There are certain things that help football fans get through the month of August as the preseason rolls on seemingly forever and we all clamor for actual, meaningful football.
Fantasy football drafts. Hard Knocks. Reading every single update about every single player in every single waking moment (OK, that might be a bit extreme).
And, of course, EA Sports' Madden franchise. This year's version brings with it high expectations, especially for owners of the PS4 and Xbox One who want to see how the technological leap of the new machines and another year to program for that hardware will impact the series.
But one of the most anticipated moments, of course, is the release of the Madden rankings. Below, we've listed five players who will be the most fun to play with this season and their coinciding ranking, via EA Sports. We'll also take a look at what Madden "Ratings Czar" Donny Moore had to say about every player, and I'll provide my own take as well.
Let's get in the game.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
My Take: If you're like me, you love a quick, elusive back who can get to the outside quickly and break ankles in the open field. No player will be better at doing just that in Madden NFL 15 than Shady McCoy.
There arguably isn't a player with more lateral quickness in the NFL, and McCoy's Madden ranking reflects that. He's the type of player who will be devastating on shotgun draw plays, pitches to the outside and screen passes. And once he breaks the line of scrimmage, well, it's bad news for the defense.
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints
Donny Moore's Take: "It doesn’t matter if he lines up at WR or TE. In Madden NFL 15, Jimmy Graham is just plain awesome. He is the top-ranked Route Runner and has the second-best hands (92 Catch) amongst all TE’s. Plus, his 85 SPD/87AGI/88ACC (not to mention Drew Brees at QB) is an unfair combination."
My Take: I love relying on a good tight end in fantasy. Whenever I do a fantasy draft—which is really all I ever do, because I love playing armchair general manager—I always chase a tight end a round or two higher than I should, because I basically base my offense off of him.
And Jimmy Graham in this year's Madden could be one of the best ones yet.
A reliable target over the middle? Check. A great option on those deep corner routes in the play-action passing game? Check. A red-zone dynamo? Check. An absolute matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, both real and digital? Check.
A guy who will dunk over the goalposts and not get flagged? Um, well, I don't know about that. We might not see that particular move again after the following preseason display, per the NFL on ESPN:
But hey, Madden is all about fun, so celebrate your Graham touchdowns however you like. And trust me, you'll be scoring plenty of them.
Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis Rams
Donny Moore's Take: "With 84 SPD/95 ACC (ranked first among RE’s) and 97 Power Moves (first), the Rams' Robert Quinn might just be the best player most fans have never heard of (outside of St. Louis, Missouri)."
My Take: Yes, there are higher-rated defensive players in the game (Richard Sherman and JJ Watt are both 99 overall, for instance). But if you like to rush the passer, which is one of my favorite roles to play on defense, it doesn't get any better than Quinn coming off the edge.
Just look at that speed, acceleration and power move. You're looking at a player who will burst around the edge and either burn the tackle wide or launch a power move to get inside of him and crush the quarterback. That's a guy I want on my defense.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Donny Moore's Take: "Charles is now tied with Chris Johnson as the fastest HB in Madden 15 at 98 SPD. JC is also the second-ranked pass catcher for HB’s with 85 Catch. And I can't forget to mention 99 Elusiveness (first) and 99 Ball Carrier Vision (first)."
My Take: Anybody who has played Madden over the years knows that one of the most difficult things to stop when you're playing defense is a running back who can make plays out of the backfield. And goodness, will Jamaal Charles be devastating in the passing game in this year's version.
With his speed, you can line him up in the slot and send him flying past linebackers or safeties. He'll be devastating running through the flat or running quick routes into the middle of the field when lined up in the shotgun. He's a threat to take it to the house on every screen.
And, of course, he'll be pretty darn dangerous actually running the ball too. You're going to have a lot of fun using Charles this year.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Donny Moore's Take: "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."
My Take: Sometimes in Madden, you'll notice you have man coverage on the outside and you'll get that itch to just audible into a go route with your No. 1 receiver. Sure, it's not the highest percentage play, but you've just got to air it out sometimes, right?
And no player gives you a better chance of taking it to the house in that situation than Megatron.
Just look at those ratings. He's going to catch everything thrown in his general vicinity. He's going to burn most corners off the line and jump higher than them to snare the ball. He's an amazing security blanket to have on your team.
If you value a deep passing attack, Johnson is your guy. They don't call him Megatron for nothing, after all.