Earlier this week, EA Sports announced that seven (7) players would begin Madden NFL 19 rated 99 overall — a prestigious number for a video game whose ratings are watched more closely than any other sport’s. Seven 99s seemed like a really high number to me. I went back over 20 years worth of launch-day ratings and discovered that, yep, it is.
The last time the Madden NFL series had seven 99s was Madden NFL 07, which was the series’ debut on PlayStation 3. The last Madden to have more was Madden NFL 99, which was the first edition that didn’t publish on either of the 16-bit consoles that made it famous in the 1990s.
The launch-day 99s for Madden NFL 19 are New England quarterback Tom Brady, Pittsburgh flanker Antonio Brown, L.A. Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechley, Denver linebacker Von Miller, and State Farm insurance pitchman Aaron Rodgers. It’s Brown’s first time as an out-of-the-box 99er, all the others have been 99-rated at launch in prior years — including Brady, who got a 99 a decade ago in Madden NFL 09.
I reached out to EA Sports to ask what gives with all the 99s. Dustin Smith, on the Madden NFL ratings team, got back to me and said:
“This year is indeed heavy with top-rated players, but when you look at the accomplishments of the guys on the list it’s hard to argue any of them don’t belong. The real question is if they’ll stay on top, and who else may either join or replace them at the top of the mountain.”
EA is touting them as the “99 club,” a best-of-the-best fraternity that players will no doubt be excited to get their hands on when the game launches in August, especially in multiplayer. It’s important to remember this describes their overall rating, not a particular trait or talent — and Madden’s ratings formula weights attributes differently depending on the player’s position (except for speed; speed is the common trait improving all players’ ratings in this game). For those wondering, the last time someone was rated 100 was in Madden NFL 99. Even a 100 rating in just a single attribute (Randy Moss’ spectacular catch in 2010, for example) has been rare since then.
Seven 99s out of the box for Madden NFL 19 shows both the appeal and the drawback of having so many players considered the best at what they do. It’s great to have exciting, do-it-all players available, particularly in a game with such a heavy multiplayer component. But having that many, including at the same positions, (two quarterbacks, two linebackers and two receivers comprise this year’s top crop) could blur what really makes them distinct performers, too.
EA Sports continually updates its rosters and ratings post-launch (as do all sports video games) so it’s possible that one or two guys might slide off this list after the season begins on Sept. 6. For posterity’s sake, here are all the 99-rated players in Madden NFL over the past 20 years. Madden NFL 19 launches Aug. 10, 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and, for the first time in a decade, Windows PC.
Peyton Manning has the most 99 ratings — six — over the past 20 years, followed by Ray Lewis with five. Boldface notes that player was featured on the Madden cover that year. An asterisk notes a player since elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
- Madden NFL 18: Tom Brady, Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
- Madden NFL 17: Rob Gronkowski, Luke Kuechly, J.J. Watt and Miller.
- Madden NFL 16: Aaron Rodgers, Gronkowski and Watt.
- Madden NFL 15: Calvin Johnson, Richard Sherman and Watt.
- Madden NFL 25: Adrian Peterson and Watt.
- Madden NFL 13: Darrelle Revis, DeMarcus Ware, Johnson and Rodgers.
- Madden NFL 12: Antonio Gates, Troy Polamalu, Brady and Revis.
- Madden NFL 11: Jared Allen, Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Peyton Manning, Patrick Willis and Revis.
- Madden NFL 10: Nnamdi Asomugha, Larry Fitzgerald, Albert Haynesworth, Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Manning.
- Madden NFL 09: Randy Moss*, Bob Sanders, LaDanian Tomlinson*, Brady, Manning and Gates.
- Madden NFL 08: Champ Bailey, Brian Urlacher*, Manning, Reed and Tomlinson.
- Madden NFL 07: Walter Jones*, Shane Lechler, Lorenzo Neal, Bailey, Gates, Manning and Reed.
- Madden NFL 06: David Akers, Ray Lewis*, Jonathan Ogden*, Adam Vinatieri, Manning and Moss.
- Madden NFL 2005: Mike Vanderjagt, Bailey, Lewis and Ogden.
- Madden NFL 2004: Derrick Brooks*, Brian Dawkins*, Marvin Harrison*, Terrell Owens*, Lewis and Vinatieri.
- Madden NFL 2003: Marshall Faulk*, Warren Sapp*, Michael Strahan*, Allen and Lewis
- Madden NFL 2002: Tony Gonzalez, Faulk, Lewis, Ogden and Sapp.
- Madden NFL 2001: none.
- Madden NFL 2000: Deion Sanders* and Mike Alstott were rated 100. 99s were Dermontti Dawson, Barry Sanders* and Matt Turk.
- Madden NFL 99: There were six 100-rated players and 14 rated 99 in this edition.