Every year, EA Sports releases its annual installment of the Madden football video game series. The Madden series has become a staple in video game culture. Ever since the inaugural release of John Madden Football in 1988, the series has sold over 100 million copies and generated over $4 billion in sales.
The Madden series isn't just popular for its realistic play, multitude of game modes, and infectious soundtrack. It's also a focal point of debate among football fans, notably for its team and player rating system.
Players are rated by a plethora of different standards, including speed, strength, agility, awareness, catching, route-running, throw accuracy, tackling, and hit power. Obviously, players at different positions rate higher and lower in each respective category. From these subcategories comes a final "overall" player rating.
These ratings spark yearly debate as gamers look to field the best team possible. In recent years, developers have either grossly overrated or criminally underrated certain players in their initial launch ratings. Of course, there are rating updates released at various points during the season. However, this list takes a look at the more misguided player ratings over the past five years. Predictions are never easy, but some of these ratings are true head-scratchers.
15 Aaron Rodgers's Speed Rating Is Slower Than Sam Bradford, Madden 15
When it comes to quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers is in elite company. For the past several Madden releases, Rodgers ranks right up there with Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in terms of top NFL quarterbacks.
Madden 16 realized this and ranked him 99 overall. However, they put his speed at 75, his acceleration at 81 and his agility at 83. For comparison, Sam Bradford rated at 76 for speed, despite a 79 overall rating, and much lower ratings for acceleration and agility. This made Rodgers’ speed rating all the more confusing. Would anyone confuse Bradford's speed for that of Rodgers?
Rodgers is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL. Sure, he doesn't have the quickness of a Cam Newton or an Atlanta-era Michael Vick, but he can dance around in the pocket and extend plays like few other quarterbacks in the NFL. This was evidenced by his 344 rushing yards on 58 carries during the 2015 season. On the other hand, Bradford rushed for just 39 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
Madden corrected this discrepancy in their 2017 edition by putting Rodgers’ speed at 78 and dropping Bradford's speed to 62.
14 LeSean McCoy's speed rating falls below Von Miller and RGIII, Madden 16
Madden 15 got it right when they rated LeSean McCoy's speed at 93. He came off a 1,607 rushing yard season where he racked up nine touchdown runs. He topped 1,300 rush yards in 2014 and added another five touchdowns. However, when Madden 16 came out in 2015, they dropped McCoy's speed rating to 88. That ranked two points below Robert Griffin III and one point below Von Miller.
Yes, Madden 16 figured that a running back like McCoy was a tad slower than an outside linebacker like Miller. Yes, Miller is elite at his position. Faster than McCoy? That's a bit of a stretch. McCoy didn't exactly prove that rating wrong, though, as he struggled during the 2015 season. Nonetheless, Madden 17 bumped his speed back up to 90.
After a bounce-back 1,267-yard, 13-touchdown season, McCoy returned to Madden's good graces. The 2018 edition gave him a 92 overall rating, along with a 90 speed rating, 92 acceleration rating, and 98 agility rating.
13 DeMarco Murray - 84 rating, Madden 15
This one was a tough one. Murray's 2014 season was otherworldly, but might've proved to be a flash in the pan compared to his injury-riddled 2015 campaign.
When Madden 15 was released in the summer of 2014, perhaps developers didn't foresee the unbelievable year in store for Murray. They gave him an 89 overall rating, ranking him well outside the top five running backs in the game. Murray was stuck with this rating despite rushing for 1,121 yards, 9 TDs and 5.2 yards per attempt in 2013.
In 2014, he rushed for 1,845 yards on 332 carries for 13 touchdowns and an otherworldly 115.3 yards per game. He was rewarded in Madden 16 with a 94 rating, but quickly proved overrated. He rushed for just 702 yards in his first year in Philadelphia in 2015, as injuries limited him to 193 carries in 15 games.
Murray rebounded in 2016, racking up 1,287 yards and nine touchdowns on 293 carries with the Titans. He was named to his third Pro Bowl despite an 83 ranking in Madden '17.
He holds a 91 overall rating in Madden 18.
12 Giovani Bernard Rates above Todd Gurley, Madden 16
When it comes to Todd Gurley, it's unclear what rating was more misguided. In 2015, The Los Angeles Rams running back rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games en route to being named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Before that season, Madden 16 ranked Gurley at 80 overall. To Madden's credit, they had Gurley as the game's top-rated rookie running back, despite the fact that he had yet to play an NFL game. He still surpassed that rating with his stellar rookie season.
On the other hand, Madden 17 jacked up Gurley's overall rating to 85. The problem? They ranked Cincinnati's Giovani Bernard (86 overall) and Tampa Bay's Doug Martin (90) ahead of Gurley. Granted, Martin racked up 1,424 yards and six touchdown rushes in 2015.
Gurley's totals fell to 885 yards rushing and six touchdowns in 2016, despite playing all 16 games and receiving nearly 49 more carries than he did in 2015. To Gurley’s credit, he definitely had a better year than Bernard, who rushed for 730 yards and two touchdowns in 2016.
Madden 18 kept Bernard at 86 overall, while dropping Martin to 83. Gurley inexplicably remained at 85.
11 Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman Get 86 & 75 - Madden 17
The Atlanta Falcons reached the Super Bowl last season on the strength of their running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The two provided a dual threat in the backfield, combining for 15 touchdowns during the 2016 regular season.
Yet, Madden developers seemed to underrate both Coleman and Freeman in their 2017 ratings. Coleman earned a 75 rating, while Freeman clocked in at 86. To be fair, Coleman struggled during the 2015 season on which the Madden 17 ratings were based. He rushed for 392 yards and one touchdown on 92 carries, while losing three fumbles. That was his rookie season, however. He rebounded in 2016 to the tune of 520 rushing with eight TD's and 421 yards receiving with three touchdowns.
Freeman fared even better, with 1,079 rush yards and 11 TD's in 2016. Both players clearly proved better than their ratings suggested. Madden 18 gave Coleman a ten-point boost to 85 rating, but lowballed Freeman with an 89 rating.
10 Doug Baldwin - 89 rating - Madden 17, 18
Doug Baldwin had a breakout 2015 season for the Seattle Seahawks. He racked up 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 78 receptions. Yet, Madden 17's launch ratings had Baldwin at 89.
The real travesty comes in the fact that Baldwin's Madden 18 rating remained stagnant at 89. He rated lower than Jordy Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Evans, and Dez Bryant. His rating didn't change despite racking up a career-high 1,128 receiving yards in 2016, along with seven touchdown receptions. Sure, Nelson and Evans racked up more TD's and yards in 2016, but Baldwin certainly could've could matched Dez Bryant's 91 rating.
Maybe Madden 18 will come around when they release a mid-season ratings update.
9 Ezekiel Elliott - 90, Madden 18
Say what you want about Ezekiel Elliott’s off-field troubles, but he proved almost unstoppable on the gridiron in his rookie season. He surpassed all running backs in rush yards with 1,631 and finished third in rushing touchdowns with 15. Madden 17 gave the Cowboys’ rookie running back an 88 overall rating. That was fair, considering he hadn’t played an NFL snap when those ratings were released.
What is a bit more unusual was that the Madden ’18 ratings had Elliott at 90 overall, just two points higher than the year before. They barely bumped Elliott up despite his All-Pro 2016 season. Some even argued he deserved the NFL MVP Award. Instead, Madden 18 rated him the fourth-best running back in the game. He placed behind Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell (97), Arizona’s David Johnson (94) and even Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray (91).
Sure, Bell is more elusive and patient with his routes. Johnson racked up more rushing touchdowns and receiving yards than Elliott last season, and played an important role in the Cardinals’ passing game.
Yet, to rank Elliott just two points above his 2017 ranking seemed like a bit of a snub. I’m not defending Elliott the person, as I’m sure developers might’ve taken into account his off-field troubles and impending suspension. I’m simply judging him as a running back. It seems they lowballed Elliot slightly with that 90 overall rating.
8 Matt Forte - 95 rating, Madden 15
Matt Forte enjoyed a productive season with the Chicago Bears in 2013. He rushed for 1,339 yards and nine touchdowns, while averaging a career-best 83.7 yards-per-game. Apparently, Madden 15 thought those stats were deserving of a 95 overall rating for Forte. That mark made him the fourth-best running back in the game, tied with Seattle's Marshawn Lynch.
Forte didn't live up to his rating during the subsequent season, rushing for 1,039 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 64.9 yards-per-game. Lynch, meanwhile, bested his 2013 numbers. He rushed for 1,306 yards in 2014, along with 13 touchdowns and 81.6 yards-per-game.
Forte's rating dropped to 90 overall in Madden 16. He has failed to top 1,000 yards rushing in a season in each of the past two years after joining the Jets. Madden 18 ranks him 84 overall.
7 Adam Jones - 88 overall, Madden 17
There’s no doubt that Adam “Pacman” Jones is a solid shut-down corner. Madden 17 rated Jones 88 overall, behind star corners like Richard Sherman, Josh Norman, and Chris Harris Jr. From that perspective, the rating doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Whether Jones was better than Stephon Gilmore (85 rating) Malcolm Butler (85 rating), or Ronald Darby (83 rating) is another question.
Just look at the 2015 season upon which the Madden 17 ratings were based. Jones had 62 combined tackles and three interceptions for 14 yards. Gilmore had 36 combined tackles and three interceptions for 33 yards. Gilmore notably improved in 2016 to 48 combined tackles and five interceptions for 135 yards. Butler had 67 combined tackles and two interceptions for nine yards in 2015. He improved to four interceptions for 28 yards in 2016. Darby had 68 tackles and two interceptions for 48 yards in 2015.
Jones, meanwhile, racked up more tackles in 2016, but managed just one interception for two yards. Madden 18 took note of Jones’ decline, and dropped his overall rating to 81. Darby saw his rating drop to 80 this year. Gilmore’s 2018 rating clocks in at 81, while Butler saw a nice boost to 92.
6 Odell Beckham Jr. - 75 rating, Madden 15
Odell Beckham Jr. has established himself as one of the most, if not the most, dynamic wide receivers in the NFL today. In just three seasons, Beckham has already laid claim to numerous league records. He is the fastest player to reach 200 career receptions and 3,000 receiving yards (30 games) and has themost games with 125+ receiving yards in first three seasons (13).
However, when Madden 15 came out, Beckham's professional career had yet to begin. He also missed training camp, the preseason and the first four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury. These unknowns resulted in Beckham's 75 overall rating in Madden 15.
Beckham soon proved that rating wrong with a stellar month of play in November 2014. Beckham finished the month with 38 receptions, 593 receiving yards and two touchdowns in five games. That included his famous three-finger catch against the Dallas Cowboys.
Madden 15 took notice when they released a late-November roster update. They boosted Beckham's overall rating to 84. Still, that was pretty low for what he'd go on to accomplish from an individual standpoint.
Beckham got his props in recent years, ranking among the top receivers in the league in each subsequent Madden release. His 94 overall rating (and 99 spectacular catch rating) in Madden 18 properly ranks him the fourth-best wideout in the game.
5 Cam Newton - 94 rating, Madden 17
Cam Newton, quite literally, had an MVP season in 2015. He threw for a ridiculous 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He proved remarkably mobile, rushing for another 636 yards and 10 touchdowns as led the Panthers to the Super Bowl.
Madden 17 gave Newton a 94 overall rating, tied with Tom Brady for second-best rating among quarterbacks in the game. It's understandable that developers were high on Newton after his MVP season. Yet, it seemed questionable why they rated him above Ben Roethelisberger (93), Russell Wilson (91), and Derek Carr (83).
They also overrated Newton's throw accuracy at 87, as he regressed during the 2016 season. He threw for 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes. Madden 18 was more lukewarm on Newton, dropping him six points to 88 while bumping up ratings for Wilson, Carr, and Andrew Luck.
Newton is still a dual-threat quarterback, with proven MVP talent. Nonetheless, ranking him the second-best QB in Madden 17 seemed a bit generous given his on-field inconsistencies.
4 Anquan Boldin - 77 speed speed rating ties Geno Atkins, Madden 16
By the time Madden 16 was released, Anquan Boldin was looking to top 80 receptions and 1000+ receiving yards for the third straight season. Boldin was on the back nine of his career, but still accrued 1,062 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2014. It marked the seventh time he topped 1,000 receiving yards in his 14-year career.
However, Madden 16 gave the veteran wide receiver a 77 speed rating. That tied him with 300-pound tackle Geno Atkins. That's right, supposedly Atkins was just as fast as Bolden. They were also given the same acceleration rating (82).
Boldin failed to top the 1,000-yard plateau over the next two seasons, but still proved to be a serviceable receiver, with 136 receptions and 12 TDs during that span. Atkins is an elite defensive tackle, but still should not be considered faster than a wide receiver. Despite retiring in the summer of 2017, Boldin saw his speed rating in Madden 18 bumped up to 80, while his acceleration remained stagnant at 82. Atkins speed rating rose one point to 78 while his acceleration climbed to 84.
In a way, Boldin still got snubbed, despite his quickness. However, Madden 18 corrected course by rating Boldin's ahead of Atkins in terms of speed. Ironically, Boldin announced his retirement towards the end of training camp.
3 Peyton Manning - 92 overall, Madden 16
There's no doubt Peyton Manning is a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. He led the Colts to their first and only Super Bowl title in 2006 and enjoyed a late-career resurgence with the Denver Broncos that saw him throw for 17,112 yards and 140 touchdown passes in the Mile High City. He also won the 2013 MVP award and captured his second Super Bowl championship in his final season in 2015.
That proved to be one of the lone bright spots for Manning that year. He started just nine games, throwing for a career-low 2,249 yards and nine touchdowns. He also racked up 17 interceptions, his highest total since 2010. Madden 16 had Manning's overall ranking at 92, two points ahead of Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, and Phillip Rivers. Mind you, Newton won the MVP that season.
Yes, developers probably didn't foresee such a drop-off in Manning’s production when they released the game before the 2015 season. They should have still had rated Manning among the top half of quarterbacks, given the relatively solid 2014 stats they based the 2016 ratings on.
2 Derek Carr - 83 rating, Madden 17
Derek Carr threw for 3,987 yards and 32 touchdowns during the 2015 season. Andy Dalton threw for 3,250 yards and 25 touchdowns during the 2015 season. Which QB rated higher in Madden 17? Surprisingly, Dalton rated higher.
That's not a typo. Despite Carr's stellar freshman season, developers gave the Raiders quarterback an 83 overall rating, four points below Dalton. Yes, Dalton had a higher QB rating on the field that season, but Carr's career trajectory was clearly on the upswing. Madden 17 didn't seem to account for that. In fact, Carr ranked just one point ahead of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles.
Carr proved his 2017 rating wrong by passing for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns and six interceptions. Dalton, meanwhile, threw for 4,206 yards, but threw for 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Madden 18 came around to Carr, notching him up to 89 overall, while knocking Dalton’s rating down to 84.
1 Marcus Mariota - 79 rating, Madden 17
Marcus Mariota enjoyed a solid rookie season in 2015. He threw for 2,818 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He played just 12 games that year, as a Week 15 MCL sprain ended his season early. Apparently, those injury concerns resulted in an usually low 79 overall rating in Madden 17. That rating tied him with Ryan Tannehill and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Mariota also rated lower than Tyrod Taylor (82) and Blake Bortles (82) that year.
Granted, Fitzpatrick did have a great year in 2015, throwing for almost 4,000 yards with 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. However, those totals dropped to 2,710 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions, respectively, in 2016. Mariota improved to 3,426 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 15 games.
The real headscratcher is that Madden 17 rated Mariota lower than Bortles. The Jaguars’ quarterback had a standout season in 2015, but it proved to be somewhat of an anomaly. His 4,428-yard, 35-touchdown season in 2015 was a fluke in some ways.
His numbers were still respectable in 2016 (3,905 yards, 23 touchdowns, 16 interceptions) but he didn’t show the improvement that Mariota had. Mariota’s QB rating went from 91.5 in 2015 to 95.6 in 2016. Bortles’ QB rating dropped from 88.2 in 2015 to 78.8 in 2016.
Mariota appears to be on the upswing. Madden 18 rated Mariota one point higher at 80, and knocked Bortles’ rating down to 77.