Video Games

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

Houston Texans' J.J. Watt smiles as he answers a question after reporting for NFL football training camp Friday, July 25, 2014, in Houston. The Texans begin practices Saturday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2014

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 QuarterbacksTeamRating
Peyton ManningDenver Broncos98
Aaron RodgersGreen Bay Packers98
Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints96
Russell WilsonSeattle Seahawks93
Tom BradyNew England Patriots93
Top FullbacksTeamRating
John KuhnGreen Bay Packers93
Mike TolbertCarolina Panthers92
Marcel ReeceOakland Raiders92
Anthony ShermanKansas City Chiefs90
Jerome FeltonMinnesota Vikings88
Top Running BacksTeamRating
Adrian PetersonMinnesota Vikings98
LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia Eagles97
Jamaal CharlesKansas City Chiefs97
Matt ForteChicago Bears95
Marshawn LynchSeattle Seahawks95
Top Tight EndsTeamRating
Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans Saints97
Rob GronkowskiNew England Patriots96
Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ers94
Jason WittenDallas Cowboys93
Greg OlsenCarolina Panthers88
Top Wide ReceiversTeamRating
Calvin JohnsonDetroit Lions99
Brandon MarshallChicago Bears96
Andre JohnsonHouston Texans95
A.J. GreenCincinnati Bengals95
Dez BryantDallas Cowboys94
Top Offensive LinemenTeamRating
Joe ThomasCleveland Browns98
Evan MathisPhiladelphia Eagles97
Josh SittonGreen Bay Packers97
Trent WilliamsWashington95
Joe StaleySan Francisco 49ers94
Top Defensive EndsTeamRating
J.J. WattHouston Texans99
Robert QuinnSt. Louis Rams97
Cameron WakeMiami Dolphins96
Calais CampbellArizona Cardinals96
Cameron JordanNew Orleans Saints93
Muhammad WilkersonNew York Jets93
Top Defensive TacklesTeamRating
Ndamukong SuhDetroit Lions97
Geno AtkinsCincinnati Bengals96
Gerald McCoyTampa Bay Buccaneers95
Kyle WilliamsBuffalo Bills95
Jurrell CaseyTennessee Titans93
Top Middle LinebackersTeamRating
Patrick WillisSan Francisco 49ers96
NaVorro BowmanSan Francisco 49ers96
Luke KuechlyCarolina Panthers94
Derrick JohnsonKansas City Chiefs91
Jerod MayoNew England Patriots91
Top Outside LinebackersTeamRating
Von MillerDenver Broncos96
Aldon SmithSan Francisco 49ers96
Justin HoustonKansas City Chiefs93
Lavonte DavidTampa Bay Buccaneers93
Robert MathisIndianapolis Colts93
EASports.com

 

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.

HOUSTON, TX- NOVEMBER 17: Matthew McGloin #14 of the Oakland Raiders is sacked by J.J. Watt #99  of the Houston Texans on November 17, 2013 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Raiders won 28 to 23.(Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
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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