Once upon a time, I played John Madden football mercilessly for hours on the day. In grade school it was a great way to occupy time with friends instead of picking on my little brother, and in college it was a second job of sorts. Hours that should have been spent studying were consumed with playing video games.
Mastering Madden led to generating money for my lint-filled pockets. It gave me the opportunity to buy the latest sneakers, have gas money to make it back home and fill my pantry full of exquisite college cuisine, also known as ramen noodles.
As the years have passed, my days as a video game enthusiast have surpassed me. I feel bleak typing the statement, but it’s the sad truth of what has become of my life. Although I don’t play video games as much as I like to, my appreciation for them still exists.
Every August since 1990, Madden has released his legendary game, and with said release, it spawns excitement for football fans of all ages, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.
As Madden prepares to launch their latest game, let’s take a look at 16 of the best players in the game’s history.
16. Drew Carter, Carolina Panthers, Madden 07
OK, I know you are thinking why in the hell is Drew Carter on the list. Carter’s career lasted as long as an intro to an album, but in his short run, he exhibited video game dominance. Standing at 6-4 with blazing speed, he was a mismatch for defensive backs, quite reminiscent to Randy Moss, but obviously not as good. With Carter aligned with Steve Smith, it was a nightmare playing the Panthers. If the Madden version of Carter translated into reality, Canton would have to make an open space for the video game legend.
15. Devin Hester, Chicago Bears, Madden 08
Hester’s overall rating at wide receiver and cornerback was nothing to brag about, but Hester was the first player in Madden to boast the speed rating of 100. Playing against him was an instantaneous headache. And while his rating wasn’t high at wide receiver, he was impossible to guard. Hester would often be seen blazing pass defenders as his dreadlocks shook in the wind, just as he did in real life as a member of the Bears.
14. Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings, Madden 06
Culpepper was the cover boy in 2002, but he was on another level in Madden 06. With an overall rating of 98, his play on the game was unequivocally frightening. Culpepper had the luxury of throwing to Randy Moss, who was also utterly ridiculous in the game. The quarterback of the Vikings had a rare blend of size, speed and a cannon for an arm that made for video game magic.
What separated Culpepper from other quarterbacks on Madden was that he was so tough to bring down. It was sort of like a grade school child trying to tackle a grown-ass man. Culpepper’s rise as a video game legend ended prematurely, but it was a fun ride over the course of his career with Minnesota.
13. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles, Madden 06
Donovan McNabb didn’t have the speed of Michael Vick or the power of Daunte Culpepper, but he was a blend of both players. McNabb was a video game wonder, and pairing him with Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook made the Eagles a Madden favorite.
With a rating of 97, McNabb was the quintessential quarterback on the game. His throwing prowess was excellent, and he could take off when needed. QB spies weren’t effective against him, and you couldn’t blitz or sit in a zone against him, because he would pick you apart.
12. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans, Madden 15
Justin James Watt made playing defense fun in Madden 15. The behemoth of a defensive lineman harassed offenses like no other. In the history of Madden, defensive linemen such as Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney and Michael Strahan were close to unstoppable, but with Watt his dominance was extraordinary.
11. Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens, Madden 07
Reed commanded center field as if he was Ken Griffey Jr., and when defenders came his way he lowered the boom as if he was Ronnie Lott. Going against Reed created a lot of havoc for myself. With several of my friends using the Ravens, it was a constant stressor to know where No. 20 was on the field. Like in real life, Reed was a touchdown machine if he scooped up a turnover. Looking back on it, Reed was unfair in the biosphere of Madden, and I am forever grateful that he is no longer in the NFL.
10. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens, Madden 05
The Madden curse may have hit Ray Lewis in 2005, but he ruled the field in Madden 05. This was the year the hit stick was introduced, and it was unfair when Lewis unleashed a fury of hits on ball carrier. Oftentimes, the hits resulted in fumbles or injury for whomever was carrying the ball. Coupled with his ability to hit, Lewis was a menace in pass rushing and coverage as well.
9. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers, Madden 08
Tomlinson was hard to stop because he could be used as a running and receiving threat. Like Marshall Faulk, Tomlinson was a mismatch when in the open field. The touchdown ace’s awareness would often heighten near the end zone as he pranced his way past defenders. LaDainian seems to be the forgotten man when it comes to his legendary play on Madden, so it was only right to pay homage to his video game greatness.
8. Tom Brady, New England Patriots, Madden 09
Tom Brady was the closest thing to the perfect player on Madden 09. Blessed with a 99 rating, there was no throw Brady was incapable of making. With his awareness as high as his rating, his football savvy made it easy for him to navigate against the game’s toughest defenses. Not to mention throwing to the duo of Randy Moss and Wes Welker, who had ratings of 99 and 94 respectively, made the Patriots offense close to unstoppable.
7. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts, Madden 06
Precision passing was introduced in Madden 06, and with it enabled, Peyton Manning was a marksman. Like Brady, Manning wasn’t mobile, but his arm strength, accuracy and awareness were amazing. With weapons such as Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Marvin Harrison at his disposal, Manning was flawless. I always thought he should have had a 100 rating in Madden 06, but I guess a 99 rating isn’t so shabby.
6. Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions, Madden 99
Cyber Barry was just as impressive as the Barry Sanders who embarrassed NFL defenses in the 1998-1999 season. Sanders may have been the first athlete who mirrored his play on the video game. As seen on each Sunday, video game Barry juked defenders out of their shoes. It also helps that the “Cyber Barry” will go down as one of the best video game commercials of all time.
5. Marshall Faulk, St. Louis Rams, Madden 03
Marshall Faulk should be higher on the list, but he has some stiff competition ahead of him. As the cover boy in 2003, Faulk gave plenty of reasons why he was labeled such. With an overall rating of 99, he was the leader of the “Greatest Show on Turf.” Whether if it was through the air or on the ground, Faulk tormented defenses and Madden mavens who attempted to stop him.
4. Randy Moss, New England Patriots, Madden 09
The Minnesota Vikings’ Moss was amazing in his early years of Madden prominence. Tossing him the ball at insane heights was the thing to do, but in 2009, he was in another stratosphere. With Tom Brady throwing Moss fade routes, defenders were embarrassed at all cost. Whether if it was running a go route or a slant, stopping him was not a thing. With a rating of 99, Moss and the 2009 Pats may go down as one of greatest teams to ever play in the game.
3. Deion Sanders, Dallas Cowboys, Madden 99
Playing with Prime Time was a cheat code. Sanders was unstoppable at wide receiver, kick returner and, of course, cornerback. On defense he would shut down half of the field, and whenever he got the ball, he was a threat to score. To no surprise, Sanders had a rating of 100, and he was one of the first dominant defenders in the Madden era.
2. Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers, Madden 98
Rice boasted an unfathomable rating in Madden 98. He sported a 189 rating on Nintendo 64. He was the first player in the history of the game to surpass the rating of 100.
Playing with Rice and Steve Young was unfair. With Young’s speed and accuracy, the bootleg to Rice was damn near a guaranteed touchdown. Rice was head and shoulders above the competition and will go down as one of the best players in Madden history in the same way he is the greatest wide receiver to walk the earth.
1. Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons, Madden 04
In 2004, the Madden cover featured Michael Vick. At the time, Vick was on the rise as a NFL quarterback, and his folklore began prior to becoming dominant on the field. Although he was hit with the curse during the NFL season, video game Vick set the football world on fire. There wasn’t a defense that could stop him, and he made Warrick Dunn, Brian Finneran, Peerless Price and Alge Crumpler close to unstoppable as well.
Vick could throw the ball pretty well, but he did his damage as a runner. Running with him was reminiscent to running with Sonic the Hedgehog when he wore red shoes. His speed was undeniable, and with the combination of mutant-like speed and the ability to throw, Vick sits atop of the list as the best Madden player of all time.
It’s your turn…did we get the rankings right?
— Eddie Maisonet, III (@edthesportsfan) August 23, 2016
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp