Madden season is back and it's already in full swing. People are already all over the board with this year's installation, with critics being as lenient as ever and a myriad of fans voicing their displeasure with the game just a few weeks after launch. The football sim behemoth has its fair share of critics and seems to lose supporters and gain pundits with each installation. Among the most scrutinized aspect of the games have been the player ratings. Particularly when it comes to how high some are.
Though most of these ratings are fair enough for fans to be somewhat happy with, there's always a given percentage of players from every year's installation that get some pretty surprising overalls. Typically, you expect these ratings to reflect a player's performance from the previous year or in some cases the last few years. But this isn't always done in a way that fans agree with. Many things such as legacy, reputation, and far past accomplishments seem to go into putting together some of these ratings when they should be reflective of a player's most recent body of work. After all, this is a yearly installment EA is selling us. Let's take this opportunity to look at some of the most baffling out there.
25 Byron Leftwich – 82 OVR Madden NFL 08
Like many other high draft picks at his position, Byron Leftwich never really panned out as a starter in the NFL, despite showing some promise early on in his career. However, Leftwich showed little progression throughout his stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars and never once in his time as the starter crossed the 20 touchdown threshold. Looking at his performance and numbers, anything in the 80s is just too high a rating for him. Something in the low 70s would’ve been much better suited for him.
24 Danny Amendola – 85 OVR Madden NFL 19
This has to be one of the most puzzling ratings on this list by far. Danny Amendola served as a useful situational player for the Pats for years, but was never really anything outside of that role. So then why does this year’s iteration of Madden have him with such a high rating?
The fact that a receiver who never once gained 1,000 yards receiving has such a high rating is baffling.
Amendola has never really stood out throughout his career and his numbers reflect that. This kind of rating is usually given to receivers considered to be among the best in the league. You’d be hard pressed to find a football fan that would say that about Amendola.
23 Peyton Hillis - 92 OVR Madden NFL 12
One of the biggest and most notable one-hit-wonders in NFL history is forever enshrined as one of the many Madden cover athletes to have met with less than favorable outcomes following their appearance on the cover. Peyton Hillis had a monster season in 2010 and quickly raised some eyebrows around the NFL community. Though he eventually flamed out, what's really curious here is that Madden didn't give him a higher rating considering he was the cover athlete and all.
22 Vince Young – 88 OVR Madden NFL 09
There was so much hype surrounding Vince Young coming out of college, that you’d be hard pressed to have found anyone who’d predict his career would play out the way it did. Despite his struggles in the NFL, Young seemed to get the benefit of the doubt from EA for a good portion of his time as a starter. In his first two seasons as a pro, Young threw more INT’s than he did touchdowns and fumbled the ball 22 times. In total, he accounted for a whopping 36 turnovers. You just can’t justify giving that kind of player a rating in the high 80s.
21 Mike Williams - 81 OVR Madden NFL 07
A complete bust that seemed to get the benefit of the doubt early on in his career, Mike Williams never earned this rating. This rating was given to him coming off of his rookie year, which was pretty bad by even the lowest measuring stick. Williams brought in less than half of the passes thrown his way, finished with under 30 receptions and only one score. Things didn't get much better in 2006, but the fact that he even received such a high rating given his performance is awful.
20 Morten Andersen - 99 OVR Madden NFL 99
Kickers are often overlooked in the NFL. Though it isn't the most contact-oriented position, there's much less room for error and not as many opportunities to make up for any slip-ups. But even the best kicker in the league shouldn't have a 99 overall. That high a rating isn't just for those considered the best at their position, but the best in the league and kickers aren't on the field long enough to qualify. Andersen was a good kicker but not among the best players in the league at the time.
19 Mike Alstott - 100 OVR Madden NFL 2000
Mike Alstott will always be seen as one of the most unique players of his generation for his mixture of size, speed, and power that often gave him the advantage in the trenches and in open space. But this absurd rating of 100 overall just doesn't fit him. To give a player that kind of rating they would have to be one of the undisputed best in the league - in a class of their own. And while Alstott was a phenom, he wasn't that kind of runner. So this rating raises all kinds of questions.
18 Bob Sanders - 95 OVR Madden NFL 10
Bob Sanders is something of a tragic figure for many Colts fans out there. Had injuries not plagued him, Sanders would've probably been one of the league's best safeties for years. However, that wasn't how things ended up. 2007 was Sanders' breakout year. His 2008 campaign saw him struggle before losing the season to an injury. Given his past with injuries you'd expect this, as well as his poor performance leading up to it to affect his rating in a big way. But as you can see, it never really did.
17 Marion Barber - 93 OVR Madden NFL 09
Marion Barber was certainly a popular and vital player on the Cowboys offense during his tenure in Dallas, but his playing for one of the most popular teams in the league might've affected his ratings too much. Barber was never a 1000 yard back, and though he had a nose for the end zone, wasn't really among the best of his generation. So this high a rating - something that essentially puts him as one of the top backs in the game at the time - really doesn't make all that much sense.
16 Thomas Jones – 83 OVR Madden NFL 2005
A top pick who would eventually find success later down the line, Thomas Jones had a pretty rough stretch from 2000-2004. Jones bounced around two teams in that time, and it really seemed as though he would end up a bust in the NFL. Both the Cardinals and Buccaneers kicked Jones’ tires and found that he didn’t have all that much to offer in that time. While his career would eventually take off with the Bears, this rating isn’t reflective of his first few seasons.
15 Brad Johnson – 87 OVR Madden NFL 2004
Brad Johnson was never much of a quarterback, and didn’t really put up flashy numbers throughout his career. He was more suited to the field general role, serving as a change of pace from the running game and managing the clock. But being on a Super Bowl winning team can do wonders for your Madden rating – even if said team won with a dominant defensive unit. Johnson was good at what he did, but not good enough at the position to justify being rated among the league’s best.
14 Tim Tebow - 77 OVR Madden NFL 12
Tim Tebow seems like a really nice guy. He was one of those players you really wanted to see succeed - regardless of who you cheered for. But the man just wasn't an NFL quarterback. Aside from some flashes here and there, he never really showed the consistency and technique needed to be a half-decent NFL starter. So what the heck is with this rating here? This rating really smells like it's based on the guy's personality over his actual quality of play - and that's a huge no-no.
13 Kerry Collins – 87 OVR Madden NFL 2005
Kerry Collins had a pretty up and down career, but on average was a pretty middling passer who had a gunslinger mentality and a whole bunch of turnovers to show for it. From 2001-2003, Collins wasn’t really doing all that much to remedy that. He’d failed to throw for 20 touchdowns for three straight seasons and threw 46 interceptions. When you see a quarterback with an 87 overall you expect them to be among the best in the league, but Collins wasn’t anything close to that.
12 Brandon Graham - 77 OVR Madden NFL 15
Some players take longer to develop than others, and the case can certainly be made for Brandon Graham to be part of that conversation. Graham wasn't the most explosive defender early on in his career and only really put up exceptional numbers this past season. Graham had three sacks in 2013 - tied for second lowest in his career. Despite his inability to get to the passer, he was still given a fairly reasonable rating. That doesn't seem to properly reflect his early struggles as much as it should.
11 Mark Chmura - 100 OVR Madden NFL 99
Man, this is dumb. Of all the ratings on this list, this has to be one of the most boneheaded on here. Though it isn't really a thing anymore. a 100 overall rating would suggest that the player boasting it is one of the best players in the league - period. One of the devs must've been a Packers fan. There's no way you can look at Mark Chmura, look at his numbers, compare him to his peers at the time of this game's release, and say that he was one of the most dominant forces in football at the time. Of all the bad calls on here, this one's the worst.
10 Josh Freeman - 82 OVR Madden NFL 13
Josh Freeman's career was something of a roller coaster that never really ended until he was out of the league for good following the 2015 season. Freeman had issues with turnovers and the early years of his career were particularly up and down - with him having more INT's to TD's in one and the opposite the other. The 2012 season saw Freeman coming off his worst season turnover-wise, but the devs at EA obviously weren't paying attention if this rating is anything to go by.
9 Kyle Rudolph – 81 OVR Madden NFL 17
If you ask anyone today, Kyle Rudolf is one of the best tight ends in the NFL right now when healthy. However, that wasn’t always the case for the Vikings star pass catcher. Rudolph struggled to find his groove throughout his first five seasons in the league. Injuries and spotty play are primarily what dragged him down, and while this isn’t the highest rating on this list, it’s still a little too lenient given what Rudolph had shown on the field at that point in his career.
8 Akeem Ayers - 81 OVR Madden NFL 16
Akeem Ayers is a mid-tier linebacker in the NFL who looks as though his well has dried. While his career did start out with some promise, Ayers hasn't really done anything all that outstanding throughout his professional career - aside from his first two campaigns in the league.
It's likely that Ayers was still benefiting from a fantastic rookie campaign years later with this rating.
This rating seems overly generous seeing as, at the time of Madden NFL 16's release, Ayers had put up two fairly average campaigns as well as one awful one. Despite this, he still played as a pretty decent linebacker, which didn't reflect his real-world performances at all.
7 Jamaal Charles - 84 OVR Madden NFL 18
There was a point in time where Jamaal Charles was considered one of the best running backs in the NFL. But nagging injuries have greatly limited both his ability to perform on the field and contribute to a team.
Charles has only been healthy enough to play in all 16 games twice in his career.
When it comes to players like Charles, who can't really string together a healthy season, that inconsistency and unreliability has to be taken into account when putting together a rating. From 2015-2016 Charles only put together 404 yards rushing and two touchdowns in his limited appearances. No matter how you look at it his rating should've been lower.
6 Jay Cutler – 86 OVR Madden NFL 15
Jay Cutler was one of the most heavily scrutinized quarterbacks in the NFL throughout his career. Cutler never really turned into the elite passer both the Broncos and Bears had hoped he’d be – but was a serviceable starter nonetheless. At the time of Madden 15’s release, Cutler had had three straight seasons of mediocre play. Looking at the numbers, this high rating is pretty ridiculous when you look at just how bad he was for a considerable stretch of time.
5 Derek Wolfe – 86 OVR Madden NFL 17
Derek Wolfe is a pretty solid 3-4 defensive end, but might get too much love because of the company he keeps. His main strength is playing the run, but he has shown the ability to rush the passer at times.
Wolfe’s numbers are solid, but not necessarily elite.
However, when you match up Wolfe’s numbers with truly dominant 3-4 defensive ends like JJ Watt, Jurrell Casey or Cameron Heyward – they don’t really compare. The rating is just a little too high given what Wolfe has shown us so far in his career.
4 Daunte Culpepper - 80 OVR Madden NFL 09
From 2000 - 2004 Daunte Culpepper looked like he was going to be one of the faces of the NFL for a long time. But his play slipped and he soon fell off the map. It happens fairly often, though seeing it happen to a player who'd sustained so much recent success is a little odd.
Culpepper just wasn't a very good player for a handful of years.
Between 2005 - 2007, Culpepper appeared in 18 games - all but one of them starts - threw for 3,824 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. Looking at those numbers, this rating is incredibly generous, to say the least.
3 Donovan McNabb - 82 OVR Madden NFL 12
Though he had an impressive career, Donovan McNabb - like many other long-tenured quarterbacks - had a hard time knowing when to call it quits. McNabb seemingly overstayed his welcome in Philly towards the end of his career, and his departure from the city of brotherly love would spell out the beginning of a quick end. McNabb was pretty washed out by the time he made it to Washington and put up pedestrian numbers before one final egregious year with the Vikings.
2 Eli Manning - 93 OVR Madden NFL 09
Eli Manning has always been under the microscope. That's been the case for him throughout his career. He's showed that he has an elite skill set but struggles with consistency.
A strong performance in the playoffs doesn't necessarily excuse a pedestrian regular season.
This generous rating comes off the heels of a Giants Super Bowl run and a prolific playoff performance. However, Manning was fairly average for most of the 2007 Season, leading the league in interceptions with 20. A 93 overall is elite, and he hadn't shown that enough the previous season to justify that.
1 Reggie Bush – 83 OVR Madden NFL 11
Reggie Bush’s inability to live up to the hype he generated coming out of USC still lives on in NFL draft analysis today, with many experts being wary of drafting running backs high in the draft. Bush was expected to take the NFL by storm but didn’t cross the 1,000-yard mark once in his career.
Bush had bust written all over him after a few years with the Saints.
Throughout his first four years in the NFL, Bush racked up a total of 1,940 rushing yards, with 15 rushing touchdowns and an average YPC of 4.1. Bush wasn’t much of a contributor on those teams, nor did he do anything to show that he was any good as a runner in those years.