Just a few days ago (July 9th), the Madden NFL 21 rookie ratings for quarterbacks and wide-receivers were released leading to an infinite number of player ratings predictions. From rookies to league leaders, estimates were being made by pundits including my article Predicting the Madden 21 ratings for the rest of the Steelers’ rookies. This was followed yesterday by the release of the first player in the ‘99 Club’ where fittingly, after signing his record $503-million deal, Patrick Mahomes was announced.
However, yesterday also saw the ‘leaked’ release of Madden 21 player ratings for the top 10 players on each team, by Madden School. With Madden 21 seemingly as divisive this year, as they’ve been the past few seasons, these leaked ratings resulting in a varying range of reactions from fans and NFL players alike, on on social media:
So how did the leading Steelers players fare when it came to their Madden 21 ratings? According to Madden School’s post or ‘leak’, here’s what the game’s players can expect:
- David DeCastro – 91 (Madden 20 rating: 91)
- Cameron Heyward – 90 (Madden 20 rating: 90)
- Minkah Fitzpatrick – 87 (Madden 20 rating: 85)
- Stephon Tuitt – 87 (Madden 20 rating: 87)
- Maurkice Pouncey – 86 (Madden 20 rating: 86)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster – 86 (Madden 20 rating: 86)
- T.J. Watt – 86 (Madden 20 rating: 86)
- Eric Ebron – 84 (Madden 20 rating: 86)
- Joe Haden – 83 (Madden 20 rating: 83)
- Alejandro Villanueva – 82 (Madden 20 rating: 82)
Just how did Madden players and Steelers fans feel about the fairness of these ratings? Well a certain coach we all know’s son, simply commented:
That’s right, just like you and I, Madden player or casual observer, it’s clear the Steelers’ leading players have a right to feel hard done-by when it comes to their potential (yes, potential) Madden 21 rating based on perceived 2019 production.
It’s also worth noting that Madden 20 had the following current Steelers listed with ratings above 80 (with Javon Hargrave now with the Eagles & Ramon Foster retiring):
- Ryan Shazier - 84 (will be interested to see if he’s included in Madden 21)
- Steven Nelson - 82
- Chris Boswell - 82
- Ben Roethlisberger - 81
- Mike Hilton - 81
- James Conner - 81
- Bud Dupree - 80
Diving deeper into these ‘leaked’ Madden 21 ratings though, it is abundantly clear Steelers players looked to have been snubbed by developers. Let’s start with comparing the rating of our season-on-season rising defensive star, T.J. Watt, with some of his positional colleagues (as covered in my June article How big of a pay day should the Steelers give T.J.?) based on their individual production, as per Pro Football Reference:
- Shaquil Barrett - Madden 21 rating of 85: 19.5 sacks, 19 TFLs, 37 QB hits & 51 QB pressures
- T.J. Watt - Madden 21 rating of 86: 14.5 sacks, 14 TFLs, 36 QB hits & 59 QB pressures
- Chandler Jones - Madden 21 rating of 95: 19 sacks, 11 TFLs, 26 QB hits & 40 QB pressures
What do these ratings suggest? Firstly, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Madden players and Shaquil Barrett have every right to feel as slighted as Steelers Madden players and T.J. Watt does. Secondly, if these ratings are accurate when EA announce the official Madden ratings, it’s fair to determine that historical production is certainly being factored into players’ ratings. Equally, with Barrett and Watt outdoing Jones’ production in 2019 across various statistical measurements, both players surely deserve a ratings boost?
Let’s widen our pool of rating comparisons, to the safety position and namely All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick’s incredibly low rating of 87, by looking at how Minkah fared against other top-tier NFL safeties in both rating and 2019 production (to account for scheme and player traits, here’s a mix of ‘free’ and ‘strong’ safeties):
- Minkah Fitzpatrick - Madden 21 rating of 87: 5 INTs, 1 TD, 1 QB-hit, 2 FFs, 3 FRs, 1 TFL, 69 Tkls
- Earl Thomas - Madden 21 rating of 88: 2 INTs, 0 TDs, 6 QB-hits, 1 FF, 1 FRs, 2 TFL, 49 Tkls
- Jamal Adams - Madden 21 rating of 92: 1 INT, 1 TD, 13 QB-hits, 2 FFs, 1 FR, 10 TFL, 75 Tkls
- Kevin Byard - Madden 21 rating of 91: 5 INT, 0 TDs, 0 QB-hits, 0 FFs, 0 FRs, 2 TFL, 84 Tkls
- Harrison Smith - Madden 21 rating of 95: 3 INT, 0 TDs, 2 QB-hit, 3 FFs, 2 FRs, 4 TFL, 85 Tkls
What do the above 2019 productions statistics show? That Minkah’s Madden 21 rating of 87 is not reflective of his NFL top-tier safety leading 5 interceptions, high number for forced fumbles and leading fumble reception stats, and a fairer rating would fall north of 90.
Moving onto our final positional group, let’s see how Steelers defensive leader, and perennial All-Pro & Pro-Bowler, Cam Heyward faired against his top-tier NFL counterparts in both rating and recent production:
- Cam Heyward - Madden 21 rating of 90: 83 Tkls, 23 QB hits, 11 TFL, 9 Sks, 1 FF, 1 FR
- Grady Jarrett - Madden 21 rating of 90: 69 Tkls, 16 QB hits, 12 TFLs, 7.5 Sks, 2 FF, 1 FR
- Calais Campbell - Madden 21 rating of 95: 56 Tkls, 25 QB hits, 10 TFL, 6.5 Sks, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1TD
- Cameron Jordan - Madden 21 rating of 96: 53 Tkls, 25 QB hits, 15 TFL, 15.5 Sks, 0 FF, 1 FR
- J.J. Watt - Madden 21 rating of 98: 24 Tkls, 21 QB hits, 4 TFLs, 4 sacks, 1 FF, 2 FR
- Aaron Donald - Madden 21 rating of 99: 48 Tkls, 24 QB hits, 20 TFLs, 12.5 Sks, 2 FF, 1 FR
Again, when it comes to Madden 21 ratings one of the Steelers’ leading players and defensive superstars, Cam Heyward is slighted despite strong 2019 production. In Heyward’s case he leads in tackles, is middle of the pack for quarterback hits, ranks 4th in tackles for loss and 3rd in sacks, all of which don’t add up to being the least ranked player among the NFL’s top-tier defensive linemen, especially when he’s playing a predominantly defensive tackle role.
So what can we deduce from the ‘leaked’ and potential launch ratings of the Steelers’ leading players? These Steelers and fans, especially those that play Madden, are right and fair in feeling hard done-by from Madden’s developers.
Despite this disturbing lack of faith in the Steelers leading players, launch ratings are generally subject to substantive change as the season progresses with ratings updated each week based on NFL players’ in-season performance. Although this requires Madden players to delay the start to their in-game seasons, these potential launch rating disparities are also even more problematic by the fact this year, unlike other seasons, the NFL and Madden players face the real possibility of a delayed season, shortened season, or even no season at all.
This begs the question, how can EA continue to call Madden the ‘authentic NFL experience’ if its in-game players don’t more accurately reflect the most recent on-field statistical output? Or maybe this doesn’t even matter when Madden players can bump up or change player attributes and overall ratings on in-game rosters? Either way, I’d like to hear your thoughts and any revised ratings you’d give to the Steelers’ leading players based on their 2019 production.