The start of training camps for most NFL teams is only a week away. After a brief break, football is back in the consciousness of the sports fan … if it ever really left. And with it comes the preparation for the latest Madden video game. But this year’s game, which will be released Aug. 19, is a little bit different.
Following the death of the series’ namesake, Hall of Fame coach John Madden, on Dec. 28, 2021, and EA Sports’ decision to put Madden on the cover, there’s a feeling of legacy around the game this year. But Madden always wanted the game to be about football and to approximate the reality of the sport he loved to coach, teach and talk about as closely as it could. He was the one who pushed for it to be 11-on-11 at the outset. He was the one who was still involved in aspects of the video game up until his death.
As the game grew in the zeitgeist of American culture, certain aspects stood out more than others. Ratings matter to players. They’ll complain on social media about their rating and sometimes raise questions to those who are doing it. The Madden staff has an entire crew dedicated to adjusting ratings throughout the year. It’s a big deal.
And with that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the initial ratings at launch of Madden 23, some top players at each position and the annual 99 club, which has turned into an honor around the sport. We’ll roll out more positions each day this week:
1. Myles Garrett, Browns: 99
2. T.J. Watt, Steelers: 96
3. Nick Bosa, 49ers: 94
T-4. Von Miller, Bills: 92
T-4. Khalil Mack, Chargers: 92
T-6. Joey Bosa, Chargers: 91
T-6. Cameron Jordan, Saints: 91
T-8. DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys: 90
T-8. Chandler Jones, Raiders: 90
10. Rashan Gary, Packers: 89
Dropped out: JJ Watt (T-3), Za’Darius Smith (T-10), Danielle Hunter (T-10)
Last December, Garrett became the first Browns player in the history of Madden to earn a 99. Now, he’s the first Browns player to be part of the 99 club at launch. He is coming off his fourth straight double-digit-sack season after a career-high 16 last season. It’s the second year in a row in which Garrett is the top edge rusher at launch (he was a 98 overall to start last year).
TJ Watt, last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, moved from third to second in this year’s initial ratings and jumped from a 94 to a 96. Nick Bosa was the big mover in the group. Last year, he started at No. 9 with a 90 overall rating. Now, he’s third with a 94.
Miller switched teams from last year’s launch — twice — first being traded from Denver to the Rams and then signing with Buffalo in free agency. While he dropped to a 92 overall from 93 this season, he moved up from tied for sixth to tied for fourth with Mack, who was No. 2 and a 96 overall last year.
The bottom half of the top 10 has a couple of new faces and also is without future Hall of Famer JJ Watt, who was tied for third as an edge rusher last season.
1. Fred Warner, 49ers: 94
2. Demario Davis, Saints: 93
3. Lavonte David, Buccaneers: 92
4. Bobby Wagner, Rams: 91
5. Darius Leonard, Colts: 90
6. Roquan Smith, Bears: 89
T-7. Micah Parsons, Cowboys: 88
T-7. Eric Kendricks, Vikings: 88
9. De’Vondre Campbell, Packers: .87
10. Devin White, Buccaneers: 85
Dropped out: Dont’a Hightower (No. 8), Deion Jones (No. 9), Myles Jack (No. 10)
Not much has changed at linebacker. Warner remains the top middle linebacker in Madden with the same rating he had at launch last year (94).
In actuality, the top four linebackers from a season ago all remain the same, just in a different order. Last year’s order was Warner, David, Wagner and Davis, but this season goes Warner-Davis-David-Wagner.
Leonard moved up from sixth to fifth, and up to 90 this year from 89 last year. Kendricks, fifth last season, dropped to a tie for seventh this year — with Parsons at an 88 overall rating. Parsons, by the way, has a chance to be a breakout candidate in Madden this year. The bottom of the top 10 sees Campbell and White join as new additions.
1. Davante Adams, Raiders: 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, Buccaneer: 92
T-8. Terry McLaurin, Commanders: 91
T-8. Keenan Allen, Chargers: 91
10. Amari Cooper, Browns: 90
Dropped out from launch last year: Julio Jones (No. 5), Allen Robinson II (No. 10)
Perhaps no group of players has received as much of a boost in real life this past offseason as receivers. Once Christian Kirk received his four-year, $72 million contract from Jacksonville, it seemed to set off an explosion of money going to premium players at the position. And it, in many ways, turned the receiver into a key NFL position alongside quarterback, left tackle, edge rusher and cornerback. Receivers are getting mega money — and in Madden, their ratings have reflected just how talented this group has become.
It’s one of three groups where the entirety of the top 10 has a rating of 90 or above, and as many as five receivers could have a potential claim to being the best in the game.
While Adams has moved from the Packers to the Raiders, his status as the top receiver in the game — and in the 99 club at launch — remains the same. Last year represented a big jump from Adams, who was a 94 overall at the launch of Madden 21.
Behind Adams, there’s a significant movement. Hopkins dropped from 98 to 96, and from second to fourth. Replacing him at No. 2 overall is Kupp, who went from outside the top 10 at the start of last year to a 98 overall after a 145-catch, 1,947-yard, 16-touchdown season. Kupp’s emergence knocked a lot of players down at least one spot.
1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs: 98
2. George Kittle, 49ers: 97
3. Mark Andrews, Ravens: 93
4. Darren Waller, Raiders: 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 top of it remains the same. While Kelce is no longer a member of the 99 club — although don’t be surprised if he earns it back during the 2022 season — he remains the No. 1 tight end in the game with a 98 rating. And other than one other player, the list behind him is not all that close.
Kelce’s biggest competition is Kittle, one of his fellow Tight End University stalwarts. Kittle is the No. 2 tight end again this season and is now a 97 overall, up from 96 last year. Then comes the drop. Andrews (93 overall) enters the 90s and moves from No. 4 to No. 3. He flips with Waller, who drops from No. 3 to No. 4 and from a 93 last year to a 91 this year.
After that, big moves happen. Hockenson — one of the game’s top young tight ends — is now No. 5 in the game and an 89 overall after being No. 9 and an 85 last season. Pitts had the all-time second-best season for a rookie tight end in 2021, including 68 catches and 1,026 yards, and is now No. 6 with an 87. Gesicki slightly bumps up from No. 8 to No. 7 and from an 85 to an 86. Goedert made a similar move from No. 10 to No. 8 and from 84 to 85. Ertz, one of the most consistent tight ends in the league, made a big leap from an 80 overall to an 84 and enters the top 10 at No. 9.