Hits and misses in the Madden 17 ratings
When I first started writing this article, I was ready to rip the Madden 17 grades to shreds. In the past, the game has had a penchant for significantly overrating big-name vets who’ve already started significant declines. This season, though, I struggled in finding ratings I could build a strong argument against (taking out rookies, since they are always skewed low). I powered through, however, and pinpointed five ratings I thought were off. Since Madden 17 hit so close most of the time, though, I decided to pay homage to the video game franchise by highlighting another five players they had right on the money.
Quinten Rollins, CB, Green Bay Packers
Madden rating: 73
2015 season PFF grade: 80.5
This is one of the most egregious marks in the Madden 17 ratings. Rollins was one of the most productive rookie cornerbacks in the NFL a season ago, albeit in only 334 snaps. The Packers’ corner allowed a 56.4 completion percentage in his coverage and a passer rating of only 58.4. It becomes even more apparent that he’s undervalued when you see who also has a 73 rating at corner: Antwon Blake and Brandon Browner. One of those guys committed 23 penalties last season (Browner) and the other allowed 1,074 yards and had 28 missed tackles (Blake).
Leonard Williams, DE, New York Jets
Madden rating: 81
2015 season PFF grade: 85.4
When you compare the PFF grades of Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, and Muhammad Wilkerson as rookies, it’s Williams who comes out comfortably on top. Even based on grades from a season ago, Williams finishes only slightly behind Wilkerson, and actually ahead of Richardson. But then when you compare their Madden ratings, Williams finishes well behind Richardson (86) and Wilkerson (89). Year one to year two traditionally coincides with the largest jump in production a player makes in his NFL career, so seeing Williams at 81 is surprising.
Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns
Madden rating: 76
2015 season PFF grade: N/A
Josh Gordon may have been out of the league for a year, but he didn’t all of the sudden lose the ability to catch a football. From 2013 to 2014, Gordon averaged 2.59 yards per route run (only three receivers bested that mark last year)—and that was with the likes of Brian Hoyer, Jason Campbell, and Brandon Weeden at quarterback. He’s a top-10 receiver when on the field, and saying 67 receivers are better than him is plain wrong.
Kyle Long, RG, Chicago Bears
Madden rating: 82
2015 season PFF grade: 79.2 at RT (83.0 grade at RG in 2014)
I can understand why Madden would have Kyle Long so low, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. On the eve of the 2015 season, the Bears sprung a position change on him from guard back to tackle, and the results were predictably not up to the standards Long set during his first two seasons. He was already the eighth-highest graded right guard by his sophomore campaign at a position where guys don’t normally peak until four or five years in. With free-agent addition Bobby Massie now manning the RT spot in Chicago, I have little doubt that the former first-round pick will return to form at guard and prove his Madden rating to be far too low.
Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets
Madden rating: 86
2015 season PFF grade: 75.8
We couldn’t solely highlight players Madden 17 underrated, so enter Madden’s seventh-highest rated running back. Seventh. Matt Forte is 30 years old and coming off a fairly ineffective, injury-riddled 2015 season. He may still have something left in his tank, but Forte was a fringe-top-seven running back even in his prime. These ratings have him over the likes of Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Eddie Lacy, and Chris Ivory—not even the most homer of Jets fans could argue that that’s accurate.
Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers
Madden rating: 99
2015 season PFF grade: 98.1
You might be thinking, “No duh,” but it’s how he compares to all other linebackers that properly captures Luke Kuechly’s dominance. The next-highest-rated off-ball linebackers are only at 90 (Don’t’a Hightower, Brandon Marshall, and Derrick Johnson). Kuechly is playing the middle linebacker position at the highest level we’ve ever seen it played in our 10 seasons of grading, and he really has no weaknesses in his game at the moment. His overall grades the last two seasons are the first and second-highest we’ve ever given to an inside linebacker.
Willie Young, OLB, Chicago Bears
Madden rating: 84
2015 season PFF grade: 82.4
Young has routinely been the forgotten man at every stop in his career, despite a consistent ability to rush the passer. His 12.2 pass-rushing productivity last season was the eighth-highest of any outside linebacker. Putting him ahead of bigger names like Bruce Irvin and Mario Williams might draw some criticism, but it’s the right call.
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
Madden rating: 88
2015 season PFF grade: 79.7
After four NFL seasons, Lamar Miller has a grand total of one 1,000-yard rushing season. That says far more about Miller’s situation, though, than his abilities. The Dolphins have fielded the lowest-graded run-blocking offensive line each of the past two seasons, while Miller has only been given 200 carries once in his career. Miller’s 2.8 yards after contact per attempt were the fifth-best in the NFL last year, and we expect him to raise his PFF grade in 2016 with the Texans.
Linval Joseph, DT, Minnesota Vikings
Madden rating: 89
2015 season PFF grade: 89.0
Linval Joseph makes the list as the seventh-highest rated defensive tackle in the game, though the highest-rated nose tackle. A year ago at this time, that was certainly not the case. EA recognized, however, that his breakthrough season was far from a fluke. What really sets Joseph apart from other nose tackles is his pass-rushing ability. His 7.3 pass-rushing productivity was over two points higher than Marcell Dareus’ and outpaced pass-rush specialists like Nick Fairley and Henry Melton in 2015.
James Laurinaitis, MLB, New Orleans Saints
Madden rating: 73
2015 season PFF grade: 31.8
Yet again after four guys getting the positive credit they deserved, we had to go with one negative. At one point, Laurinaitis’ run-game deficiencies were swept under the rug by his coverage prowess. Tipping 30 years old last season, though, that ceased to be the case. He only managed 16 stops on 422 snaps against the run last year—the lowest rate in the NFL. It’s fitting, then, that he’s one of the lowest-rated starting MLBs in Madden 17.