While the 2020 NFL season feels oh so far away, it’s never too early to look forward to EA Sports’ next edition of their Madden NFL series: Madden NFL 21.
Madden NFL 21 is expected to drop this summer, and dedicated fans are eagerly anticipating what the game will have in store. However, another thing for gamers to look forward to is who Madden NFL 21’s cover athlete will be.
There has been a long list of bad luck affiliated with players featured on the games’ covers over the course of the past 20-plus years – otherwise known as the Madden Curse. This major trend has seen Madden cover athletes go down with (sometimes season-ending) injuries after the game’s release.
Many believed this could be the case for Patrick Mahomes who graced the cover of Madden NFL 20. He went down with an injury in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos. However, Mahomes bounced back and led his Kansas City Chiefs to the last game of the NFL season and locked down the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in 50 years.
It might just be that the curse has been lifted – or perhaps even replaced by an ounce of good fortunes. Whatever the case may be, there is a long list of players who could potentially grace Madden NFL 21’s cover this summer. Here are a few candidates EA is likely considering.
Lamar Jackson was just the second NFL MVP in history to win the award via a unanimous vote. The other? None other than Tom Brady in 2010.
It seemed to be an easy decision. Jackson led all quarterbacks in passing touchdowns (36) and threw just 6 interceptions. While he was 22nd in the league in passing yards (3,127), the second-year quarterback earned an additional 1,206 yards on the ground and ran the ball into the endzone seven times. In fact, Jackson finished the year in sixth for rushing yards across the league. The second-best quarterback in this regard was the Arizona Cardinals’ Kyle Murray who tied for 35th place.
Upon the game’s release, Jackson had a 76 overall rating. However, his star perfomance this season is now reflected by his 92 overall rating. Key ratings also include speed (96), acceleration (96), and agility (95) in terms of his rushing abilities. When it comes to passing, Jackson earned high praise in throw power (92) and short accuracy (92).
Even if Jackson didn’t earn the title of MVP of the NFL’s 2019 season, he is a very sellable personality for the league, and EA Sports may look to pounce on this. If Jackson were to find himself on the cover of Madden NFL 21, he would become just the second Baltimore Raven to do so after linebacker Ray Lewis earned the honor for Madden NFL 2005.
Another mobile quarterback for EA to consider is Deshaun Watson.
Like Jackson, Watson can be effective with his arm (3,852 passing yards in 2019) and his legs (413 yards rushing). While his 26 passing touchdowns pale in comparison to that of Jackson’s, the Houston Texan is another marketable personality.
Watson’s overall of 86 in Madden NFL 20 also pales in comparison to that of Jackson. However, there is reason to believe his speed (84), acceleration (88), and agility (88) will all receive upticks if he is to earn cover athlete status. In terms of passing, Watson also doesn’t reach Jackson’s height with a throw power of 89 and accuracy ratings ranging from short (87), mid (84) and deep (86).
Given Watson’s age, coupled with his team’s successful season, he is someone deserving of EA’s recognition. Though his team was thwarted by the Super Bowl champs in the divisional round this postseason, Watson showcased how lethal his abilities can be when he is at the top of his game and certainly deserves some consideration when it comes to choosing a cover athlete for Madden NFL 21. If he doesn’t earn the spot this year, it seems likely that he will find himself on the cover in the near future.
Moving away from quarterbacks, running back Christian McCaffrey had an absolutely stellar 2019 NFL campaign with the Carolina Panthers.
McCaffrey led all running backs in receiving yards (1,005) last season and was second among the entire league in receptions (116). He was third in the league in terms of rushing yards with 1,387 and rushing touchdowns with 15.
The running back finished the season with a whopping 99 overall rating in Madden NFL 20. His ratings in speed (92), acceleration (93), agility (97), and elusiveness (93) are big contributors to this.
It would be silly to say we won’t see more dominance from the 23-year-old in seasons to come. Barring any injuries associated with the Madden Curse, McCaffrey would be an easily explainable choice for the cover of Madden NFL 21.
While EA Sports tends to go with explosive offensive players when it comes to cover athletes, the developers should at least give Stephon Gilmore a glance.
Gilmore was featured in a three-way tie in interceptions across the league this season with six and added an additional fumble recovery. Gilmore also put up the first two TDs of his eight-year career and finished first in the league in passes defended (20).
By the season’s end, Gilmore found himself with a 98 overall rating in Madden NFL 20. His 99 awareness rating made AI quarterbacks squirm when throwing the ball on his end of the field. In addition, his man coverage (98) and zone coverage (96) ratings made him a very versatile cornerback.
If Gilmore would get the nod, he would be just the third defensive back to find himself on the cover of a Madden NFL video game. While I would consider him an outsider compared to the three players previously covered in this article, Gilmore’s stats indicate that he would still be a stellar candidate.