Madden Football '23: What the ratings tell us about the Pac-12
You can learn a lot from Madden Football.
You learn which friends are cheap and run the same crossing patterns over and over. That’s not the dude you want to be caught in a jail cell with.
You learn that Derrick Henry, for how good and strong he is, is certainly no Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson.
You learn that Tom Brady is more unbreakable than Bruce Willis in…Unbreakable.
And you also learn – or, at least, you are reminded – that the Pac-12 is light years away from its Power 5 competition.
I took a look at the top-ranked player from every position grouping in the game, and what I learned shocked me. One note: defensive ends and outside linebackers were lumped into edge rushers, and all three offensive line positions – center, guard, tackle – were lumped into one offensive line ranking.
Now onto what I’ve learned:
USC has fallen hard, and fast
OK, obviously not a news flash. But taking a look at the rankings? Wow.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Trojans were producing NFL talent like Georgia produces pecans. The Madden ratings used to be dominated by USC products. Troy Polamalu and Reggie Bush, Jurell Casey and Ryan Kalil and Clay Matthews. This list goes on and on.
This year, of the 15 top-rated players at every offensive and defensive position grouping, 150 players ranked in total, only one Trojan is on the list: 95-rated offensive tackle Tyron Smith of the Cowboys.
What an indictment of the past decade of USC football. It would be one thing if USC wasn’t reeling in top-ranked recruiting classes, but before the wheels fell off the Clay Helton bus, the Trojans had top-10 classes from 2014-18, including the top-rated class in 2014. It’s not like USC isn’t putting players in the NFL; the Trojans have had 21 players drafted in the first three rounds in the past 10 drafts.
Those players should be among the best in the NFL nowadays. Instead, many are barely hanging on, and the Trojans are on their fourth head coach in a dozen years since Pete Carroll’s departure.
Anyone Can Cook
Take your “Cars,” and park it somewhere.
Take your “Up,” and pop your balloons.
Take your “Monsters, Inc.,” and poke your tiny green monster in the eye.
The best Pixar movie of them all is Ratatouille, if only for the life-affirming maxim, “Anyone can cook.” Animated food critic Anton Ego put it best when he summarized the words of chef Auguste Gusteau: “In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, ‘Anyone can cook.’ But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
I was reminded of that when I looked at the Pac-12 players on the top Madden list.
It’s one thing when a Keenan Allen is on the list – the former Cal star was the No. 10 player in his class as a high school senior in 2010. Same goes for Smith and former Oregon stud Arik Armstead, now a top defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers.
But David Bakhtiari? The Colorado mauler was the No. 1,750 prospect in his class, according to 247Sports. Former UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks was the No. 86 player in California before blossoming into one of the best defenders in the Pac-12. Now the long-time Minnesota Viking is among the best players in the NFL.
And how about safety Jordan Poyer? The lone Oregon State Beaver on the list as a 90-point safety. He ranked 1,549th nationally coming out of his school.
But they’re coming from where?!?
Stanford has produced NFL stud tight ends at a clip that ranks second only to Iowa.
There’s a reason Zach Ertz and Dalton Schultz are on the list. As are Christian McCaffrey, perhaps the NFL’s most electric running back, as well as linebacker Bobby Okereke.
That fearsome foursome ranks tops among Pac-12 products, ahead of Cal’s 3 (Allen, Aaron Rodgers and Cameron Jordan), Oregon’s 3 (Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Justin Herbert) and UCLA (Kendricks, Myles Jack and Kenny Clark).
Washington’s got 2 alliterative all-stars in Vita Vea and Budda Baker and Poyer, Smith and Bakhtiari are the lone representatives for Oregon State, USC and Colorado, respectively.
That means four teams – Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Washington State – are shut out from this list.
Utah is certainly the biggest surprise. The Utes have averaged better than nine wins over the past seven full seasons. Coming off a Rose Bowl bid, I’d bank on them having more future top pros in the next decade.
Some interesting notes and trends…
As a conference, the Pac-12 is about where you’d expect, given every other metric that ranks the Power 5 leagues.
The SEC has 38 players on the assorted top-15 Madden lists, followed by the Big Ten with 31. An ACC powered by Florida State (6 players, including Jalen Ramsey, Dalvin Cook and Brian Burns) and Clemson ranks third with 22.
Then comes the Pac-12 with 18 players and the Big 12 with 10.
Next on the list? The Mountain West with 8 players, which bodes well for the Pac-12 in terms of expansion.
The order of Pac-12 products is also not too much of a shock.
Aaron Rodgers (96), McCaffrey (96), Smith (95) Bakhtiari (94) and Vea (93) are the standard-bearers for the league. Clearly Madden judges were not put off by Rodgers’ age or McCaffrey’s injury history.
Then comes Baker (92), Allen (91), Cameron Jordan (91), Poyer (90) and Buckner (90).
The Pac-12 once was a quarterback factory, but not any more. Just Rodgers and Justin Herbert (88) made the list. Herbert should be a fixture for at least another decade, though.