Madden 19: Release Date and Breaking Down Star Player RatingsJuly 26, 2018
As expected, Madden NFL 19 cover star Antonio Brown is one of the players checking in with a 99 rating ahead of the game's release on August 10.
For now, Brown leads the seven names lucky enough to earn the rating, though Madden's launch ratings will get a major shakeup as soon as the season begins. The ever-evolving ratings this year pair well with an interesting overall release, which makes a surprise return to the PC platform and offers not only enhancements to gameplay but also additions to major features such as Longshot.
New features aside, it's the player ratings that fans will continue to debate up until the game launches. Those ratings are available at EA Sports' official site. But let's take a moment to sketch an outline of the top-rated stars before the game's release.
Breaking Down Star Player Ratings
99: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots; Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers; Aaron Donald, DL, Los Angeles Rams; Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots; Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers; Von Miller, Edge, Denver Broncos; Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
There aren't too many surprises in the 99 club.
Brown leads the way, which makes sense considering he tallied 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns on 101 catches over 14 games last year. He's hit as high as 1,834 yards in a season, so it wouldn't be unfathomable for Madden players to rack up 2,000-yard seasons with him.
As expected, he's all personality on the cover itself:
Elsewhere in the 99 club is Tom Brady. The 40-year-old quarterback provided another hint he isn't necessarily human last year by completing 66.3 percent of his passes with 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. While he isn't the most fun to play with in Madden because quarterbacks with better mobility make for a good time, he's still deserving.
Brady's favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, is also along for the ride almost on principle. Perhaps the bigger story is Aaron Rodgers, who only appeared in seven games last year, throwing 16 touchdowns against six interceptions. If he's not showing off hints of a rebound early next season, the developers could decide to knock him down a peg.
Defense is the name of the game the rest of the way. Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald is the best interior pass rusher in the NFL and added another 11 sacks to his resume last year, giving him the second double-digit sack mark of his four-year career (39 overall).
Elsewhere, Luke Kuechly quietly went about his business with the Carolina Panthers last year, tallying another 125 combined tackles with three interceptions. Ditto for Denver Broncos edge rusher Von Miller, who went for 10 sacks a year ago, giving him double-digit sacks in six of his seven seasons.
98: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons; Khalil Mack, Edge, Oakland Raiders; J.J. Watt, Edge, Houston Texans
Those who watch ratings closely each year will notice Julio Jones fell out of favor with those who assign the overall numbers.
It's understandable, as Jones struggled to be his usual game-breaking self at times in 2017, catching just 88 passes for 1,444 yards and only three touchdowns, the last number being the second-lowest mark of his career.
It isn't just about stats, though. Jones looked off a season ago, and his 98 could be in trouble if a contract spat with the Atlanta Falcons ends up impacting his play:
Still, a one-point overall drop from last year won't stop Jones from feeling like a juggernaut on the virtual field, which is a similar story for Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders.
Mack also has a contract situation unfolding and "talks have not gone smoothly," according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. But like Miller, he's a force on the edge and a sheer joy to play with in Madden, especially as the improving physics system keeps his array of pass-rushing moves feeling fresh.
J.J. Watt might be the most interesting story here, though. Watt has only played in eight games over his past two seasons, recording just 1.5 sacks in the process. The guy who put up 20.5 sacks twice is now 29 and unable to stay healthy, but he's still getting a nod here as one of the NFL's best.
97: David Bakhtiari, LT, Green Bay Packers; Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars; Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings; Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks
This has been a long time coming for David Bakhtiari.
The man protecting Rodgers' blindside just keeps improving, culminating in a season last year where he only allowed 12 pressures outright over his 12 games played, according to Pro Football Focus. Looking at his trajectory, it wouldn't come as a surprise to see Bakhtiari secure a 99 rating before next season ends.
One could say the same for the always-vocal Jalen Ramsey. The Jacksonville Jaguars star quickly morphed into one of the NFL's best cornerbacks a year ago, mostly locking down the competition and also being physical against the run.
Speaking of physical, Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith does it all at a position where the best are few and far between. He only grabbed 78 combined tackles last year, but he tied a career high by picking off five passes. When he's not dropping into coverage, he's sticking with tight ends better than most can, helping him become one of Madden's quiet defensive powerhouses.
Bobby Wagner rounds out the list. His Twitter bio says "I Tackle Everything In Life," which is about right. Last year's 133 combined tackles were second only to his 167 from the year prior. His Seattle Seahawks missed the playoffs last year so he's flying a bit under the radar, but Wagner remains one of the hardest Madden adversaries to outmaneuver regardless of team.