You know football is almost here when a) training camp opens and b) EA Sports starts releasing Madden ratings. We got a look at Madden 15 rookie rankings -- at least the top 13 rookies anyway.
And some will surprise you! Blake Bortles is the top-ranked quarterback ... above Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. Jadeveon Clowney, in not so much of a shocker, is the top-ranked rookie overall.
He's a FREAK: 88 speed is insane ...
and not that far below Sammy Watkins ...
It's the same as new Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans ...
Check out the video below of the top players:
To take a deeper dive, we talked with EA Sports Madden Ratings Czar (we think it's official title) Donny Moore, who gave us the skinny on various rankings from this year's rookie class.
CBSSports.com: No JOHNNY MANZIEL in the top 10??? But seriously, where's Johnny Football -- even without the starting gig I thought his athleticism might rocket him into a weird place on this list. Dude plays like a video game in real life!
Donny Moore: Johnny Football is going to be fun to play in Madden NFL 15, make no mistake about it. He's got a great Throw on Run rating, so he can scramble and throw. But he does have a few knocks on his game at this point as a rookie -- Mid Accuracy, Awareness, and Play Action all have some room for improvement.
CBS: Clowney's 83 feels right but maybe a little low, just because he's such a freak. Were you guys tempted to bump him up even more?
DM: Clowney is a stud. As an Outside Linebacker though, he has some weaknesses in Zone Coverage, Man Coverage and his Stamina. He is probably not a 3 down player at this point in his career, but will be one of the best in the game at rushing the passer with his 88 Speed and 94-rated Power Moves.
CBS: How does Clowney compare to other previous rookie defensive players? How about Greg Robinson against other rookie linemen?
DM: Clowney and G-Rob are great rookies but not quite the best we have ever seen coming into Madden NFL. Mario Williams was 86 OVR in Madden 07, and Reggie Bush was highest ever at 88 OVR, a record which still stands today. Greg Robinson has the highest incoming Run Block (94) since Mike Iupati in Madden 11 (Iupati was 95).
CBS: Blake Bortles has to be an upset as the top-ranked QB for the rooks over Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. Was this a conscious decision by you guys at EA or did you plug in the ratings for the guys and just happen to see him spit out on top once things shook out?
DM: The Throw Power of Bortles is what put him over the top over Manziel and Bridgewater, as he comes out with a 92 in that category. Teddy has some advantages in short and mid accuracy, but his deep accuracy set him back a bit OVR-wise.
CBS: Sammy Watkins is stout at 80. If I recall correctly that tops Julio Jones Madden 12 rating and is equal to A.J. Green's rating. Do you think Watkins and Mike Evans (an impressive 78) stack up favorably with Jones and Green?
DM: Sammy Watkins reminds us a lot of Percy Harvin, great speed, great moves after the catch, and top notch hands/playmaking ability. Mike Evans is a bit slower but he is a mini-TE lining up outside at 6'5”, 230 lbs. We don't have either Watkins or Evans grading out as high overall in comparison to Julio Jones/A.J. Green of the 2011 Draft.
CBS: What sort of SPD rating is Watkins looking at?
DM: Sammy is sitting pretty with 93 SPD/95ACC/95 AGI…To go along with 88 Catch rating, watch out AFC East cornerbacks!
CBS: Are there any other eye-popping individual traits from these players? (Like Jake Matthews and a 99 awareness as a rookie or something?)
DM: Clowney 94 Power Moves (#1 ranked rookie)/88 SPD/92 ACC/95 Hit Power (ties him with Calvin Pryor for #1 ranked rookie) ... Greg Robinson 73 SPD/87ACC/93 STR/94 RBK (ties him for #3 out of all LG's in Madden 15) ... Jake Matthews 90 Pass Block…Aaron Donald 81 SPD (ranked #1 for DT in Madden)/93 STR ... Darqueze Dennard 92 Press/89 Man Coverage/90 SPD ... Khalil Mack 87 SPD/90 Power Moves/91 Pursuit ...
CBS: Were you guys surprised Calvin Pryor ended up so high? Does playing for Rex Ryan have anything to do with that or just his natural abilities? He looks like the "steal" of the draft based on Madden ratings, yeah?
DM: Calvin Pryor will start from Day 1 in that Jets secondary with his 95 Hit Power/85 SPD/78 Tackle/76 Zone Coverage ratings. I like what he brings to the table and think he was absolutely worth being the first safety off the board over HaHa Clinton-Dix.
CBS: Will Clowney's rating fluctuate if you move him from DE to LB?
DM: Yes it will, he will increase to a 92 Overall if you move him to DE (his natural position). That is NOT intentional though, if/when the Texans move him to the DE position, expect some rating adjustments to reflect his new position (which would more than likely lower him from 92). Things like Zone Coverage are factored in at OLB for OVR rating, so that is why there are two different grades.