Madden NFL 22 Top Rookies Brings Some Big Surprises in the Rankings

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 27, 2021

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) takes a break during an NFL football practice, Monday, June 14, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

EA Sports slowly unrolling the NFL's list of player ratings in its latest edition of Madden is a late-summer staple as training camp gets underway around the league.

This year, it's Madden NFL 22, an offering that straddles the gap between the last generation of consoles and the new hardware just released. It's an ambitious project for that reason alone, never mind the droves of usual upgrades that accompany each annual installment. 

As for the early batches of player ratings, the list of the top-10 rookies checks in as the most controversial so far: 

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Which rook will raise their rating the quickest? 🔜 (via @EAMaddenNFL) https://t.co/uDSdeKTlQA

Madden has worked hard in recent years to reduce the power creep of incoming rookies. Arguably more important than the overall ratings these days is which players receive superstar traits. Still, here's a quick look at some of the points on the top 10 that have quickly become the most controversial. 


The Won't Last Long: Zach Wilson Closes Gap on Trevor Lawrence

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

One thing that immediately stuck out about the rookie top-10 reveal was that No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence wasn't the top-rated player. 

That's fine considering fourth pick Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons was almost universally hailed as a superb all-around prospect. He's the highest-drafted tight end in league history for a reason. 

But No. 2 pick Zach Wilson of the New York Jets coming within three points of Lawrence is pretty interesting. 

Lawrence, after all, was the unanimous No. 1 pick. If he'd been in the same class as Joe Burrow, the No. 1 pick from 2020, he would have had a serious shot at going first then, too. We're talking about a prospect who flirts with the generational tag and had 90 touchdowns against 17 interceptions in college. One could argue Wilson played against inferior competition at BYU and has bigger injury concerns due to his smaller frame, to name a few points against him. 

For context, Burrow led all rookie passers last year at game's launch with a 76 rating. Lawrence has topped that, but Wilson has almost matched it. When the two get on the field as rookie pros, that's bound to change. 


The Head-Scratcher: Jaylen Waddle Over Ja'Marr Chase

Aaron Doster/Associated Press

LSU product Ja'Marr Chase was so appealing that he went fifth in the draft to the Bengals, which took him despite sorely needing offensive-line help to better protect Burrow.

So it's a little strange, then, to see Chase isn't the game's highest-ranked rookie wideout, starting out with a 75 rating—one point below No. 6 pick Jaylen Waddle.

Not that Waddle wasn't a superb prospect, too. He's got eye-popping athleticism and averaged 18.9 yards per catch with 17 touchdowns over 34 collegiate games at Alabama. 

But Chase felt like he was from a different planet. 

In 2019 with Burrow under center, he had 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns...on the same roster as Justin Jefferson. That's Jefferson, Minnesota's No. 22 pick in 2020 who broke out wildly as a rookie with 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. 

Any dispute over these rankings should be put to rest pretty quickly, at least. Chase will reunite with Burrow, who remains on track to return in Week 1 following a left knee injury that cut his rookie season short. Waddle will reunite with his college teammate Tua Tagovailoa in Miami, but unlike Burrow, Tua faces plenty of questions going into his sophomore season. 


The 50-50 Play: Justin Fields so Low

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

One could almost hear the groan from the Chicago area when the top 10 got released. 

Justin Fields, the Ohio State product who the Chicago Bears traded up to get in hopes he will finally solve their long-running quarterback issues, almost didn't make the rookie top 10. The Bears snagged Fields at pick No. 11, as he fell out of the top 10 despite completing 68.4 percent of his passes with 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions over 579 attempts with the Buckeyes. 

But the rating feels like it could dramatically jump, if not surpass someone like Wilson in a hurry if Fields can get on the field. Playing at Ohio State should help his pro transition be simpler than that of third pick Trey Lance, who feels like more of a project after playing at North Dakota State. 

Granted, Fields has to get by veteran Andy Dalton to make any ratings upswing happen. His ability to move around pockets and hit targets efficiently could have him on the field quickly.


The Big Omission: Steelers RB Najee Harris

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Plenty of rookies could reasonably take issue when it comes to being omitted from the top 10. 

But nobody has a bigger gripe than Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris. We are, after all, talking about a back who bullied his way to 3,843 rushing yards on a 6.0 per-carry average with 46 rushing touchdowns on 638 attempts. He also caught 80 passes with 11 scores over his four seasons at Alabama, too. 

Harris, 6'2" and 230 pounds, has a bit of a Derrick Henry-vibe (6'3", 247 pounds) going for him, and he's entering a pass-happy offense that will ask him to prop up an aging Ben Roethlisberger, who is still slinging with a surgically reconstructed right elbow. 

Which is all a way of saying Harris should feast. Maybe it won't be as predictable as say, Saquon Barkley's rookie year, but it sure feels like Harris will bulldoze his way into the top 10 before long. 


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