The B/R GOAT Sim: Ranking the Top 10 Contenders

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 30, 2020

The B/R GOAT Sim: Ranking the Top 10 Contenders

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    For the time being, we're living in a completely digital sports world. 

    With most of the country social distancing, Americans are working from home, partying on Zoom and getting their sports fix by way of nostalgic YouTube videos and NFL Game Pass replays. 

    But now, B/R Gridiron has something to offer that involves sports without a known result. 

    The B/R GOAT Sim—a 32-team Madden simulation tournament in which every NFL franchise will compete using rosters comprised of legends—kicks off this week on Bleacher Report's Twitch

    Debates regarding which imaginary rosters are best suited to win the e-title are sure to rage. Here's my top 10, followed by the best—and worst—of the rest.


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    More information on the tournament: 

    • To put together these rosters, Bleacher Report worked with Madden gamer Derek Smith (Roster name: LEGENDS; User Name: BeastModeNinja0). Smith had the most downloaded legends roster in the game, and he reworked his rosters specifically for this tournament. 
    • The rosters are now live on Xbox.
    • There are no duplicate players. Each GOAT has one team only. 
    • Superstar and Superstar X-Factor is on for current players but off for retired players. 
    • Full odds are available on the B/R Betting Twitter account.

    B/R conducted fan votes to settle some tough calls. The results:

    • Joe Montana beat out Steve Young to be the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback.
    • Deion Sanders is an Atlanta Falcon and not a Dallas Cowboy.
    • Randy Moss is a Minnesota Viking and not a New England Patriot.
    • Saquon Barkley beat out Tiki Barber to be the New York Giants' starting running back.
    • Brett Favre beat out Aaron Rodgers to be the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback.
    • Ben Roethlisberger beat out Terry Bradshaw to be the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting quarterback.
    • Troy Aikman was voted the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
    • Donovan McNabb was voted the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

    Full rosters are available for viewing here

The Bottom 22

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    32. Jacksonville Jaguars: Only they, the Houston Texans and the Carolina Panthers have five or fewer players with ratings in the 90s, and the Jags lack game-changers. 

    31. Houston Texans: The league's youngest franchise understandably has the lowest team rating at 87, but the Jags don't have anybody like Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt or DeAndre Hopkins. 

    30. Carolina Panthers: It's a toss-up between Carolina and Houston, but the slightly older Panthers are a little deeper. Their 91 team rating is actually better than five other squads. 

    29. New York Jets: They're well removed from the bottom three, but it's pretty incredible that the Jets have been around for 60 years and have zero players on the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Their ceiling is low. 

    28. Cincinnati Bengals: If not for the legendary Anthony Munoz, the Bengals would be subpar at basically every position. 

    27. Buffalo Bills: They have several of the greatest players of all time in O.J. Simpson, Bruce Smith and Jim Kelly, but only the Panthers and Bengals have fewer players with 95-plus ratings. 

    26. Tennessee Titans: The Titans will be vulnerable on defense, where Robert Brazile is their only player with a rating above 90. 

    25. Arizona Cardinals: The oldest continuously run professional football team in the United States has, over time, accumulated plenty of legends worthy of 90-plus ratings (16, in fact). But it has just two on the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and starting quarterback Carson Palmer doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in this tourney.

    24. Detroit Lions: If only they had a better quarterback than Matthew Stafford to work with legendary offensive weapons Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson and Charlie Sanders. 

    23. Atlanta Falcons: The Michael Vick mobility factor would have been more significant a decade ago, but now a lot of Atlanta's opponents will be able to come close to matching that quarterback speed. Atlanta is one of seven teams with fewer than 10 players with 90-plus ratings.

    22. Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino and Larry Csonka are special, and they give Miami an outside shot. But Marino and offensive lineman Dwight Stephenson are the only Dolphins on the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. They'll have trouble on defense. 

    21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs don't have an offensive skill-position player with a rating above 91, and their starting quarterback (Doug Williams) is an 83. As stacked as the defense is, that's a big problem.  

    20. Philadelphia Eagles: They're loaded on defense, but Zach Ertz, Brian Westbrook and Jason Kelce are their highest-rated offensive players. That's suboptimal. 

    19. New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor can't carry the Giants single-handedly. They lack elite legends at the offensive skill positions, including quarterback.

    18. Washington Redskins: All three Redskins with ratings above 95 are defensive backs, which means they might lack top-end balance. And although they have an impressive 16 players with 90-plus ratings, the offensive skill positions don't inspire a lot of confidence. 

    17. New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees gives them a shot with Willie Roaf by his side, but the Saints lack top-end defensive talent beyond Rickey Jackson. 

    16. Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore is top-heavy thanks to Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed (all 99 ratings). No other Ravens position players have ratings above 93, but at least they now have an elite weapon at quarterback in Lamar Jackson.

    15. Los Angeles Chargers: The Bolts have a solid six players with 95-plus ratings in addition to two strong options at quarterback. Those two-tight end sets with Antonio Gates and Kellen Winslow Sr. would be tough to stop with LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. 

    14. Cleveland Browns: Jim Brown and Otto Graham are two of the greatest players of all time, but an offense featuring them and Ozzie Newsome might not be equipped to win in this era. They also have zero defensive players with ratings above 91. 

    13. Denver Broncos: They sneak ahead of the deeper and more talented Chargers just because John Elway is John Elway. But it's worth noting he's the only Bronco on the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. 

    12. Seattle Seahawks: Amazingly, only four teams have more players with 95-plus ratings than Seattle (nine), and that doesn't even include Russell Wilson or Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks are extremely underrated. 

    11. New England Patriots: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are often unstoppable, but they don't have Randy Moss as a teammate here, and there's not a lot of top-tier legendary talent beyond that. Only three other Pats have ratings of 95 or higher. They might be overrated considering only three teams have better odds to win the tournament. 

10. Chicago Bears

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    The Chicago Bears have four players with 99 ratings, which is tied for the second-highest total in this tournament. And they also have five players on the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, which is tied for fourth-best.

    They've been around a long time, and they're loaded with options as a result. Their 99s—Walter Payton, Bronko Nagurski, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary—also likely make them the toughest team in this field.

    But are they too old-school? And how valuable is toughness in the video-game world? Chicago might lack finesse, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

    Are they really going to win this thing with Sid Luckman throwing to Mike Ditka and Brandon Marshall? It also doesn't help that they are short on elite pass-rushers and don't have Khalil Mack.

9. Las Vegas Raiders

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    In this competition, Mack belongs to the underrated Las Vegas Raiders, who rank fifth both in terms of players with 90-plus ratings and 95-plus ratings. Only the Indianapolis Colts have more players on the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and their team rating (97) ranks behind only the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    The problem is Las Vegas might also not be built for ultimate Madden success. Only two of the Raiders' top 11 players are offensive skill-position guys, and Dave Casper and Tim Brown aren't exactly huge threats in this game. 

    The Raiders are loaded in the trenches on both offense and defense, but an offensive core composed of Casper, Brown, Marcus Allen and Rich Gannon/Kenny Stabler at quarterback might not be good enough to win this thing. 

8. Kansas City Chiefs

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    You could try to argue recency bias is inflating the Kansas City Chiefs' standing here, but we're looking beyond the ridiculous offensive core featuring Patrick Mahomes, Tony Gonzalez, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Priest Holmes/Jamaal Charles.

    Don't forget about Will Shields as part of that offense as well as a stacked linebacker group containing Derrick Thomas, Willie Lanier and Bobby Bell. 

    They do lack depth on defense, but they're still one of just three teams with more than 20 players boasting 90-plus ratings, and only three rosters in this tournament have more players on the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. 

    The Chiefs are a dark horse to watch with +800 odds (bet $100 to win $800).

7. Indianapolis Colts

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    Nine members of this Indianapolis Colts roster were named to the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, which is at least three more than any other roster in this tournament.

    You've got a well-protected Peyton Manning throwing to a wildly deep group of pass-catchers in Marvin Harrison, John Mackey, Reggie Wayne and Raymond Berry, with Lenny Moore and Edgerrin James in the backfield. That gives Indy a chance. 

    Only five rosters have more players with 90-plus ratings (19), and only the Pittsburgh Steelers have more guys with ratings of 95 or higher (the Colts have 10). 

    The problem is their broad ratings numbers are slightly misleading because they have two quarterbacks with ratings of 98 or higher, and Johnny Unitas can't help much as a backup.

    Throw in that they fall short in terms of defensive talent (only Gino Marchetti has a rating above 95 on that side of the ball), and the bottom half of the top 10 makes sense for Indianapolis. 

6. San Francisco 49ers

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    On the surface, the San Francisco 49ers would appear to be one of the favorites to win this tournament, and they have the top odds to do exactly that. But while they might have the best quarterback-receiver duo in the tourney, the sheer numbers indicate they could be overrated. 

    San Francisco has only 18 players rated in the 90s (eight teams have more) and seven with ratings of 95 or more (nine teams beat them there). They also have just three members of the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team (tied for 13th among tournament participants). 

    The problem? A 97 rating on a backup quarterback (Steve Young) is being wasted, and there really isn't that much top-end talent beyond Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens on offense and Ronnie Lott on defense.

    They could still win if those guys dominate, but they'll be forced to put all their eggs in that basket. 

5. Green Bay Packers

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    The Green Bay Packers face a similar problem with great quarterbacks. Just as the 49ers wish they could use Young, the Packers would ideally be able to utilize backup signal-caller Aaron Rodgers. 

    As is, two of their five highest-rated guys play the same position, which is far from ideal for a five-game tournament. 

    That said, Green Bay still has 23 players with ratings in the 90s, which ranks second to only the Dallas Cowboys. That group includes four offensive linemen and four wide receivers, which should enable Brett Favre to absolutely ball out electronically. 

    But he'll have to. Without Reggie White (who's on the Eagles for this exercise), the defense lacks teeth compared to other top-ranked teams in the tournament. 

4. Los Angeles Rams

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    Few would probably peg the Los Angeles Rams as a top-five favorite in this tournament. But when you stop and think about their roster, it's easy to imagine them winning this thing despite a team rating that ranks below six other squads. 

    Only the Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers have at least 20 players with 90-plus ratings, 10 players with 95-plus ratings and multiple players with 99 ratings. And it also bodes well for Los Angeles that it's easy to see roles for each of its top dozen or so players. 

    Picture Kurt Warner's Greatest Show on Turf offense combined with a jacked defensive front featuring Deacon Jones and Jack Youngblood on the edge, Aaron Donald and Merlin Olsen inside and Kevin Greene lurking in the linebacker corps. Oh, and because Marshall Faulk can be used heavily as a receiver, there's no wasting Eric Dickerson in the offensive backfield. 

    This team is loaded with game-changers at a wide variety of positions. Don't overlook it. 

3. Minnesota Vikings

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    The Minnesota Vikings carry more value than anybody on the board headed into this tournament. 

    Nineteen teams have better futures odds to win it all, but the Vikings have the talent on both sides of the ball to go all the way. 

    Only three teams have more players with 95-plus ratings, and only a handful have more players in the 90s or at 99. But the key for the Vikes is that their talent is spread out so well across multiple positions on offense and defense. 

    Essentially, we're looking at the legendary (and mobile!) Fran Tarkenton throwing to Randy Moss and Cris Carter and handing off to Adrian Peterson, with Randall McDaniel and Ron Yary providing protection and paving the way. And when that unit is on the sideline, half of the Purple People Eaters (Alan Page and Carl Eller) will team up with newer legends John Randle and Chris Doleman. 

    It's very hard to find a weak spot here. 

2. Dallas Cowboys

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    Because they're the only team with a 99 rating, the Dallas Cowboys will be widely predicted to win it all. And while they have to be considered a favorite based on that and their tournament-best 24 players with ratings in the 90s, there's reason to be concerned about Dallas. 

    Only five of their 16 highest-rated guys play defense, and five of those 11 highly rated offensive stars play either quarterback or running back. The Cowboys can't utilize Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett and Ezekiel Elliott at the same time, which means they won't be able to get the most out of that 99 team rating. 

    And while they're still deep and stacked, there's a shortage of legendary talent beyond Bob Lilly, Randy White and DeMarcus Ware on D. 

    The Cowboys should still at least make the final four, but they could have their hands full with the 49ers or Rams first. 

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The only thing preventing the Pittsburgh Steelers from being the obvious favorite is their quarterback. Neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Terry Bradshaw is in the top echelon among all-time signal-callers, and you could make an argument that Pittsburgh's legends roster lacks the offensive finesse to dominate a Madden tournament. 

    But what sets the Steelers apart is the fact they have an incredible 13 players with 95-plus ratings, while no other roster contains more than 10 such stars. They also have a tournament-best five guys with 99 ratings (Mike Webster, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Rod Woodson).

    And while none of those guys are offensive skill-position players, it's not as though they can't light it up with Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis on that side of the ball. 

    The key is there really isn't a position—aside from maybe tight end—at which the Steelers don't have a highly touted legend.