As a testament to the hard work of those who make the game, the NFL's most dominant players will rule the virtual field as well in Madden NFL 15.
EA Sports has doled out the official ratings for the top players at each position over the course of the last week and change, but only three stand alone with the elusive 99 overall rating.
Some of the notable misses include Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Ratings are based on a variety of factors and will be updated as the regular season rolls on toward its conclusion, but for now, this is what we have to work with.
The three players who have performed well enough to obtain the rare rating are as follows.
Richard Sherman, CB, Seattle Seahawks
Overall Rating: 99
Of course the cover boy gets it—right?
Don't be so silly, it is not like Peyton Hillis was hit with the rating a few years back.
No, Richard Sherman more than deserves the top rating, not to mention the top rating at cornerback. Some will argue for the likes of Patrick Peterson or Darrelle Revis to be ranked higher, but sprinkle in a Super Bowl triumph, and well, nobody was passing Sherman.
Donny Moore, the person in charge of the ratings, had this to say about Sherman:
The Madden NFL 15 cover athlete is the top-ranked CB in each of the following categories: Strength (72), Catching (82), and Man Coverage (98). He's also ranked second in Zone Coverage (96), AWR (94), AGI (96), Play Rec (95), and Jumping (98). Now do you see why he is rated 99 overall?
For his part—we know he thinks he deserves the rating, so let's do this instead—Sherman is in no way worried about the fabled Madden Curse, as captured by Jon Robinson of Sports Illustrated:
Yeah, I think Calvin even broke the record when he was on the cover, so things are looking good for me. What’s incredible to me, though, is remembering back when I was a kid and how much I idolized these players who were in the games and on the cover. To be the person who is on the cover now is a really good feeling.
As the No. 5 overall corner at Pro Football Focus last season (subscription required), the former Stanford star allowed just one touchdown all year. Were he not in the lineup with the Seahawks in the postseason, an early exit would have been a very real possibility.
It all combines to form a mixture that earns a 99 overall, and what is scary is that Sherman is just 26 years old. He will not be on the cover each year, but it is easy to feel confident that his high rating is not going anywhere.
J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Overall Rating: 99
In just his third season, J.J. Watt continued to prove he is the most dominant force on the defensive side of the football.
While one could argue that Watt's numbers took a dip last year, they are obviously good enough and consistent enough to warrant the 99 overall:
The No. 1 3-4 end over at PFF—he registered a grade of 99.8, the next-highest person the list was Arizona's Calais Campbell at 34.1—the Wisconsin product was simply unstoppable on a team that lost 14 games in a row at one point last season.
Moore put Watt's downright abuse of opposing players into apt Madden terminology: "I think JJ Watt knew exactly what he was doing when he chose #99, as it was a prediction of his own Madden ratings. 99 Power Moves. 99 Overall. 98 Block Shedding. 97 Tackle. If we didn’t have a cap on it, Watt might be rated somewhere north of 105 OVR."
The scary part is the note about the rating cap, because Watt is truly the one player who could push the ceiling the highest. Regardless, fans around the globe must settle for a 99 and one of the best virtual defensive juggernauts to ever bless the game.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Overall Rating: 99
Calvin Johnson, otherwise known as Megatron, had a bit of a "down" year, too. Like Watt, it means little when he produces at this sort of clip:
"It should be illegal for a guy to be that tall and that big and that fast. They should have banned him from the NFL," Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson said, as per ESPN's Michael Rothstein. "But he's one of those guys, man -- he's a freak of nature."
It is hard to disagree. Johnson routinely abuses double teams and opens things up for those around him, and sometimes, he even manages to do the unthinkable and beat a triple team.
As Moore explains, this will all translate to the virtual field quite well: "Just how good is Calvin Johnson? Best Hands in NFL: check (98 Catch/99 Spectacular Catch – both ranked first in NFL). Physical monster: check (95 Speed/98 Jump/99 Release). He is even a top-ten Run Blocker among wideouts."
Fans should not find it all too surprising to hop into the online portion of the game and find others who only choose the Lions. Not only can they spam it to Johnson all day, they can use him as a decoy to hit underrated wideout Golden Tate or rookie tight end Eric Ebron.
It makes for one of the best offenses in the game and on the turf itself. Without Johnson, though, it all falls apart. Hence the rating.