Saturday, March 24, 2012

Looking back on the 2011 NFL Draft 1st Round Ratings/Attributes (Top 5)

    In this blog I will look back on the top five 1st round draft picks from the 2011 NFL draft.  I have gathered all of the original Madden 12 ratings/attributes for the entire first round and compared them with the final roster update.

    You will see that many of them were poorly rated to begin with and that several of them didn't deserve the increases they received throughout the year.  You will also see that very few first rounders received decreases during the season.  I plan to post the entire 1st round over the next couple of days, so keep checking back.  Here is the link to blog #2, covering picks 6-10:

    So, what does all of this mean?

    First, it should become clear when looking at the attributes that many of these rookies were overrated to begin with.  Don't concentrate on OVR.  OVR is kept down by giving rookies poor AWR and PRC.  Many key attributes are put at an Elite level (90+) before the player ever steps on an NFL football field (this will become even more evident in future blogs).  What's worse, is that the EA ratings staff feels the need to give most of these rookies increases for no reason.  This type of player rating results in a significant amount of overrated player attributes.

EA is stuck in a rut when it comes to ratings.  They tend to reward every good game with increases.  Instead, they need to take a step back and realize that many players are already overrated and definitely not outperforming their current attributes.

    I will refer to several statistics in this blog, including EA's most trusted source  You will see that on several occasions EA completely ignores the analysis and grading of their most trusted source (PFF).  Looking back on the entire year, several rookie ratings/attributes would have been more accurate if no increases were made at all.

** Look past Overall (OVR) rating ***

That following is the complete list with my observations:

Blue = increase in ratings/attributes
Red = decrease in ratings/attributes

M12 rating = Madden 12 Player Ratings

Original = First Madden 12 Rating.
Final = Final Madden 12 Rating.

#1 Cam Newtion (QB) Carolina Panthers

    Coming out of college many experts were split on what to expect from Cam Newton.  Early on in his rookie season it appeared Newton had proven the critics wrong.  EA jumped all over this and gave him several rating increases throughout the season.  As the season went on, it appeared that some teams had slowed Newton down.  Over the last 8 games of the season, his: QB rating, Completion %, and Passing Yards per game all decreased compared to his first 8 games.

    The biggest impact on Newton's OVR increase was the 22 additional points in AWR and 11 points in MAC.  While I don't disagree with the MAC increase, I do believe his DAC was overrated all season long.  Newton has a strong arm, but a strong arm doesn't equal accuracy.  Per, Newton attempted the 2nd highest number of passes targeted 20 or more yards down field, but he was only 18th in the NFL in actual deep accuracy at 40.4% (that is counting "catchable" drops as completions).

    Using PFF's statistics I came up with a 2011 NFL average (all QB's)  for DAC which ended up being 40.87%.  Newton is just slightly below the average for NFL QB's in 2011, yet he has the 7th highest DAC rating in Madden 12 with 85.  The average DAC rating in Madden 12 is 69.2, if I was rating Newton I would give him a 72 DAC.

    That other problem I have with Newton's ratings is that he got a decrease in CAR by 1.  For a QB, Newton had the best rushing fumble percentage in 2011 at 1.59%.  He had the second lowest sack fumble percentage in 2011 with 8.57% (Tom Brady has a career 21.01% sack fumble percentage).  All together Newton only had 5 fumbles all season.  That is excellent from the QB position, especially for someone who scrambles as much as Newton does.  So an attribute that Newton excelled in all year got decreased.  Hmmm.

   Finally, let's look at how PFF graded Newtion.  His OVR QB grade was 8.3 (13th among QB's with over 25% of their team's snaps), his pass grade was -9.4 (29th), and his run grade was 18.9 (1st).  I think one could argue that EA completely ignored PFF's passing analysis when rating Newton.  I wouldn't disagree that a QB like Newton is difficult to grade, but I believe his initial passing attributes are closer to reality than his final passing attributes (just flip flop his original MAC and DAC).

    I give EA a "C" for it's finally ratings for the #1 overall pick.

#2 Von Miller (OLB) Denver Broncos

    Von Miller excelled from day one.  He finished tied for 9th in the NFL in sacks with 11.5 and added another sack in the playoffs.  His missed one game due to a thumb injury, but other than that he was consistent all year.  His split stats from games 1-8 compared with games 9-16 are very close.  AWR and PRC are responsible for the majority of his OVR increase.

    There are some questionable changes in Miller's attributes despite having a great rookie year.  His 97 INJ attribute could be decreases slightly due to missing one game.  Why did he see a 3 point increase in CTH (0 Int's on the year)?  Per PFF, Miller was 49th in the NFL for snaps in pass coverage compared to other 4-3 OLB's, but his MCV and ZCV got significant increases?  Miller received a good coverage grade, but it was based on a very small sample size and he actually had a QB rating against of 119.9 (on only 13 targets).

    The likely answer to the previous questions is that EA needed another way to raise his OVR.  This is another reason why OVR should no longer be connected to attributes, just make OVR a stand alone ranking.

    PFF has Miller as the #1 OLB in a 4-3 system, he is first by a mile.  He was 1st in pass rush and run defense for a 4-3 OLB as well.  In the end, Miller easily lived up to being the #2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

I give EA an "A-" for it's finally ratings/attributes of Von Miller.

#3 Marcell Dareus (DT) Buffalo Bills

    Marcell Dareus was everything the Bills could have hoped for.  He came in to Madden 12 tied as the highest rated rookie when it comes to OVR.  Although he performed well during the season, you can see a mix of increases and decreases in his actual attributes.

    PFF ranked Dareus as the #12 overall Defensive Tackle/Nose Tackle in 2011.  He received grade of 12.3 for his pass rushing ability which was #5 out of 88 DTs/NTs.  Against the run he received a grade of 3.3 which was 31st out of 88.  He is clearly better at rushing the passer, but he is no slouch at playing the run (tied for 6th with 31 stops).  He had a total of 42 tackles and only missed 2, yet his tackle attribute was decreased.  EA is completely confused when it comes to the TAK attribute for defensive tackles.  Per a tweet I received from PFF earlier in the year, DT's don't miss very few tackles in the NFL.  When I looked at the stats, you can see that PFF was correct.  In general, DT's should actually have some of the highest TAK attributes in Madden.  Unfortunately, EA uses the TAK attribute to manipulate OVR instead of having it based on reality.

    I have also noticed EA will lower the FMV on a DT while increasing the PMV.  This was blatantly obvious during the playoffs when they increased the PMV (+4) of Vince Wilfolk while at the same time decreasing his FMV (-6).  Again, this was done for no other reason than to keep the OVR in check.  Just another example of the horrible OVR formula at work.

   EA looks completely lost when it comes to rating Dareus and again they ignored the analysis of PFF (their most trusted source).  I give EA a "D+" for this rating.  Remember, look beyond OVR.


#4 A.J. Green (WR) Cincinnati Bengals

    A.J. Green had a great rookie year, which was capped off with a trip to the Pro Bowl.  He was one of the most talked about Madden rookies all season.  As you can see EA gave him a lot of love over the course of the season.  He is the first rookie on this list that didn't receive a decrease in any attribute when comparing his final ratings to his original ratings.

    Let's start with the good.  Green lead all rookie WR's in receiving yards with 1,057 (15th out of all NFL WR's) and receptions with 65 (23rd out of all NFL WR's).  He also scored 7 touchdowns which was 2nd among rookies (tied for 18th out of all NFL WR's).    

    Now the bad.  Green missed one game this season due to a hyper-extended knee in week 11 (vs. BALT), which should have resulted in a slight decrease to his 95 INJ attribute.  Per PFF, Green ranked 18th in drop percentage (7.14%) out of 45 WR's who participated in at least 50% of their team's offensive snaps.  He was held in check during his only playoff game against the Texans, where he finished with just 5 catches for 47 yards (9.4 YPC) and no touchdowns.

    PFF gave Green an overall grade of -1.6 which ranked 59th out of 115 WR's.  Much of that grade was a result of his poor blocking ability and penalties (led all WR's in penalties with 10).  For his receiving skills only, Green ranked 22nd out of 115 WR's with 8.6.

    No matter what numbers you look at, I don't believe Green deserved his CTH increases throughout the season.  A 95 CAT attribute is elite, he is not there yet.  I also disagree with his 11 point increase in AWR.  Leading all WR's in penalties should not result in increased AWR.  If anything the 60 AWR he was given to start the season was more accurate.  Because CTH and AWR contribute heavily to a the OVR for a WR , EA again ignored reality so they could show fans an OVR increase.  Do you see a pattern here.  The OVR formula prevents accurate ratings/attributes and the constant focus on OVR by Madden fans makes it easier for EA to not address the real problem with OVR.  They use OVR as a ranking system yet have it tied to attributes with a horrible formula.  Right now EA rates many players based on perception and fan pressure, while ignoring objective statistics.

    I give EA a "C" for Green's final player rating/attributes.  I would give them an "A" for his original ratings, since those are closer to reality after seeing a full season from Green.


#5 Patrick Peterson (CB) Arizona Cardinals

    Peterson is a perfect example of the SportsCenter Highlight rating system and another example of the broken OVR formula.  He received increases in ACC, AWR, and AGI, primarily because of his punt return ability, but those increases also resulted in a higher OVR rating at his primary position.  Remember, the RET attribute itself has no effect on OVR based on the current formula.

    The good.  Peterson was the most dangerous punt returnman in the NFL this year and returned a league leading 4 punts for TD's.  He lead the NFL in punt return yards with 699 and averaged 15.9 yards per (only Devin Hester had a better average for primary punt returners).  Peterson led all rookie corners with 64 total tackles and was tied for 2nd among rookies with 2 interceptions and 15 PDefs.

    Wow, that sounds great.  Doesn't it?  You must be thinking that I am crazy.  Now let's look at it from a different perspective and dig deeper.   PFF gave Peterson an overall grade of -12.6, which was good for 102nd out 109 CB's who participated in at least 25% of their teams defensive snaps.    He received a coverage grade of -6.6 (89th out of 109) and a penalty grade of -4.8 (102 out of 109).  Once again, EA completely ignored the grades produced by PFF.  They actually gave Peterson an increase in ZCV and PRS over the course of the season and left his MCV at a ridiculous 89 (just embarrassing).

    What if I told you that per PFF, no other CB saw more snaps this season than Peterson, with 1142 snaps (tied with Cortland Finnegan).  Oh, well that would explain the penalties.  Well, not really.  Peterson had 10 penalties called on him and Finnegan had just 4.  Stanford Routt who had just 9 fewer snaps at 1133 had 17 penalties, but on the other hand Corey Webster who had 1118 snaps only had one penalty called on him.  I could go on and on.  The fact is, the number of snaps doesn't not have a direct effect on penalties.  You might say man vs zone coverage would effect it, but that is not the case when you look at all the players at that position.  The point is that Peterson didn't show great awareness at his primary position and even with the great punt returns he should not have received an 8 point increase in AWR.

    Wait.  What about targets, he must have been targeted a ton.  Peterson was targeted 113 times in coverage which was the 5th highest total among cornerbacks in 2011.  That might explain him leading all rookie CB's in tackling (we will get back to that).   All four of the CB's (Greer, Eric Wright, J. McCourty, and Tillman) targeted more than Peterson in 2011 gave up fewer yards, a lower average per catch, and a lower QB rating against, plus fewer penalties than Peterson.  Those same four CB's had more Pdef's as well.  Yes, but those four guys are established veterans.  (Playing Devil's Advocate).  Ok, let's compare Peterson to a fellow rookie.  Hell, this rookie is even from the same division.

Richard Sherman of the Seahawks, a 5th round pick out of Stanford had to prove he deserved increases every week, while Peterson received a pass.  Let's compare the two CB's in the chart below:

    Sherman performed better than Peterson in every major category, despite having few snaps and targets.  Sherman gave up fewer yards as well, but that would be expected since he had 29 fewer targets.

    It's no secret I am a Seahawk fan, but these numbers don't lie no matter what team you are a fan of.  Sherman finished the season ranked 15th overall for cornerbacks by PFF and was graded 4th in coverage behind only Revis, Webb, and Grimes.  Sherman did receive increases as the season progressed and it's not like EA was the only one to miss on him (several NFL teams did as well, round after round), but he had to dig out of a huge ratings hole.  That said, after an entire NFL season of statistics and film for both players, Sherman is still rated lower than Peterson in every position attribute except AWR (tied at 68) and JMP (95 to 94).  The #1 thing Sherman had going against him was that he was drafted too late in 2011.

    Just imagine if Peterson produced like Sherman, how overrated would he be by now.  Weekly roster updates should be an opportunity to correct inaccuracies in the ratings/attributes for ALL players, EA continues to show that is not the case.  EA reluctantly gives increases to lower draft picks who actually play well in the NFL, and they give a pass to higher draft picks who don't play well.

**  The reason I spent so much time on Patrick Peterson, is that he is a great example of EA overrating rookies to start the season and in this case completely ignoring the obvious as the season progresses.  By the way, Peterson was not perfect on punt returns either.  He fumbled 3 times on 44 returns for a fumble rate of 6.81% (the punt return fumble rate for the entire NFL in 2011 was 5.9%).  He also fumble once on a rushing attempt.  So he actually fumbled 4 times on 47 touches (returns, INT's, and rush attempts) for an 8.51% fumble rate.  Of course, those fumbles were ignored as well and Peterson actually received an increase in CAR from 70 to 71 over the course of the season.

    I give EA an "D-" for Peterson's final rating/attributes.

Final thoughts:

At what point should draft position no longer matter in Madden ratings/attributes?

Shouldn't a full season in the NFL give you a better idea of how to rate a player in Madden Football?  College analysis and draft position should only be a guide prior to a player gaining NFL experience.

Stay tuned for more blogs looking back at the first round of the 2011 draft.  The plan is to do the entire round.

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