EA Sports has truly mastered the art of Madden hype. There’s the annual cover vote in the spring, where fans and diehards pick who’s going to be the next face of the game. Then EA reveals all the changes they’ve made for this year’s version of the game, like last year’s ability for receivers to make possession catches or catch on the run and turn upfield (at the risk of getting your clock cleaned by Earl Thomas III). Then, a few weeks before the game finally comes out, the player ratings start coming out.
That’s where we’re at this week, and EA’s just published a Top-5 guide for the five best players at each position group for Madden ’17, like the 5 best wide receivers, 5 best running backs, and so on. As you might expect, the New England Patriots represent pretty well on the (virtual) gridiron.
First up, we’ve got Rob Gronkowski, the first-ranked tight end in the game at 99 overall:
"The Madden NFL 17 cover athlete doesn't disappoint with what he brings to the table this year. He excels in all areas of the game. With 88 strength rating and 91 run blocking he is an extension of the offensive line in the run game. Look to Gronk in big game situations with his 98 catch in traffic and 94 spectacular catch rating."
At quarterback, EA has Tom Brady featured as the third-best quarterback in the game at 94 overall, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton:
"Brady has been shredding NFL defenses for almost two decades and in Madden NFL 17 you can anticipate much more of the same. With 94 throw power and the best throw accuracy-short (98) in the game, you will be able to put the ball in places where only your receivers can catch it. Will the 2016 NFL season be another MVP caliber performance for this four-time Super Bowl Champion?"
And rounding it out, and finally getting the Madden credit he deserves, linebacker Dont’a Hightower is the fifth-best outside linebacker in the game, behind Von Miller, Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, and Pernell McPhee. Boomtower checks in at a 90 overall this year.
"Hightower does it all for the Patriots defense. He can play inside if needed, outside in coverage situations, and even has the ability to rush the passer on 3rd downs. His rare blend of speed, size, and coverage ability allows him to play every single down for the reigning AFC East Champions."
In Hightower's case, it's worth noting that not only does that ranking include both 3-4 and 4-3 OLBs (Madden has the Oakland Raiders as a 4-3, and everyone else on the Top-5 OLB list runs a 3-4), but there's no Top-5 list for inside linebackers. Oh, how times change.
If Madden’s your jam, check out everything there is to know about the new game at https://www.easports.com/madden-nfl .
UPDATE (07/29, 1:50pm EST): The Top 5 middle linebackers list came out today, and Jamie Collins makes the cut at number 5!
"Collins is one of the league's best in terms of pure coverage ability. His 6'3'' frame and 85 speed allow him to match up in man to man situations against opposing tight ends and halfbacks out of the backfield. He also has the rare ability to rush the passer with 93 power move."