The best thing about the current crop of Madden video games is not how realistic the game itself is, but that the all-important ratings can be changed with a simple update.
Virtual play that mirrors that of the actual on-field product is great, but it all comes crashing down if the player ratings are poorly done. They aren't, of course, but EA Sports has gone out of its way to provide roster patches after each week of the season to reflect players' performances.
The following players are not necessarily underrated from a ratings standpoint, but what they have shown to date in the preseason or news around them suggests a ratings bump is in the cards.
Note: All rankings courtesy of EASPORTS.com.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Current Rating: 84
As a rookie last season, Giovani Bernard rushed for 695 yards on 170 carries and scored five times, but he also added another 514 yards and three scores through the air.
The hints of an elite all-purpose back were there, but hints are not enough to solidify elite ratings.
It does not help that veteran back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still on the roster and the Cincinnati Bengals went out and used a relatively high pick on another back, Jeremy Hill. But as Rotoworld's Adam Levitan notes, Bernard has been nothing short of a workhorse in early preseason action:
So far this preseason, Andy Dalton has played on 25 snaps. During that time, Gio Bernard has 25 snaps. All third downs, RZ, goal-line work.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 18, 2014
Nobody would be silly enough to suggest that Bernard is going to see carry totals similar to Adrian Peterson or Arian Foster, but his blend of skill on the ground and through the air allows him to make the most of every opportunity.
With the coaching staff clearly more trusting of Benard to carry the load this season, the numbers he will post should quickly encourage those in charge to boost his overall rating. It helps that he opens the season against a hodgepodge of defenses such as Baltimore, Atlanta and Tennessee.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans
Current Rating: 83
Realistically, the developers could not have given Jadeveon Clowney any higher of a rating. Yet, so far the South Carolina product has suggested this preseason that he will actually outplay the number.
But first, the reason Clowney was bestowed an 83, per EA Sports' Donny Moore: "Clowney can be the 'Marshawn Beast Mode' of the defensive side of the ball in Madden NFL 15. His 95 Hit Power and 94 Power Moves (ranked #1 of all rookies) will make him the ultimate weapon in that Texans 3-4 defense."
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Clowney has already been a game-changing force from the right outside linebacker spot, grabbing great grades in run defense and as a pass-rusher.
There was a thought that Clowney might have a bit of a rough start to his pro career as he learns to play standing up, but he has done just fine in that role, and it is hard to tell the difference between his college and NFL film when he puts his hand in the dirt.
The No. 1 overall pick is already living up to the hype, and matchups against Washington, Oakland, New York and Buffalo to start the season will only swell his growing legend.
Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Current Rating: 80
Very quietly, Andre Ellington is one of the NFL's most explosive players.
Ellington was only given 118 carries last year as a rookie, but he turned it into 652 yards and three scores on a superb 5.5 per-carry average. Like Bernard above, he is also versatile enough to contribute in the passing game and brought in 39 receptions for 371 yards and a score.
Like Bernard, the training wheels are about to come off for Ellington.
This much could be gleaned from a recent comment by head coach Bruce Arians, as captured by the Arizona Cardinals' Twitter account:
Ellington figures to have plenty of space to rush around the outside next season and gain big yardage while defenses dial in on a passing offense that features great weapons such as Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
Even better, the line that will pave the way for him is better than a year ago thanks to new additions such as Jared Veldheer.
Ellington is too explosive to not blow up next season with more usage and will get a ratings bump rather quickly.
Note: Preseason stats courtesy of NFL.com.