COMMENTARY | It is almost that time of year again. Madden NFL 25 player ratings should start being released shortly. Unfortunately for any fans of the New York Jets out there, the Jets are likely to be a tough team to play for in this year's game. Nothing is known yet for sure, but there are strong reasons to believe the Jets' key players will be buried in the ratings.
Lack of Superstars
Whether it is intentional or not, the rating system in the Madden world tends to favor popular players. Countless examples exist. Anyone who played Madden 2013 remembers that the defending champion New York Giants were an absolute juggernaut in the game, though they ended up missing the playoffs in real life. The simple fact is that the best Madden teams are teams with well-hyped players at star positions.
The Jets, on the other hand, are in the opposite type of situation. Their most discussed players are either mediocre (like Mark Sanchez) or injured (like Santonio Holmes). Their elite players, such as Muhammad Wilkerson, Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson, play less talked about positions and are not truly household names.
A recent prediction for the top class of players in Madden NFL 25 (via Ty Schalter of BleacherReport.com) left the Jets devoid of a single player on the top list. In my opinion, Schalter is probably right. While Jets' defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson easily deserves to make the list, and while center Nick Mangold should be on the bubble, neither of these players is likely to get the attention that someone like Aaron Rodgers or Marshawn Lynch can garner.
Why Wilkerson Remains Unknown
As many might have expected, defensive end J.J. Watt topped the list at No. 1 overall. This agrees with the ratings at Pro Football Focus, which had Watt as the best all-around player in the NFL in 2012. What is intriguing to note is how similar Wilkerson and Watt (who play the same position) were in 2012 according to advanced statistics.
Watt racked up 30 quarterback hurries and 57 tackles in 957 total snaps in 2012. Wilkerson earned 22 quarterback hurries and 57 tackles in 930 total snaps. Both players were nearly flawless against the run. Compared to all other 3-4 defensive ends in the league, the two players were in their own class.
The reasons for Watt being so universally praised while Wilkerson remains an unknown is not hard to understand. NFL players, especially players at positions outside of the offensive skill positions, have difficulty in achieving individual notoriety. It primarily comes down to circumstances and the team around them. An All-Pro performance by a defensive lineman (especially an interior lineman) is not likely to make television highlight shows during a losing effort.
While Watt had the pleasure of being part of the most successful season in Houston Texans franchise history, Wilkerson had the less desirable experience of being part of one of the less successful Jets seasons, their first below-500 season since 2007. The same drawback exists for Mangold and center and Ferguson at left tackle.
Besides Mangold, Wilkerson and Ferguson (the obvious stars), there are a few sleepers who could get attention. Rookie No. 9 overall pick Dee Milliner might get a favorable rating. The draft-day attention alone has surely put his name in more households than many veteran Jets. However, Dan Hope of BleacherReport.com has Milliner slated at an 80 overall rating, which seems reasonable. I do not think the raters will jump the gun so far as to put him ahead of veteran Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
It is fairly safe to say that none of the Jets' quarterbacks will be getting sky-high ratings in the coming game, which the Player Ratings Pro preview agrees with. While Tim Tebow got a surprisingly favorable rating last year, there is no reason to think Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith will be getting that type of treatment this time around.
Ultimately, none of these sleepers are likely to pass by Mangold, Ferguson or Wilkerson. Those are the three clearly elite players on the Jets. While they can prove themselves again during the regular season, I do not think they will be quite so effective in video game land.
Adam Waksman is a Yahoo! contributor in sports. He also covers the New York Jets for Bleacher Report, where he is a Featured Columnist and award-winning blogger.
You can follow Adam on Twitter here.
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