Madden NFL 15 Player Ratings: Early Impressions from Top-5 Positional Rankings

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Madden NFL 15 Player Ratings: Early Impressions from Top-5 Positional Rankings
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Being a fan of football video games in 2014, well, it actually kind of stinks. This year marked the first time in two decades that EA Sports did not release a college football game, having put its NCAA Football series on a possibly permanent hiatus amid likeness-related lawsuits.

There is also no NFL Blitz, NFL Street nor is there the dearly departed NFL 2K franchise. Hell, there isn't even a new backyard football game. All that remains of the marketplace is a barren wasteland, one in which the children of the next generation may never know the thrills of bilking their parents of $400 worth of football-related video games every year.

Oh, and Madden.

The remaining monolith of the football video game market, EA Sports' Madden 15 will release Aug. 26 in North America. This is the fourth straight iteration being released on the new schedule, which calls for a release on the last Tuesday in August instead of the first. While this ultimately helps create a better product and build hype closer to the football season, the extra two weeks are all the more excruciating without NCAA Football around to tide folks over.

Hence we get everyone going gaga over a slow roll out of the individual player rating releases. EA Sports has spent the last week or so going position by position—or, in cases like rookies, groups—and unveiling the top five players in each area. Madden ratings have long been thought of as fans and even players as a general consensus of how the NFL's hierarchy truly plays out. It's also just a generally fun topic of conversation that gets the debate engines revving that will continue throughout the season.

And, let's be honest: Without another football video game to entertain us, most people will use any excuse possible to shift focus to the joysticks. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at some takeaways from the ratings released thus far.

Madden 15 Ratings
Top Quarterbacks Team Rating
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
Top Fullbacks Team Rating
John Kuhn Green Bay Packers 93
Mike Tolbert Carolina Panthers 92
Marcel Reece Oakland Raiders 92
Anthony Sherman Kansas City Chiefs 90
Jerome Felton Minnesota Vikings 88
Top Running Backs Team Rating
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
Top Tight Ends Team Rating
Jimmy Graham New Orleans Saints 97
Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots 96
Vernon Davis San Francisco 49ers 94
Jason Witten Dallas Cowboys 93
Greg Olsen Carolina Panthers 88
Top Wide Receivers Team Rating
Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions 99
Brandon Marshall Chicago Bears 96
Andre Johnson Houston Texans 95
A.J. Green Cincinnati Bengals 95
Dez Bryant Dallas Cowboys 94
Top Offensive Linemen Team Rating
Joe Thomas Cleveland Browns 98
Evan Mathis Philadelphia Eagles 97
Josh Sitton Green Bay Packers 97
Trent Williams Washington 95
Joe Staley San Francisco 49ers 94
Top Defensive Ends Team Rating
J.J. Watt Houston Texans 99
Robert Quinn St. Louis Rams 97
Cameron Wake Miami Dolphins 96
Calais Campbell Arizona Cardinals 96
Cameron Jordan New Orleans Saints 93
Muhammad Wilkerson New York Jets 93
Top Defensive Tackles Team Rating
Ndamukong Suh Detroit Lions 97
Geno Atkins Cincinnati Bengals 96
Gerald McCoy Tampa Bay Buccaneers 95
Kyle Williams Buffalo Bills 95
Jurrell Casey Tennessee Titans 93
Top Middle Linebackers Team Rating
Patrick Willis San Francisco 49ers 96
NaVorro Bowman San Francisco 49ers 96
Luke Kuechly Carolina Panthers 94
Derrick Johnson Kansas City Chiefs 91
Jerod Mayo New England Patriots 91
Top Outside Linebackers Team Rating
Von Miller Denver Broncos 96
Aldon Smith San Francisco 49ers 96
Justin Houston Kansas City Chiefs 93
Lavonte David Tampa Bay Buccaneers 93
Robert Mathis Indianapolis Colts 93

Calvin Johnson, J.J. Watt and Everyone Else

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Few outside the most most contrarian of contrarians would argue that Johnson and Watt aren't the best players at their respective positions. They're both humanoid freaks of nature who seem almost unfair in a sport comprised entirely of the best our genetic pool has to offer.

Johnson gives us a glimpse at what it'd be like if LeBron played football. He's gone over the 1,000-yard mark four straight seasons, has four double-digit touchdown campaigns on his resume and, right, he's the single-season record-holder for yards in a single season. Dude is insanely productive, which is no surprise given that he's 6'5" and 236 pounds and can still manage to outrun nearly every cornerback in football.

Watt could be the biggest superstar in WWE right now. He's a 6'5", 289-pound behemoth who bursts off the ball like someone 30 pounds lighter. He is the rare 3-4 defensive end who can be more productive against the run and pass than 4-3 counterparts. The fact that Houston was able to bring in Jadeveon Clowney to pair with Watt this season is unfair. Clowney and Watt are such dynamic athletes that they're going to make playing defense fun—a near impossibility in our offensive-minded video game world.

Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

What makes Watt and Johnson so notable isn't their 99 overall ratings. Their ratings would have only been noteworthy had they not topped out Madden's ratings system. It's that their ratings show the chasm that exists between them and their contemporaries.

Brandon Marshall is the next highest receiver at 96 overall. Which, as an aside, is weird. One would have thought that A.J. Green had done enough by now to pass Marshall—especially given Green's skill set lends itself better to a video game setting. But alas.  

Robert Quinn is the next highest defensive end at 97 overall. Not nearly as weird.

No other position players currently have a two-point lead over their competition. I find this in line with what shows up on film. Johnson and Watt are probably among the five best players in football (assuming we're eliminating the overall importance of the quarterback) and deserve to be treated as such.

Blake Bortles Receives Top Overall Rookie QB Rating

John Raoux/Associated Press

Out of respect for the NFL draft process, EA Sports typically tries to rate rookies as close to their draft spot as possible. Clowney and Greg Robinson, the top two overall selections, are rated 83 overall—two points better than any other rookie. Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins and Jake Matthews, each top-six selections, round out the five players who receive ratings of 80 overall or better.

Then we get to Blake Bortles.

The former UCF star was taken third overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars and comes in at a 78 overall. The ratings for Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater—the other two QBs taken in Round 1—have not been released, but EA clearly calls Bortles its top-rated rookie signal-caller.

Given the quarterback situations in Minnesota, Cleveland and Jacksonville, that's a little curious. The Jaguars have exactly zero interest in starting Bortles right away. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley has been transparent with his team's plans to keep Chad Henne installed as the starter—perhaps for the entire season. Bortles, while talented, is an extremely raw talent who is going to need a ton of seasoning to make an impact.

Manziel and Bridgewater, on the other hand, are each in the midst of quarterback battles they may wind up winning. The Browns have backed Brian Hoyer as their starter to open camp and he's done little to lose the job thus far, but they're keeping the door cracked just in case. Browns coach Mike Pettine recently told Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal:

It's definitely still up in the air. It could be sooner, and that's something we're going to discuss in that meeting. It'll be before the third preseason game. I just don't have a date. I don't know if I'll set a date and kind of paint ourselves into a date, but it will be sooner than the third preseason game.

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Bridgewater is also a bit behind Matt Cassel with the Vikings. But he's drawn raves from everywhere since setting foot in Minnesota and many scouts thought he was the most NFL-ready quarterback coming into the draft. Of the three, Bridgewater probably has the best chance of making a real impact in 2014.

Here is where the difficulty comes in. Because we're yet to see any of this trio play a game, the natural inclination is to lean toward Bortles. It also, again, respects the minds of NFL personnel people. But it'll be interesting to see how the ratings are adjusted in the event Bridgewater or Manziel wind up winning their respective starting jobs.

Perhaps an adjustment to make Bortles' potential higher but his initial rating lower would do the trick.

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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