There are plenty of dates that football fans use to mark the time between the end of one NFL season and the beginning of the next. Most have to do with the actual sport itself, but for a certain sub-set of football diehards, there's another date that might top them all.
EA Sports' Madden 19 comes out on August 10, promising another year of football fun for both casual and serious gamers alike. The juggernaut franchise offers a virtual sampling of the season to come weeks before any meaningful games are played. Each iteration of Madden promises better graphics, new features, new gameplay and more.
There's always a debate as to just how different and/or improved one version of Madden is to the next, but the one type of change that proves to be a constant source of debate and intrigue is player ratings.
Which player is the best? Did a down year hurt my favorite star? How do the developers see the top rookies stacking up? Those questions run through the minds of all players, and EA Sports isn't hiding anything ahead of the game's general release.
Complete player ratings can be found at EASports.com. Seven players have the coveted 99 overall rating, including the cover athlete, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. We'll run down the list of the top player at each position (if a tie both players will be included) and the top-rated rookies before covering some of the big changes Madden 19 promises to bring.
Top Rated Player at Each Position
Quarterback (tie): Tom Brady, New England & Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay—99
Halfback: Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers—96
Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers—84
Wide Receiver: Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers—99
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots—99
Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers—97
Left Guard: Andrew Norwell, Jacksonville Jaguars—91
Center: Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys—96
Right Guard: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys—96
Right Tackle: Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles—91
Left End: Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders & J.J. Watt, Houston Texans—98
Defensive Tackle: Damon Harrison Sr., New York Giants—95
Right End: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams—99
Left Outside Linebacker: Von Miller, Denver Broncos—99
Middle Linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers—99
Right Outside Linebacker: Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys—96
Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars—97
Free Safety: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings—97
Strong Safety: Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs—96
Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens—86
Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams—86
Top Rated Rookies
Quenton Nelson, LG, New York Giants—83
Saquon Barkley, HB, New York Giants—82
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns—81
Roquan Smith, MLB, Chicago Bears—81
Bradley Chubb, RE, Denver Broncos—80
Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns—80
Derwin James, SS, Los Angeles Chargers—80
The debate over which players deserve which ratings isn't reserved for gamers. The NFL athletes themselves often weigh in, and unsurprisingly, tend to be their own best advocates as the video below demonstrates.
Madden 19 Preview
So far, Madden 19 is getting solid to strong reviews from game critics. According to Metacritic.com, the average score is an 82, which the site says indicates "generally favorable reviews."
In addition to the expected year-to-year polishing of graphics, one of the highly touted improvements was to the animation and feel of the gameplay itself. EA Sports calls the animation system Real Player Motion, or RPM. IGN.com's Dustin Toms felt it was a highlight of this year's edition:
"You can see that growth on display in the excellent fluidity your players bring to the field. Basic moves like spins, jukes, and the ability to adjust your speed and hit the gap all look fantastic. It's a noticeable improvement that you will see across speed changes, cuts, and tackling with crushing blows when you hit the Truck Stick."
Any way to improve the realism of the gameplay is likely going to be a welcome development for gamers, even if the new physics and feel of the franchise takes some seasoned players time to adjust to the unique patterns and animations.
Making a welcome return this year is the story mode, this time titled Longshot: Homecoming. It will build on the exploits of Devin Wade and Colt Cruise as they look to make their marks in the NFL. The pair was introduced in a surprisingly emotional and satisfying story mode in Madden 18, and gives players something to do beyond playing for bragging rights with friends or tinkering around with Connected Franchise Mode or Ultimate Team.
Connected Franchise mode adds new levels of customization and depth. Instead of just plugging in players with better overall ratings or your preferred skill set—a bruising halfback here, a speedy slot receiver there—Madden players will have to pay attention to scheme and coach fit, as Forbes.com's Brian Mazique notes:
"Player performance can be impacted by how well a guy fits into his coach's scheme. If you take the time to learn the kinds of players you need to make your system successful and then target players who fit the bill in free agency, trades and the draft, you'll see how it all comes together."
There will be plenty more for Madden acolytes to delve into when the game is finally released. The earlier-than-usual release date will also allow for more time for folks to have fun with game before they set the controller down for a few hours each week and watch the real thing.