consecutive outings.
Tom Brady remains the key to the Patriots' potential success, but Ridley has become a genuine star in his own right. A rating below 90 wouldn't be fitting after the success he had in 2012, especially after he ran for 152 yards in two playoff games.
Remember, folks, this is a video game—you measure production and ability, not reputation and longevity.