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Madden 21: NFL Player Ratings and Final Preview Before Release Date

Theo SalaunContributor IIIAugust 27, 2020

San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle catches a pass during NFL football practice in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, Pool)
Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Just weeks before the NFL's return, another Madden title is ready to occupy some hard-drive space and provide for some friendly trash talk. Madden 21 is released Friday and is, once again, revamping its gameplay and the distribution of its player ratings. 

Last season, more emphasis was put on superstar players by making top rankings harder to come by. While Madden 19 had 228 players rated 85 or over, Madden 20 dropped that number to 188. Even at the highest tier, while Madden 19 had seven superstars rated 99, Madden 20 had just four.

This year, those numbers have shifted toward a happy medium. Madden 20 has 192 players rated 85 or above, with five rated at 99. That coincides with this season's effort toward authenticity. The previous iteration amplified superstars with Superstar and X-factor abilities, but this year's version couples those with a renewed emphasis on improved individual mechanics across the board.

Here, we'll go through a final preview of Madden 21, with a focus on the top players at each position and from this season's rookie class.

          

Top Rated Player at Each Position

Quarterback: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs, 99

Halfback: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers, 99

Fullback: Kyle Juszczyk, San Francisco 49ers, 86

Wide Receiver: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, 99

Tight End: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers, 98

Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers, 96

Left Guard: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts, 94

Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles, 94

Right Guard: Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys, 98

Right Tackle: Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs, 96

         

Left End: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans, 98

Defensive Tackle: Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles, 96

Right End: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams, 99

Left Outside Linebacker (tie): Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears/Von Miller, Denver Broncos, 97

Middle Linebacker: Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks, 98

Right Outside Linebacker: DeMario Davis, New Orleans Saints, 89

Cornerback: Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots, 99

Free Safety: Devin McCourty, New England Patriots, 92

Strong Safety: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings, 95

Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens, 87

Punter: Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams, 86

                     

Looking at the top players from each position, it's clear there remains a wealth of talent at each position in the league. Like the NFL, though, some roles appear less dominant, as the highest-rated fullback sits at 86 and the highest-rated right outside linebacker at 89, while no kicker or punter exceeds an 87.

In a testament to the rising youth of today's NFL, 2017 draft picks Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey and George Kittle stand at the top of their position groups, just as 2018 selection Quenton Nelson stands atop his. Such sudden rises among the rankings suggest offensive players could easily swing up the rankings as the season progresses and Madden's dynamic rating system fluctuates.

That leads us directly into the rookies, none of whom are rated above a 76, although many have the potential to finish the season as breakouts. 

            

Top Rated Rookies

1. Chase Young, RE, Washington Football Team, 80

2. Isaiah Simmons, SS, Arizona Cardinals, 78

3. Derrick Brown, DT, Carolina Panthers, 78

4. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Oakland Raiders, 76

5. Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals, 76

6. Jeff Okudah, CB, Detroit Lions, 76

7. C.J. Henderson, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 76

8. Javon Kinlaw, DT, San Francisco 49ers, 76

9. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos, 75

10. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens, 75

         

It's one of the most highly regarded wide receiver classes in NFL history, so it's hard to identify an obvious standout. Still, Henry Ruggs III stands above the entire group for a simple reason: speed.

The 21-year-old has a speed rating of 98 and 97 for acceleration. That makes him the second-fastest player in the entire game, as both categories are just one spot behind Tyreek Hill.

Like Lamar Jackson, whose 94 rating belies his virtual and real-world dominance, speed kills and Ruggs is practically guaranteed to be a cheat code despite relatively unexciting ratings elsewhere.

While Chase Young and Derrick Brown each have the obvious professional tools to warrant high Madden 21 ratings, Isaiah Simmons finds himself in a similar position to Ruggs.

A strong-safety designation should be all the proof needed for how positionless the unicorn prospect is, as the Cardinals have already committed to playing him at linebacker instead. Yet Simmons, despite appearing without a niche, is 6'4" and boasts a 90-plus rating for speed, acceleration, agility, jumping and stamina.

In many ways, the Madden 21 rookie ratings follow the real draft's order. Young and Brown warrant early selections for outstanding, balanced skill sets, while Ruggs and Simmons have too much upside to pass up on.

Like Jackson tore My Ultimate Team apart in Madden 20, some of these younger players could be eating opponents up on the virtual gridiron by season's end.