One of the gaming community's longest-running series is the legendary Madden NFL franchise, which has its 27th edition hitting the shelves on August 25th. This year, the game's producer, EA Sports, is announcing the top five players at each position (based on overall ratings) as a lead-up to the release date.
So far, the Packers have three players mentioned. Aaron Rodgers, as the reigning NFL MVP, is of course at the top of the list for quarterbacks by virtue of his 99 overall rating. Two other Packers are listed however, and we'll discuss those here.
On the offensive line, Josh Sitton is getting the recognition in Madden that he deserves (and has yet to receive) in real life. Sitton was listed as the second-best offensive lineman overall, earning a 97 overall rating. Only right guard Marshal Yanda of the Baltimore Ravens was ranked higher, as he received an overall rating of 98.
EA had this to say about the Packers' Pro Bowler at left guard:
Sitton provides NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers with the protection he needs thanks to 96 Pass Blocking and 88 Run Blocking. Sitton is a key component to the Packers' high-scoring offense.
It probably comes as no surprise that Sitton's pass-blocking rating is elite, while his run-blocking is just very good. Last season, Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the best pass-blocking guard by a mile with a +19.2 grade, but his run blocking was less impressive at +1.9. Yanda, on the other hand, has a 99 in run-blocking, which matches up with his stunning +34.2 PFF grade in that area for 2014.
The second player listed in the recent batch of rankings is Clay Matthews. Perhaps surprisingly, Matthews only earned a 90 overall rating, but that may be due to his position - this year, he is listed as an inside linebacker by the Madden staff, and that 90 puts him in a tie for 4th among all middle linebackers. A trio of NFC players come in ahead of Matthews: Luke Kuechly (96 overall), Navorro Bowman (93), and Bobby Wagner (92). Here is a deeper look into Matthews' rating:
The definition of a "high motor" player, Matthews transitioned from outside to inside and didn't lose a step with 11 sacks. He's still got it with 96 Pursuit, 90 Tackle, and 88 Play Recognition in addition to 75 ZCV/65 MCV.
The coverage ratings are where Matthews trails the others, at least somewhat - the three players above him have zone coverage ratings in the 80s and man coverage in the 70s. What Matthews lacks in that area, he makes up for in his pass rushing, of course, and his pursuit rating is magnificent. Anyone who has seen him track down a run play to the opposite side of the field can agree with that.
Then again, if you're playing this year's Madden game, you might shift Matthews back outside on passing downs, much like Dom Capers is likely to do; if you do, let us know what his overall rating becomes as an outside linebacker instead.
So far, only the offense and inside linebacker lists have been released. The reveal will continue here with the rest of the defense and, presumably, special teams over the next week or two.