Just as we started to tire of arguing whether The Office or Parks and Recreation was better, Madden NFL 21 gave us something new to bicker about: notably, the player ratings, which, as is tradition, have upset both the professionals whose names are attached to them and the fans who cheer them on.
Well, now it's my time to jump into the fray. Here are the 10 most egregiously off-base ratings for this year, including the good and the bad:
I wrote in my look at the Texans in our State of the Franchise series that I feel for Watson, because he was as much of a mobile-aerial ground-breaker as the other young QBs dominating the game today, but he seems to have been surpassed in reputation by Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson -- and now it's happened in Madden, too. Of course, it's not much of a leap to give higher ratings to Mahomes (99) and Jackson (94), given both have MVP awards to their names. But I'm still trying to figure out how older quarterbacks like Drew Brees (93), Tom Brady (90) and Matt Ryan (87) carry higher overall ratings in 2020 than the 24-year-old Watson. Is this some sort of lifetime achievement award? Like when Alan Arkin won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine?
Like I said, this list includes the good. And the bad. I'm a huge fan of Gronk, who is probably the greatest tight end in NFL history. (If you want to say Tony Gonzalez actually holds that title, that's fine. But it's also not the point.) The thing is, Gronk, who came out of retirement to join Tom Brady on the Bucs, did not play NFL football last year. And yet, he has a higher Madden rating than reigning MVP Lamar Jackson (94). I might have R-Truth, the man who beat Gronk for the WWE 24/7 title, rated higher than Gronk at this point. And this is downright disrespectful to Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who is rated a 90.
When I heard that Watt had a Madden rating of 98, I thought that was pretty appropriate. But I nearly shot Diet Pepsi through my nose when I realized the Watt with the super-high rating was actually J.J. Watt, who's 31 years old and missed 32 games over the past two seasons, while the 25-year-old T.J. merited just an 86. T.J. was my vote for NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season. He's had 34.5 sacks since he entered the league in 2017 (the fifth-most in the NFL in that span), including 14.5 in 2019. He helped the Steelers hang around as contenders last year despite the revolving door at quarterback. T.J. should be in the 90s at least, and -- I hate to say this -- I would take him over his brother.
Hey look, it's another little brother who is not getting the recognition he deserves. And I write this as the person who doubted the 49ers last season. Nick Bosa was a runaway choice for Defensive Rookie of the Year last year, on top of being one of the key reasons the 49ers made it all the way to the Super Bowl. He's also one of the reasons the 49ers are favorites this year. Seventeen defensive linemen or pass-rushers -- including Nick's big bro, Joey Bosa -- are rated higher than Nick Bosa. Outside of Aaron Donald (99), I'm not sure I would take any one of them over Nick at this point.
Our own Daniel Jeremiah might have said it best when he tweeted this out:
It is hard to argue with that sentiment. But even if you set aside the question of James' rating, I can't believe Vikings veteran Harrison Smith (95) is the highest-rated safety. I would also have (if I'm allowed to be a bit biased as a Bears fan) Chicago's Eddie Jackson (89) and the Steelers' Minkah Fitzpatrick (87) higher. Yes, the 30-year-old Smith is coming off his fifth straight Pro Bowl campaign, but James (23), Jackson (27) and Fitzpatrick (23) represent the future of the league at the position.
My favorite story about Leonard is that he led the NFL in tackles in 2018 and won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award -- but he wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl. First-team All-Pro? Yes. But not the Pro Bowl. Well, that wrong was righted last season, with Leonard earning a slot on the Pro Bowl squad, only to be hit with another form of disrespect: this Madden rating. I'm not sure Leonard needs to be ranked as high as Bobby Wagner (98). But I would certainly place him in the next tier.
I mean, if the Madden ratings adjusters were going to have a laugh, why not just slap Kamara with an 81 to match the number of receptions he's had in each of his three seasons? Players who have higher ratings than Kamara include Dalvin Cook (91), Aaron Jones (90) and Joe Mixon (90), which is kind of a lot to unpack -- especially with regard to Jones, whose potential replacement (AJ Dillon) was drafted by the Packers this year. As for Kamara, he's the only player in NFL history to have 2,000 combined rushing yards, 2,000 combined receiving yards and three Pro Bowl selections in his first three years in the league. I know Pro Bowl nominations don't mean that much, but since we're talking about Madden ratings here, I'm going to let it fly.
Even I, as a Bears fan, have to admit Smith is one of the best edge rushers in the game. He had one of his best seasons in 2019, with 13.5 sacks and 37 quarterback pressures. Dude was pretty upset that he didn't make the Pro Bowl, as the T-shirt he made about it confirmed. (Smith was later named an alternate.) So it's safe to say a puzzling sub-90 rating isn't going to sit well with him. And, again, as a Bears fan, I don't need you providing any more motivation for Smith.
I'm bummed we have to keep having this conversation about Robinson's status as one of the elite receivers in the NFL. At some point, I need to stop trying to convince people. Like the way I've given up on trying to convince folks that Star Wars: Episode VIII really is a great movie, maybe even a top-three Star Wars film. Robinson had 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns last year, his best marks since 2015. As for the added degree of difficulty Robinson faced, well, we really don't need to go into the Bears' quarterback situation last year, do we?
Oh, no, I'm not upset Mahomes was selected to the 99 Club after leading the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl win in 50 years. If anything, Mahomes' rating is not high enough. If there was ever a player who deserved Madden to bring back the 100 rating, it would be Mahomes.