The start of training camp for most NFL teams is just a week away. After a brief hiatus, football is back in the minds of sports fans…if it ever really went. And with that comes preparation for the latest Madden video game. But this year’s game, releasing on August 19, is a bit different.
Following the death of the series’ namesake, Hall of Fame coach John Madden, on December 28, 2021 and EA Sports’ decision to put Madden on the cover, there’s a sense of legacy surrounding the game this year. But Madden always wanted the game to be about football and as close as possible to the reality of the sport he loves to coach, teach and speak about. He was the one who pushed from the start that it was 11-on-11. He was the one who remained involved in aspects of video gaming until his death.
As the game grew in the zeitgeist of American culture, certain aspects stood out more than others. Ratings are important to players. They complain about their rating on social media and sometimes ask questions of those who do. The Madden staff has an entire crew that spends the year adjusting ratings. It’s big business.
And with that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the initial ratings at the launch of Madden 23, some top players at each position, and the annual 99 club that has become an honor all around the sport. We will be introducing more positions each day this week:
1. Davante Adams, Hunter: 99
2. Cooper Kupp, Rams: 98
3. Tyreek Hill, Dolphins: 97
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals: 96
5. Stefon Diggs, Bills: 95
6. Justin Jefferson, Vikings: 93
7. Mike Evans, privateer: 92
T-8 Terry McLaurin, Commanders: 91
T-8 Keenan Allen, Chargers: 91
10. Amari Cooper, Browns: 90
Eliminated at launch last year: Julio Jones (#5), Allen Robinson II (#10)
Perhaps no group of players received as much boost in real life over the past off-season as did the receivers. When Christian Kirk received his four-year, $72 million contract from Jacksonville, it seemed to trigger an explosion of funds going to premium players in that position. And it made the receiver a key position in the NFL in many ways along with quarterback, left tackle, edge rusher, and cornerback. Receivers get mega bucks, and in Madden, their ratings reflect just how talented this group has become.
It’s one of three groups in which the aggregate of the top 10 has a rating of 90 or more, and up to five recipients could potentially claim being the best in the game.
While Adams has moved from the Packers to the Raiders, his status as a top receiver in the game — and at the 99 club at launch — remains the same. Last year was a big leap from Adams, who finished 94th overall at the start of Madden 21.
There is significant movement behind Adams. Hopkins dropped from 98 to 96 and from second to fourth. He is replaced at No. 2 overall by Kupp, who moved up from outside the top 10 early last year to a 98th overall after a season of 145 catches, 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. Kupp’s rise has knocked many players down at least one place.
1. Travis Kelce, bosses: 98
2. George Kittle, 49ers: 97
3. Mark Andrews, Ravens: 93
4. Darren Waller, Hunter: 91
5. TJ Hockenson, Lions (89
6. Kyle Pitts, Falcons: 87
7. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins: 86
8. Dallas Goedert, Eagles: 85
T-9 Zach Ertz, Cardinals: 84
T-9 Hunter Henry, Patriots: 84
dropped out: Austin Hooper (No.6), Rob Gronkowski (No.7)
For a position that continues to grow in scope and importance on the field, the man at the helm remains the same. Although Kelce is no longer a member of the 99 club – although you shouldn’t be surprised if he gets it back in the 2022 season – he remains No. 1 in the game with a 98 rating. And apart from one other player, the list behind him isn’t quite that tight.
Kelce’s biggest competitor is Kittle, one of his Tight End University mates. Kittle is finishing No. 2 again this season and is now 97 overall, up from 96 last year. Then comes the drop. Andrews (93 overall) is entering his 90s, moving from No. 4 to No. 3. He turns around with Waller, who falls from No. 3 to No. 4 and from 93 last year to 91 this year.
After that, big movements happen. Hockenson — one of the best young tight ends in the game — is now No. 5 in the game and an 89 overall after being No. 9 and an 85 last season. Pitts had the second-best season ever for a rookie tight end in 2021, including 68 catches and 1,026 yards, and is now No. 6 with 87. Gesicki is up slightly from No. 8 to No. 7 and from an 85 to 86. Goedert made a similar jump from 10th to 8th and 84th to 85th. Ertz, one of the most consistent tight ends in the league, made a big jump from 80th to 84th and enters the top 10 at 9th.