My second blog covering picks 6 through 10 can be found here: http://maddenmanniac.blogspot.com/2012/03/looking-back-on-2011-nfl-draft-1st_25.html
To give you a short introduction, I am comparing the original rookie ratings to the final rookie ratings in Madden 12. I will be giving EA a grade on these ratings/attributes. As the release the of Madden 13 approaches, I believe EA still has plenty of time to make improvements to how they rate player attributes. There is no reason to stand still and be complacent. All it takes is a open mind and a willingness to be the best despite the absence of competition.
** Look past Overall (OVR) rating ***
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.
#11 J.J. Watt (DE), Houston Texans
If the average NFL fan didn't know who J.J. Watt was during the 2011 regular season, no one would hold it against them. Playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense can be a thankless job and while the Texans improved throughout the season, they still didn't get a whole lot of National TV attention. Then the Texans made the playoffs and people started seeing Watt up close and personal. Some even compared him to a young Justin Smith (who is arguably the best 3-4 DE in the NFL).
EA fully admits that the playoffs play a huge role in their ratings. This may surprise you, but I disagree with that thinking. I disagree with EA giving bigger attribute increases/decreases during the playoffs. It's the job and responsibility of the EA player ratings "team" to know who each player is and objectively rate their attributes regardless of market, popularity, playoffs and/or any other nationally televised games.
Here is a word for word quote from EA's ratings blogger Aaron Boulding. Boulding was a guest on EA GameChangers Radio (6 December, 2011) hosted by Shopmaster and MadScientist.
Boulding stated, "We're sensitive to the fans and that means Nationally televised games count a lot. Because those are the games everybody is watching. So that means, you know. Playoff caliber teams, popular teams, their going to have an advantage when it comes to player ratings. You know. That's just how it is. You know. Kansas City, Seattle, Arizona, those teams are at a disadvantage because you know, their not in the playoffs all the time, they don't get a lot of national games. Not a lot of people are watching them outside of their fan bases and who ever their opponent is. There is that reality as well."
Are you serious? So the players on the Chiefs who played a locally televised game can't expect the same effort and accuracy in their player ratings? Hey Boulding, have you ever heard of NFL rewind? Please look it up. Is this the attitude you want EA to have when rating players in Madden? It's no wonder the attributes are so inconsistent, inaccurate and flat out biased in many cases. Doesn't the $60 for Madden 12 in Arizona have the same value as $60 in Dallas? Not according to Boulding. If that doesn't piss you off as a Madden fan, I don't know what will. "You know, you know, you know, you know." Yes, he said that four times. I told you, it was a word for word statement.
Could you argue that Watt played at an even higher level during those playoff games? Yes, you could. In fact, Watt dominated in those two games, but your ratings system/philosophy shouldn't change just because it's a playoff game. Oh wait, there is no clear ratings procedures or guidelines when it comes to Madden ratings and that is the #1 problem.
Without having standard operating procedures (SOP) for ratings/attributes, how can anyone produce accuracy and consistency? By the way, one person can not do it alone. There really has never been a ratings team, and Donny Moore is only human. That is why a real ratings team is needed to produce accurate and consistent ratings/attributes, along with a set of guidelines for rating each team/player objectively.
End of rant. Back to Watt. Based on Watt's play the ENTIRE season, these increases seem reasonable, but let's take a deeper look.
2011 Regular Season stats: 56 Tackles (48 solo), 5.5 sacks, 2 FumRec, 4 Pdef, 7 stuffs, 1 blocked FG.
2011 Playoffs (2 games): 14 Tackes (11 solo), 3.5 sacks, 1 Pdef, 1 Int, 1 Int TD, 1 stuff.
Watt had the 3rd highest number of tackles during the regular season for a 3-4 DE and 5th most sacks for a 3-4 DE.
ProFootballFocus.com had Watt rated as the #5 (3-4) Defensive End overall, #5 in pass rush, #3 against the run, and #2 in coverage during the regular season. During the playoffs, PFF rated Watt #5 overall, #5 in pass rush, #6 against the run, and #1 in coverage. Granted, during the playoffs the pool of DE's that are graded is significantly smaller.
He started all 16 regular season games and both playoff games. No one can deny he had a great rookie year. His playoff stats are impressive, but that would be an impressive two game stat line at any point in the season. Do you follow me? I am not saying he shouldn't get credit for those two great games. I am just saying that the same rules should apply to ratings all year long.
After all of that, I still give EA an "B+" for Watt's final ratings/attributes; yes, even his CAT attribute (he was a TE prior to transferring to Wisconsin). Watt received about 50% of his total increases as a result of those two playoffs games. Without considering the broken OVR, I would have given them an "A" for his final attributes based on his regular season alone. Watt was slightly underrated prior to those two playoff games. Please, don't confuse the final result with having a good ratings system. The increases during the playoffs just resulted in a more accurate representation of Watt's regular season. What if the Texans didn't make the playoffs? What about all of the players who don't make the playoffs or play in nationally televised games? Should fans of small market, unpopular, and below average teams just expect less accuracy and consistency in Madden player ratings? As a fan, that is not what I expect. I expect accuracy, consistency, and unbiased player attributes.
#12 Christian Ponder (QB) Minnesota Vikings
Here we have our 4th QB taken in just the first 12 picks and he was considered a reach by many draft experts. Ponder had a rude awakening in the NFL. Like Blaine Gabbert, Ponder was one of the worst QB's in the NFL during the 2011 season. Ponder played in 11 games and started the last 10 games of the regular season for the Vikings. It should also be noted, that Adrian Peterson missed four of Ponder's starts due to injury.
Let's take a look at where he ranked among qualified QB's statistically:
He went 2-8 as a starter and I think most people can look at the above statistics and recognize that Ponder was below average at best during his rookie season. He was slightly better than Gabbert who was drafted 2 spots ahead him.
Let's not forget to take a look at ProFootballFocus.com statistics. He finished with an overall player grade of -15.6, which ranked 32nd among 38 quarterback who took at least 25% of their teams snaps. Ponder's deep accuracy of 36.8% ranked him 22nd in the league, about 4% below the league average in 2011. Using the same logic from my QB Deep Accuracy blog (http://maddenmanniac.blogspot.com/2012/03/attribute-spotlight-qb-deep-accuracy.html), I would have rated Ponder a 69 in DAC. So EA would have been better off leaving his DAC alone and lowering his SAC more. Did you know that Ponder has the 9th highest SAC rating in Madden 12? Nothing supports a 90 SAC rating, not tape or statistics. A 90 rating is considered an elite skill (attribute) by many in the Madden community, Ponder has not shown to be elite in any attribute so far.
The 14 point increase in AWR is also strange. If you are just someone who looks at OVR, than you didn't notice much of a change in Ponder's ratings because the AWR increases masked the decreases in some key passing attributes. Did Ponder really deserve an increase in any attribute this season? With the exception of the speed increase, I don't think Ponder exceeded any of his original attributes.
I give EA a "C-" for Ponder's final ratings/attributes. While I like his MAC and PAC ratings, I don't agree with his SAC, DAC, or AWR.
#13 Nick Fairley (DT), Detroit Lions
Fairley was a late bloomer. His final year in college, he stepped up and capped it all off with a huge effort in the BCS title game against the Ducks. Leading up to the draft there was some talk that Fairley might actually go #1 overall. In the end, the Lions saw great value in Fairley at #13 and wanted to terrorize opposing QB's by lining him up next to Ndamukong Suh. Unfortunately for Fairley and the Lions, Fairley got injured before the start of the season and it delayed his NFL debut.
Fairley ended up playing in 10 games his rookie season, but never started. His stat line in those games wasn't very impressive. He finished the regular season with 15 tackles (9 solo) and 1 sack. That's it. He added two solo tackles in the Lions playoff loss to the Saints. ProFootballFocus.com gave Fairley a final grade of 6.6 on the season and he received a plus grade in all categories except penalties. Fairley ended the season with only 236 total snaps which ranked 89th among NFL Defensive Tackles in 2011 and 4th among DT's on his own team. Needless to say, this was a small sample size for Fairley, and he was inconsistent when giving the opportunity to play.
The injury robbed Fairley of some very important reps early in the year. He was considered a somewhat risky pick (one year wonder), with a big upside if he can stay motivated. I agree with EA decreasing his INJ attribute and his stamina (STA). A full year of training camp and preseason games should help him in the STA department for Madden 13. I don't think the 2011 sample size is big enough to adjust any other attributes for Fairley, besides the INJ and STA.
I give EA a "B-" for Fairley's final rating/attributes. If the attribute changes were only to his INJ and STA, I would have given them an "A". Due to Fairley's upside and what he did in college during the 2010 season, I liked the original attribute ratings. Remember, look past OVR.
#14 Robert Quinn (DE) St. Louis Rams
Since Quinn was suspended for the entire 2010 College football season (NCAA violations), he would have been a challenge to rate coming into Madden 12. He had a huge sophomore year (2009) in college and was expected to build on that. He was viewed as having elite pass rushing potential, but also had character issues. His NFL combine performance was still impressive enough that some considered him a top 10 talent coming into the 2011 NFL draft.
The Rams had visions of Quinn and Chris Long chasing down opposing QB's. Having two elite pass rushing bookends goes a long way in the NFL. Quinn was expected to challenge James Hall for the starting DE job, opposite Long. Quinn was never able to unseat Hall. He played in 15 games during his rookie year and only started one game due to Hall being injured.
Quinn finished the season with 23 tackles (20 solo), 5.0 sacks, 2 Pdefs, and 0 forced fumbles. His five sacks came in his first 10 games, he was shut out his last 5 games of the season. It's not uncommon for rookie DE's to struggle in the NFL. Chris Long only had 4.0 sacks his rookie year and Jason Pierre-Paul only had 4.5. Both are now considered elite pass rushers. Quinn could take a similar path like Long and JPP. In fact, the Rams released James Hall this off season opening the door for Quinn to start at DE in 2012. If you want a sleeper pick for your IDP fantasy football team, Quinn would be a great choice.
ProFootballFocus ranked Quinn at #50 Overall (-3.6) for a 4-3 DE (584 snaps). The biggest drain to Quinn overall grade was his poor play against the run (-7.3, 64th out of 67). He received a grade of 2.6 for his pass rush (33rd out of 67). PFF now has a new statistic called Pass Rush Productivity (PRP), which they define as pressure created on a per snap basis. Quinn ranked 22nd out of 70 in PRP with 8.9.
EA clearly gave Quinn the benefit of the doubt with his original rookie attributes. If I was to guess, the decreases in STR, TAK, and BSH were result of his poor run defense. I like the decrease in PUR since his original 91 rating was elite and he is currently not at that level.
I give EA an "A" for Quinn's final rating/attributes. Quinn held his own as a pass rusher, but struggled against the run. His final attributes give him plenty of room for growth, while accurately reflecting his potential.
#15 Mike Pouncey (C), Miami Dolphins
Pouncey was considered the best Center/Guard prospect in the 2011 draft. The success of his twin brother Maurkice a year earlier (drafted in 2010 by Pittsburgh), also helped elevate Mike's draft stock. Pouncey was drafted as a G/C, but ended up playing Center for the Dolphins in 2011 and started all 16 games.
Offensive line is a difficult position to rate due to the lack of statistics and the close tape evaluation required to see what is actually happening at the line of scrimmage in the NFL. Also, fans and experts alike don't always know what the actual blocking assignment is for each lineman on a given run play. PFF's tag line is "Every game, Every player, Every play". It would be hard to argue that any other online source would be better than PFF when it comes to grading Offensive lineman. I personally believe PFF's pass blocking grades are exceptional.
FYI - I was very excited to hear that EA brought in former NFL offensive tackle Clint Oldenburg (5th round pick by N.E. in 2007) to not only help with gameplay, but also offensive lineman ratings and attributes. This can only help the Madden series and EA should be applauded for reaching out to a professional to improve the game.
Since we know Donny Moore relies heavily on PFF's statistics and grades, let's take a look at how Mike Pouncey did in 2011. He received an overall grade of -1.7 (19th), which was mostly due to his -5.4 pass blocking grade. According to PFF, he gave up 15 QB pressures, 3 hits and 3 sacks. Only two centers gave up more QB pressures than Mike Pouncey. He did receive a 3.6 run blocking grade, which was the 9th highest for centers.
Based on PFF grades, Pouncey was pretty good at run blocking, yet he received a 6 point decrease in run block strength (RBS). He received a slight decrease in PBS and PBF, but I would argue those two attributes need to be lower (70s). Attributes in the 80's would indicate that a player was average to good in those areas, Pouncey clearly struggled in pass blocking when compared to other centers throughout the league. This seems like another case where EA is guessing at a players ratings and completely disregarding their most trusted source (PFF).
Remember, On December 11th, 2011 Donny Moore tweeted,
"Have I ever mentioned to you guys who I trust THE most in the world of NFL player and team analysis...
That is one of many tweets, where Donny talks about how much he likes PFF. I don't blame him for that statement. I really like them as well. What I would like to see, is Donny backing up that statement by being consistent and objective when he applies PFF's analysis to Madden player attributes. Unfortunately, subjectivity (bias) and a broken OVR formula is preventing consistent and objective player ratings.
I give EA a "D" for Pouncey's final rating/attributes. His poor pass blocking can not be ignored. Also, the reduction in RBS makes no sense at all. Did you know, that out of the five starting offensive lineman for Miami, Pouncey was the only one to receive a positive run blocking grade from PFF.
Stay tuned for my review of picks 16 through 20. Have a great week and thanks for following my blog.