EA Sports continues to roll out Madden NFL 15 player ratings to great fanfare, with the numerals creating widespread discussion in an otherwise dull part of the league's offseason.
As the game quietly rolls toward its August 26 North American release, with Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman donning the cover after winning the vote, the ratings offer a first glance at how experts feel about rookies and the top players at each position.
Rookies are a particular focal point of the reveals, as their reaction shows:
But there is much to be gleaned from all of the early releases, even if the developers release amended ratings each week to reflect weekly performances. Let's take a look at the surprises.
The RB Hierarchy
How the top running backs revealed so far are ordered is a testament to the homework done by those in charge of the ratings.
Example—it would have been rather easy for the casual observer to look at Adrian Peterson's numbers from a year ago and knock him out of the top slot. After all, he didn't lead the league in rushing and amassed just 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns on a 4.5 average in 14 games.
For Peterson, that's a strange output. But the ratings gave him the crown, anyway:
|Adrian Peterson||Minnesota Vikings||98|
|LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles||97|
|Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs||97|
|Matt Forte||Chicago Bears||95|
|Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks||95|
"Madden NFL Live Content Producer and Ratings Czar" Donny Moore explained to ESPN's Ben Goessling that the final ratings dig much deeper than a simple glance at the statistics box:
Everybody says, 'What? How is he the top guy? He certainly didn’t have the 2,000-yard season (in 2013), but the overall rating is still a calculation of their attributes," Moore said. "He's a 97 across the board in the three physical categories that matter the most. I don’t think there’s anyone that has that collection of ratings. He's a 93 (in) trucking, 95 (in) elusiveness. When he’s out in the open, he’s not going to be caught. In contact situations, he'll still succeed better than any running back.
That would explain why, after the deserving duo of LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles, Chicago's Matt Forte comes in at No. 4 overall.
Forte wound up right behind McCoy with 1,339 rushing yards to go along with nine scores and a 4.6 per-carry average. But he also added 74 receptions for 594 yards and three scores through the air, arguably making him the most complete back in the league.
The former Tulane star was not only a major beneficiary of new coach Marc Trestman's offense—he gets credit as a quarterback whisperer, but Forte's numbers are noticeably up across the board—he was also downright durable, playing the most snaps of any back in 2013 according to Football Outsiders.
It's a testament to those such as Moore who put in the hard work that Forte is ranked so highly and Peterson remains on his virtual throne.
Lack of Eric Ebron
As one can somewhat glimpse from the above video, Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron was none too pleased with his overall rating.
Not that most rookies were, but Ebron is an interesting omission from the top names that have been revealed thus far:
|Jadeveon Clowney||OLB||Houston Texans||83|
|Greg Robinson||OL||St. Louis Rams||83|
|Khalil Mack||OLB||Oakland Raiders||81|
|Jake Matthews||OL||Atlanta Falcons||81|
|Sammy Watkins||WR||Buffalo Bills||80|
|Calvin Pryor||S||New York Jets||79|
|Aaron Donald||DT||St. Louis Rams||79|
|Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||S||Green Bay Packers||79|
|Taylor Lewan||OL||Tennessee Titans||79|
|Blake Bortles||QB||Jacksonville Jaguars||78|
|Darqueze Dennard||CB||Cincinnati Bengals||78|
|Mike Evans||WR||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||78|
|Zack Martin||OL||Dallas Cowboys||78|
Of his omission, and what is apparently a 77 overall verdict, Ebron has been colorful, to say the least, as captured by Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:
#Lions TE Eric Ebron on if his 77 Madden rating is motivation: "Motivation? No. That dude who did the ratings, we need to talk."— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) July 22, 2014
Eric Ebron said he had a 77 rating in Madden. "The dude that did that, we need to talk ... I was at least expecting an 82"— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) July 22, 2014
Ebron may be alone in his thinking in terms of that 82, but his illustrious collegiate career and jaw-dropping measureables at the combine caused many to think he'd be a bit higher. In three years, he caught 112 balls for 1,805 yards and eight scores, before moving on to run a 4.6 40-yard dash at 6'4" and 250 pounds at the combine.
It's also worth mentioning that rookie tight ends, generally speaking, have a rather simplistic transition to the pros. The North Carolina product was also the No. 10 overall pick, which could have led one to believe he'd make the initial top 13 reveals—five of the 13 came off the board after Ebron on draft day.
Regardless, Ebron enters a favorable situation by playing with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford. He seems somewhat of an outlier in what is a difficult process for those in charge of the ratings, which he can in turn use as motivation on the field.
Russell Wilson = Tom Brady
This one has caused all sorts of fun.
|Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos||98|
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers||98|
|Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||96|
|Russell Wilson||Seattle Seahawks||93|
|Tom Brady||New England Patriots||93|
Fresh off a Super Bowl triumph, Russell Wilson's stock is riding all sorts of high, and rightfully so. In two seasons, his completion percentage has never dipped below 63 percent, and last year he tossed 26 touchdowns to nine interceptions while running a ground-based attack.
As Moore wrote on the EA Sports website, Wilson showed he can do it all and the game will reflect that:
Who should be ranked higher?
"(Wilson) is the ultimate dual threat with his 86 SPD (ranked eighth in NFL for quarterbacks), 90 AGI (seventh), 92 ACC (second), and 93 Throw Power. Don't be afraid to throw it deep (89 Deep Accuracy, ranked third) and on the run (fifth) with Wilson as well, he can do it all."
But it's Brady.
That has to be somewhat along the lines of how a certain segment of fans feel at the moment. But Moore took to Twitter to justify the decision, and he's far from incorrect:
@thashark316 Brady is 37 and not at the top of his game based on the 2013 numbers/tape. 2nd worst compl %, 3rd worst YPA, least TD since 06— Donny Moore (@Donny_Moore) July 22, 2014
While Brady was throwing to rookie targets and Rob Gronkowski was mostly MIA with an injury yet again, a 93 overall rating is by no means a bad one. Heck, it may even turn out to be prophetic as the natural regressions caused by age start to kick in even further.
Regardless, the rating has given way to great debate (just go do a simple Twitter search), which makes for a great time during the slow offseason. So enjoy.