2011 NFL Predictions: 25 Players Who Won't Live Up to Their Madden 12 Rating
The Madden video game dynasty is as strong as ever. It still remains one of the most-played video games in the world and there is no sign that is going to end anytime soon.
I remember getting my first Madden game in 1994 and it was all over from there. I play this video game religiously now.
But the Madden franchise isn't without its errors. Every single year they tend to over/underrate certain players. Sometimes I find myself at a loss of words in trying to understand why they rated specific players at certain spots.
A lot of their ranking system is based on success the previous year and not on other factors that include the team they are on, their age and injury concerns.
Certain teams, as a whole, are overrated, while others seem not to get the respect they deserve.
Tonight I am going to focus on 25 different players that are overrated by Madden.
25. WR Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
2010 Statistics: 111 Receptions, 1,355 Yards, Six Touchdowns
Having Wayne lead on this list isn't an indicator of his talents. Instead, it is more a focus on the current situation with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts are probably going to start the season without their franchise, Peyton Manning, meaning that their offense is going to have to rely on a less talented quarterback, Kerry Collins.
Even Reggie Wayne doesn't believe that this situation is going to benefit the Colts moving forward.
“We don’t even know him, we ain’t vanilla, man, we ain’t no simple offense,” Wayne said to the Associated Press. “So for him to come in here and be the starter, I don’t see it. I think that’s a step back.”
I still don't understand why he is upset over the signing of Collins. Would he rather have Curtis Painter as the Opening Day starter?
Manning's injury is out of the Colts' control at this point.
Still, it is going to be an extremely slow start for the Indianapolis Colts and their No. 1 receiver. Don't expect Wayne to live up to the Madden ranking and duplicate his absurd 2010 stats.
24. DE Aaron Smith, Pittsburgh Steelers
2010 Stats: 15 Tackles, Zero Sacks
This ranking utterly confuses me. Smith, who used to be an above-average defensive end, has been dealing with injury problems the last two seasons.
He has tallied only 34 tackles and two sacks since the 2008 season and is possibly losing his starting job with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Additionally, Smith's largest sack season was eight in both 2001 and 2004.
At 35 years old, Smith appears to be on the back end of a solid career. There is absolutely no reason to have him ranked in the 90s.
23. CB Terence Newman, Dallas Cowboys
2010 Stats: 79 Tackles, Five Interceptions, Nine Passes Defended
The Dallas Cowboys pass defense ranked 26th in the NFL in passing yards allowed last season.
Terence Newman was a big reason for that. He was their No.1 corner and gave up a lot of big plays against opposing receivers.
Additionally, it can be stated that he had his worst season as a Dallas Cowboys. Listen, statistics don't mean much when it comes to corners.
But you have to be alarmed by the fact that he recorded nearly 80 tackles while defending only nine passes. Those aren't indicators of an above-average NFL corner.
22. WR Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers
2010 Stats: 46 Receptions, 554 Yards, Two Touchdowns
The former All-Pro receiver has seen his numbers drop dramatically in each of the last two seasons. Last year, Steve Smith had his worst season as a pro and 2011 doesn't promise to be much different.
Smith returns to the Carolina Panthers for 10th season after an off-season filled with trade speculation.
I bet that Smith wishes those trade talks would have turned out with him on another team, any team, a contending team.
He will have to catch passes from the unproven Cam Newton or disappointing Jimmy Clausen this season. You cannot expect Smith to re-enter the 1,000-yard receiving league with all the factors that are going against him this season.
There does remain a possibility that he will end up with another team by the trade deadline, but that is an unlikely scenario...
I will say that Steve Smith deserves better than what the Carolina Panthers offer him in 2011. However, there is no way he lives up to that 89 rating with the Panthers.
21. DT Aubrayo Franklin, New Orleans Saints
2010 Stats: 39 Tackles, Zero Sacks
Aubrayo Franklin does go from the underperforming San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl contender in the New Orleans Saints.
This is precisely why I have him on the list.
He is going to be part of a rotation with Shaun Rogers up the middle for the Saints, so you are not going to see him have as much of an impact in 2011.
Franklin also sprained his MCL a couple weeks ago and isn't at full health right now.
At well over 300 pounds, the MCL injury is going to take a while for him to recover from.
A nearly 90 rating for a player that has so many questions really doesn't make much sense to me at this point.
20. OT Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers
It is hard not to like Joe Staley, he surely is a character for the San Francisco 49ers. But this ranking makes absolutely no sense to me.
The former first-round pick has missed 14 games over the last two seasons and just cannot seem to stay healthy.
Even when Staley is healthy, he isn't really an above-average tackle in the NFL.
He is too inconsistent in pass protection and seems to lack the skill to be the elite tackle that many expected him to be coming out of Central Michigan.
Hopefully Staley resurrects a once-promising career, but it is hard to see him doing that this season.
19. CB Tramon Williams, Green Bay Packers
2010 Stats: 57 Tackles, Six Interceptions, 20 Passes Defended
This isn't a critique of Williams' play or ability. He is one of the better cover corners in the entire league.
But you have to take a double take with a ranking at 92 because he isn't even the Green Bay Packers' No. 1 corner; Charles Woodson is.
Moving forward you can expect Tramon Williams to be one of the best corners in the entire league but he needs to get a shot at being a No. 1 corner before that happens.
Twenty passes defended is an amazing stat but a lot of that has to do with opposing teams avoiding throwing to Woodson's side.
When you get into the range of the low-to-mid 90s it means that you are truly an elite corner in the NFL. At this point I would have to say that Williams hasn't reached that point, yet.
18. OT Vernon Carey, Miami Dolphins
It seems that Vernon Carey has regressed a great deal since a breakout 2008 season that saw him be extremely solid in both pass protection and run-blocking.
Chad Henne was sacked only 30 times but most of them came from the left side of the offensive line because Jake Long didn't give up many.
He is a little slow off the ball and has a tendency to get beat on the outside by speed-rushers.
I think that Carey is way too inconsistent to be ranked in the 90s. There are much better offensive tackles that deserve that ranking.
17. CB Dunta Robinson, Atlanta Falcons
2010 Stats: 55 Tackles, One Interception, Seven Passes Defended
The fact that Madden has Dunta Robinson rated higher than the Atlanta Falcons' best cover corner, Brent Grimes (86), is reason enough to have the underperforming corner on this list.
But there are a number of other indicators that led me to this conclusion.
A year after the Falcons shocked the football world by signing Robinson to a $60 million contract with $25 million guaranteed, he has continued to disappoint.
In fact, the former first-round pick from South Carolina has regressed as a corner every single year he has been in the NFL with last year being his worst.
The Falcons defense ranked 22nd in the NFL in pass defense and he was a major reason for that.
Dunta Robinson isn't a real good cover corner and is now lacking the big-play ability that made him a standout as a rookie in 2004 (six interceptions).
Since then Robinson has only recorded a total of eight interceptions, while seeing his passes defended stat drop dramatically (19 in 2004, seven in 2010).
It really is a no-brainer to put him on this list. In fact, I could have had Robinson higher.
16. RB Ronnie Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
2010 Stats: 200 Attempts, 734 Yards, 3.7 Average, Five Touchdowns
Ronnie Brown has been somewhat of an enigma after being drafted second overall in the 2005 draft. He hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since 2006 and continues to see his yard-per-carry average drop.
Now Brown is heading to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he is not going to be the featured back. You are probably going to see him average between six and 10 carries a game. This is a dramatic drop-off from his years with the Miami Dolphins.
Additionally Brown is the type of back that needs a couple of reps before getting started in a game, he isn't going to have that opportunity with the Eagles this season.
At 29 years old, Ronnie Brown is entering the twilight of his career and an 84 rating just doesn't make sense at this point.
15. LB Karlos Dansby, Miami Dolphins
2010 Stats: 95 Tackles, Three Sacks, Two Forced Fumbles, Five Passes Defended
If this was the 2008 version of Karlos Dansby when he was starring with the Arizona Cardinals, a 90 rating would make much more sense.
But his game tailed off a little bit last season with the Miami Dolphins.
Listen, Dansby is still an above-average linebacker in the NFL; that really isn't in question.
The issue is that he shouldn't be rated as one of the premier linebackers in the NFL.
While the Miami Dolphins did finish in the top 10 in both pass and rush defense, it was more of a team effort last season. Most notably, the play of Sean Smith, Koa Misi and Vontae Davis.
Dansby really didn't stand out as one of the best defensive players in the league last season.
In fact, there are a number of linebackers that should be ranked higher than the former Auburn Tigers star.
14. TE Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
2010 Stats: 50 Receptions, 782 Yards, 10 Touchdowns
Antonio Gates is still one of the best tight ends in the entire league and he will probably end up in Canton one day
But right now, the star San Diego Chargers tight end is on the downside of his career and shouldn't be ranked ahead of the likes of Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley, who are younger and on the upswing.
Madden tends to go with previous performances as an indicator of where they rank players. This is a primary problem that I have with their ranking system.
Gates has had injury issues over the last couple seasons and it appears these nagging injuries are going to continue for the remainder of his career—however long it lasts.
You will see Gates put up huge numbers when healthy because of his relationship with Philip Rivers but that is not an indicator of his ability to be the best tight end in football.
A 99 rating means "the best of the best." And for Gates, the best appears to be behind him at this point in his career.
13. WR Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans
2010 Stats: 42 Receptions, 775 Yards, Nine Touchdowns
Off-field issues aside, Kenny Britt belongs nowhere near that mid-80s ranking that Madden gave him.
He is way too inconsistent to be considered an above-average NFL wide receiver at this point in his career. You are looking at a player that is averaging only three receptions per game during his first two seasons in the NFL.
Britt drops too many passes, cannot be relied on over the course of a game and has major character issues at this point.
At this point Kenny Britt should be no higher than mid-to-late 70's—about where Madden put Michael Crabtree.
12. RB Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
2010 Stats: 316 Attempts, 1,364 Yards, 4.3 Average, 11 Touchdowns
There is no questioning the many talents of Chris Johnson; he truly is one of the most electric players in the entire league. You are looking at a player that has over 5,600 total yards in his first three NFL seasons.
But there are other factors that lead me to believe that the 96 rating is a bit too high for the former rushing champion.
He has regressed a little bit from a record-breaking 2009 performance.
Last season, Johnson ran for nearly 700 yards fewer and averaged over one year per carry fewer than the 2009 season.
These are the indicators that lead me to believe that Johnson is rated relatively high for what promises to be a frustrating 2011 season for the talented back.
11. LB London Fletcher, Washington Redskins
2010 Stats: 136 Tackles, 2.5 Sacks, Three forced fumbles, One Interception, 11 Passes Defended
London Fletcher is finishing up what I view as a Hall of Fame career:
He has started every single game in a 13-year career, compiled triple-digit tackle seasons 11 consecutive times and has a whopping 16 career interceptions.
So why have him on this list?
Fletcher is 36 years old and has a lot of football on those tires. At some point Father Time is going to catch up with him and I believe it will be this season.
When an individual plays 208 consecutive games over the course of 13 seasons, eventually he is going to hit the wall.
As good as Fletcher still is, a 91 ranking is too high at this point.
10. DT Kevin Williams, Minnesota Vikings
2010 Stats: 39 Tackles, One Sack, One Forced Fumble, 10 Passes Defended
It looks like Kevin Williams will be serving a two-game suspension to kick off the 2011 regular season for violating the league's substance-abuse program.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that Kevin Williams will have his original four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy reduced to two games, because, in this new (still hypothetical) system of punishment, the NFL could suspend those players either for two games or for six games.
All that aside, Kevin Williams has seen his game regress a great deal over the last couple of seasons.
Williams had his worse statistical season as a pro in 2010. He recorded a career-low one sack and was hardly the intimidating player that made him a Pro Bowl performer in the past.
Additionally, one half of the "Williams Wall" (Pat Williams) will not be with the Vikings in 2011, which could create some more problems for the defensive tackle.
To be rated in the mid-90s you have to be an elite player.
Right now, Kevin Williams has too many issues to be considered elite.
9. S Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals
2010 Stats: 88 Tackles, Two Sacks, Two Interceptions, Nine Passes Defended
I avoided putting injured players on this list for a reason. The circumstances that may see them not live up to their Madden ranking are beyond their control.
However, that was just one factor in my decision to put Adrian Wilson at No. 10 on the list.
Arizona's defense was so bad last season that it is hard to imagine them having any player ranked in the 90s.
They ranked 30th in pass defense and 23rd in rush defense, giving up over 373 total yards of offense per game.
In fact, their secondary had to be one of the worst in the league.
And Wilson had a hand in that. His pass defense took a turn for the worse in 2010 as Wilson continuously took bad angles and let opposing receivers get behind him in the defense. Not a good sign for a safety in Arizona's defensive scheme.
It does appear that Wilson will return from his torn biceps injury before anyone expected, but that doesn't mean that he should be rated this high.
The Cardinals lost their best corner in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and are replacing him with an unproven rookie in Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals' No. 2 corner situation is currently up in the air as well.
Adrian Wilson, when he returns, will be asked to do too much and that will limit his ability to live up to the Madden rating.
8. RB Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams
2010 Stats: 330 Attempts, 1,241 Yards, 3.8 Average, Six Touchdowns
Steven Jackson has been one of the most productive NFL running backs since he joined the league in 2004. He has racked up six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, while being the heart and soul of a previously downtrodden St. Louis Rams offense.
I guess it is fitting that once the Rams get their quarterback, Sam Bradford, the former All-Pro running back is entering the twilight of his career.
You are looking at a player that has so much mileage in those tires over seven NFL seasons. Jackson has touched the ball over 2,200 times and the wear is beginning to show.
Last season, Jackson averaged fewer than four yards per rush. This was his lowest average as an NFL running back.
Many people are talking about Frank Gore being past his prime. His career parallels that of Jackson's extremely closely. However, there is one major difference.
The St. Louis Rams running back has touched the ball over 600 times more than Gore. That is a huge difference.
Jackson is at that point in a running back's career when he ultimately begins to regress as a player. It is just inevitable for this to happen.
Thus, the 94 ranting seems way too high for a player that is past his prime and has seen his best days.
7. RB Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
2010 Stats: 334 Attempts, 1,371 Yards, 4.1 Average, 12 Touchdowns
Last season Michael Turner rebounded nicely from a sub-par 2009 campaign. He rushed for 1,000 yards for the second time in his career and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second time as well.
But it is hard to imagine him matching those numbers in 2011 and there are multiple reasons for that.
First, the Atlanta Falcons offense appears to be pass-heavy this season, especially with all the receiving weapons they have. If Matt Ryan's 42-attempt game last week is an indication, the Falcons will rely more on the pass than in previous seasons.
Secondly, the Falcons have two other running backs that are probably going to take carries away from Turner. They re-signed Jason Snelling earlier this month and drafted Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round of April's draft. Rodgers has continued to impress and will be a larger part of the Falcons offense than their previous third-down backs.
Turner is also a non-factor in the passing game. He has caught a total of 34 passes in seven NFL seasons—not exactly what you are looking for in a premier running back.
A 93 rating for a one-dimensional back really makes no sense to me.
6. TE Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
2010 Stats: 70 Receptions, 656 Yards, Six Touchdowns
The future Hall of Fame tight end has seen his reception and yards total drop in each of the last four seasons.
And at 35 years old there is no reason to believe that Tony Gonzalez will ever reach the yardage totals that made him such a great player for the Kansas City Chiefs starting in 1997.
Gonzalez averaged fewer than 10 yards per reception and wasn't the downfield threat that the Falcons thought they were getting when they acquired him from the Kansas City Chiefs prior to the 2009 season.
You are also going to see Matt Ryan go to Julio Jones and Roddy White a lot more on the outside this season, which is going to limit the amount of passes that come Gonzalez's way.
I have followed the career of Gonzalez since he was a starting forward for University of California's basketball team in the mid-90s. I still am amazed by his ability to remain a solid tight end at this age.
But all good things must come to an end and we are seeing that in regards to Gonzalez right now.
5. CB Asante Samuel, Philadelphia Eagles
2010 Stats: 26 Tackles, Seven Interceptions, 14 Passes Defended
Asante Samuel is one of the best playmaking corners in the entire league. He has recorded 20 interceptions since joining the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2008 season.
In 2006, with the Patriots, Samuel recorded an eye-popping 10 interceptions. Since then, he has made the Pro Bowl every single season.
So, why have him on this list?
Samuel is purely a one-dimensional corner in the NFL. He doesn't possess great coverage ability and will get beat because he takes too many chances. He just isn't that shutdown corner that should be ranked in the mid-90s.
Right now Samuel has to be considered the Eagles' third-best corner after they acquired both Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Hardly worthy of the rating that Madden has bestowed upon Samuel.
4. DE Shaun Ellis, New England Patriots
2010 Stats: 36 Tackles, 4.5 Sacks, One Forced Fumble
Shaun Ellis has been one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the entire game since joining the Jets in 2000. He has over 77 career sacks and has been extremely solid in the run game.
However, his game has regressed a great deal over the last couple seasons and at 34 appears to be on his last legs.
Ellis is also switching teams, going to the nemesis New England Patriots. He will be part of a rotation up front for the defending AFC East champions.
So you cannot expect him to put up the numbers that saw him be one of the most productive ends in the game.
I am also concerned as to how his game is going to fit the Patriots' new hybrid 4-3 scheme. He hasn't played in that type of defense in the NFL and it doesn't seem to fit his skill set at this point.
Ellis should be ranked in the low-to-mid 80s—not in the 90s.
3. CB Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos
2010 Stats: 45 Tackles, Two Interceptions, 13 Passes Defended
This is the definition of a player being rated on previous performance, not where he stands right now.
Champ Bailey isn't the corner that he used to be. It really is that simple.
He was the No. 1 corner for a Denver Broncos secondary that was shredded up repeatedly last season. They allowed nearly 240 passing yards per game.
As a whole, the Broncos defense gave up nearly 400 yards per game and opponents scored 30 or more points seven times.
After recording 10 interceptions in 2006, Bailey hasn't matched those numbers in the four seasons since—combined.
He is on the downside of his career, and there is absolutely no reason to have Bailey rated in the high 90s.
At some point, Madden needs to look at how a player is currently performing rather than that player's past success.
Champ Bailey is a prime example of this.
2. WR Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
2010 Stats: 72 Receptions, 1,162 Yards, 15 Touchdowns
Dwayne Bowe should be ranked nowhere near the 90s at this point. He isn't a true No. 1 receiver on a playoff-caliber team.
It really is that simple.
Bowe drops a lot of passes, doesn't get great separation in the passing game and has been incredibly inconsistent over the course of his career.
Madden appears to be basing these rankings on a "breakout" 2010 season, but I view that as more of an anomaly than anything else.
Bowe did have 15 touchdown receptions last season, which placed him among the best in the league. But considering he barely matched those totals in his first three years combined, I remain skeptical.
Listen, I could be dead wrong about this projection and Bowe could continue to impress in 2011. I just don't think he has shown enough on a consistent basis to be worth of a rating in the 90s.
1. QB Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Madden is giving the talented, but extremely raw, Cam Newton an above-average quarterback rating for the 2011 season.
Well, there is no way that is going to happen.
If Newton's first three games are an indication of how he will perform in 2011, it will be beyond bad. He has completed just barely over 40 percent of his passes and has yet to throw for a touchdown. And he had his worse game thus far against the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend (6-for-19 passing)
Newton isn't going to have a historically bad rookie season; Alex Smith (2005: 50.9 completion percentage, 875 yards, one TD, 11 INT) and Ryan Leaf (1998: 45.3 completion percentage, 1,289 yards, two TD, 15 INT) take the cake in regards to that.
I don't expect Newton to match those numbers, but he is going to struggle heavily this season. The No. 1 overall pick wasn't able to participate in organized team activities or minicamps during the offseason due to the lockout.
He looks to be way too erratic at this point and struggles putting the ball on the mark. Those are things that really cannot be learned; instead it seems this will be a continual struggle for the Heisman Trophy winner.
Newton may also want to act like he has been there before. Following a touchdown run against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, he decided to act the part of a fool and go overboard in celebration of his first score.
Maybe he should take a page out of the book of Emmitt Smith, who would just hand the ball off to a referee following a score.
But again, he may not get many opportunities to celebrate scoring in what promises to be a major struggle in 2011.
There is no way that Cam Newton is going to be an above-average NFL starting quarterback in this season.
It just wont happen.