Ranking Top 50 CFB Players If EA Sports' NCAA Football 15 Existed
To the dismay of the virtual masses, EA Sports killed off its NCAA Football video game series this year following a string of lawsuits, potential future lawsuits and headaches over how student-athlete compensation would work in the not-too-distant future.
This crushed us video game folk, and it also killed my offseason and weekly columns at Bleacher Report.
Using NCAA Football (insert year here), I would begin simulating the season the nanosecond the game was released—usually picking up the game at midnight and simulating well past sunrise and sanity. Once this was complete, I would then simulate the top games on a week-to-week basis, highlighting the premier matchups.
It’s worth pointing out that the NCAA Football franchise exited our lives by going five-for-five with its BCS bowl picks last season. What an eloquent way to depart. Before we say goodbye, however, we’re taking the baton from our favorite game and running until we can’t run any longer (about 35 feet, give or take).
Since EA Sports won’t be providing individual player ratings for the 2015 class (and because the whole No. 7-is-actually-Jadeveon Clowney-thing is out of the bag) we will jump into the breach. We’ve assigned a rating to each of the nation’s top 50 players for the 2014 season and gone so far to address some of the notable virtual attributes that contribute to their rating.
Speed, power, arm strength, accuracy, blocking (both run and pass), trucking and other characteristics that were prevalent in the game have made the trek to our hypothetical world. It’s the most incredible scouting process imaginable, the result of one individual still struggling to cope with the loss of his best friend (a video game).
Let’s celebrate the death of the franchise—at least for now, because perhaps it will be back some day—by agreeing on every single rating and bellowing out "Kumbaya" in the comment section.
50-41: A Bottom 10 Loaded with Potential
One year from now, when these hypothetical virtual ratings are filed, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg will likely be closer to 100 than he is to 90. For now, however, the sophomore will take his 90 rating—headlined by a 98 in the arm-strength department—and see what his second season has in store.
Other notables in this category include Michigan State QB Connor Cook, who will undoubtedly undergo a similar ratings bump if he stays on this path; same with Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell. Throw Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith into this category, too.
(Rating next to name.)
50. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State (QB): 90
49. Connor Cook, Michigan State (QB): 90
48. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (LB): 90
47. A.J. Johnson, Tennessee (LB): 91
46. Stefon Diggs, Maryland (WR): 91
45. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State (QB): 91
44. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss (WR): 91
43. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State (RB) 91
42. A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama (DE): 91
41. Michael Bennett, Ohio State (DT): 91
40-31: A Pac-12 Wideout Buffet and Recognized Youth
The Nos. 40 to 31 group has a bit of everything, and slowly but surely we’re inching our way to the mid-90s.
If you’re looking for an explosive Pac-12 wide receiver, you can have your pick of the bunch here. USC wideout Nelson Agholor makes his debut with 95 speed and 95 hands. Arizona State's Jaelen Strong offers of similar virtual attributes, as does Stanford wideout/special teams wizard Ty Montgomery.
In terms of youth, Ohio State’s Joey Bosa and Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller enter their sophomore seasons with impressive 92 ratings. Remember how hard it was for young players to be ranked to their actual abilities? Such promising abilities and potential are rewarded here under new leadership (aka me).
40. Nelson Agholor, USC (WR): 91
39. Dante Fowler, Florida (DE): 91
38. Ty Montgomery, Stanford (WR): 92
37. Ramik Wilson, Georgia (LB): 92
36. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State (WR): 92
35. Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech (CB): 92
34. P.J. Williams, Florida State (CB): 92
33. Tre Jackson, Florida State (G): 92
32. La'el Collins, LSU (OT): 92
31. Joey Bosa, Ohio State (DE): 92
30-21: The Curious Case of Nick Marshall and 3 Very Different RBs
In some versions of NCAA Football, a running quarterback was deadly. In other years, his skills were nullified by impenetrable pocket barriers and superhuman linebackers.
Enter Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, who checks in as a 93 overall. His speed and agility are both well into the 90s—his strength isn’t too shabby, either—which is why his rating is where it is. While his accuracy needs work, his arm strength checked in at a favorable (but fair) 94.
Two running backs are also off the board despite being two vastly different players. Miami’s Duke Johnson provides the 97 speed, while South Carolina’s Mike Davis nearly broke the “break tackle” category. Alabama's T.J. Yeldon is somewhere in the middle, which isn't a bad place to be.
30. Denzel Perryman, Miami (LB): 93
29. Antwan Goodley, Baylor (WR): 93
28. Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State (DT): 93
27. Nick Marshall, Auburn (QB): 93
26. Duke Johnson, Miami (RB): 93
25. Hroniss Grasu, Oregon (C): 93
24. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama (RB): 93
23. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (WR): 94
22. Mike Davis, South Carolina (RB): 94
21. Andrus Peat, Stanford (OT): 94
20-11: Shutdown Corners and World-Class QBs
Take this group and this group alone, and you have yourself a pretty unfair team—the kind of team your buddy bans you from using.
Alabama’s Landon Collins, the only safety to crack the top 50, kicks off the top 20. Right in front of him is UCLA’s do-everything machine Myles Jack, who comes equipped with 93 speed at linebacker. That's what running a 4.52 40 will do for you.
Also included on this list are two monster offensive linemen in Cameron Erving and Brandon Scherff. Both were given run-blocking ratings of 97.
Last but certainly not least are the quarterbacks. UCLA’s Brett Hundley checks in with a 95, with 94 for speed, while Baylor’s Bryce Petty gets a slightly higher 95 thanks to a 98 in accuracy. We’d be happy with both.
20. Landon Collins, Alabama (S): 94
19. Myles Jack, UCLA (LB/RB): 94
18. Cameron Erving, Florida State (OT): 94
17. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska (RB): 94
16. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (CB): 95
15. Amari Cooper, Alabama (WR): 95
14. Brett Hundley, UCLA (QB): 95
13. Brandon Scherff, Iowa (OT): 95
12. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida (CB): 95
11. Bryce Petty, Baylor (QB): 95
10. Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State (DE): 95
The Big Ten’s Defensive Lineman of the Year from a season ago doesn’t get the same acclaim as other pass-rushers, although he certainly deserves it. And what makes him so special in the video game realm is that he is equally terrifying against the run and the pass, checking in at a 95 in both categories. His 94 strength rating is yet another category he dominates.
What’s most amazing about Calhoun’s appearance in the top 10 is he’s not even the highest-rated pass-rusher in his conference and is still outside of the podium when it comes to the Big Ten.
9. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin (RB): 96
On the topic of the Big Ten, welcome Melvin Gordon to the conversation. Also welcome the first 96 rating.
You don’t realize just how big Gordon is until you stand next to him, which I did at Big Ten media days. It was at that moment I realized that it’s unfair to be that size (6'1", 213 lbs) and move at the pace he does. His 98 speed makes him the fastest player in the top 10. His 99 acceleration rating is also not terrible, while his agility rating of 95 will work just fine.
In summary, he’s approaching video game cheat-code status…but he’s still not the top back.
8. Randy Gregory, Nebraska (DE): 96
He burst onto the scene out of nowhere, although the JUCO-turned-Nebraska star is one of the most explosive players in the country. Gregory showed a bit of everything—power, speed, quickness—in his 10.5-sack season for the Huskers, and he’s one of the rare defensive linemen blessed with 89 speed in a hypothetical video game. I imagine he's thrilled.
Gregory’s 97 pass-rush rating towers over his 90 rating against the run, although both will work just fine. If you put your virtual opponent in third-and-long, this is the guy you want coming around the edge.
7. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (QB): 96
His durability rating isn’t all-world, although perhaps that’s the only thing keeping Braxton Miller from breaking the system. Well, that and the occasional wayward throw.
His agility is unmatched in the real world, which is why he checks in with a 99 in this category. If we could go higher, we would.
And while there are faster players in college football, there aren’t many. His 95 speed and 95 acceleration paint a picture of just how unfair he would be—particularly if you can manage your jukes accordingly—in the open field.
6. Vic Beasley, Clemson (DE): 97
The first non-Big Ten player of the top 10 is the best pure pass-rusher in all of college football. With 13 sacks in 2013—including four multiple-sack games—Beasley showed off athleticism you rarely see at the position.
Was it Clowney-esque? He’s still a shade below “No. 7,” the video game god, although the gap between the two is not as wide as you’d think. Beasley’s certainly earned his 98 in the pass-rush category, and he has an 89 rating for acceleration. Throw in a stout 93 rating against the run, and you begin to approach create-a-player status on the defensive side.
5. Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M (OT): 97
If you were to combine the ratings of Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews with the hypothetical rating of Cedric Ogbuehi, you would have video game dominance unlike we’ve ever seen. Three years, three different left tackles and an overall score right around 285 or so (which is good for a 95 player-rating average if you don’t speak video game).
For the third year in a row, Texas A&M will have one of the premier linemen in all of college football. In virtual speak, Ogbuehi is about as versatile a tackle as there is in CFB. This is reflected by his 98 rating in run blocking and his 97 rating while protecting his QB, whoever that might be.
4. Leonard Williams, USC (DE): 97
The top defensive player in our hypothetical football video game is one of the nation’s most versatile talents. He’s a defensive end, but Leonard Williams is so much more for USC. He showcased this last season, and he did it while playing at around 65 percent, according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.
His “hit potential” rating—a gem tucked away in the NCAA Football archive—is a 98, which means you should avoid him at all costs. His strength rating checks in at a 96, which means, well, you should avoid him at all costs.
He is, in many ways, the dream player for your NCAA team; fast enough to get you sacks and gifted enough to shut down all hopes of running the football.
3. Todd Gurley, Georgia (RB): 98
This is a create-a-player at running back. This is Adrian Peterson, or closer than many people realize.
Georgia running back Todd Gurley might not have Peterson’s 99 agility rating, although his 95 in this department isn’t bad. And if we could give Gurley higher than a 99 under “trucking”—another real and fabulous category in the franchise—we would.
Factor in that he’s more than 230 pounds and still equipped with a rating of 95 speed, and you start to realize there really aren't many ways to bring him down other than to gather more people to help and hope for the best.
2. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (QB): 99
Marcus Mariota didn’t throw his first interception until November 23 last season. That remains utterly incomprehensible, much like the Oregon quarterback’s immense buffet of talents. He was built for this.
Mariota has the arm, headlined by a 96 rating for arm strength and a 95 for accuracy. He has the legs, which begin with a 96 rating for speed and a matching rating for acceleration. Toss in a 94 for agility, and you start to run out of 90s to hand out and nice things to say.
One decade after Michael Vick was deemed unfair in Madden NFL 2004, Mariota likely would have been a similar terror had he been generated this year.
1. Jameis Winston, Florida State (QB): 99
What’s terrifying about this is No. 1 rating is that Jameis Winston can be better. Much better.
He won’t improve upon his 99 rating for arm strength, at least not in our virtual world with ceilings. But he can improve his accuracy—at least somewhat—as he still showcases a spectacular 94 rating in this arena.
His overall strength rating is the best in the country for a QB, and it isn’t even close. And although he isn’t Mariota outside the pocket, he has more than enough speed when the turbo button is being utilized.
It doesn’t hurt that roughly 456 Seminoles will enter the season with a rating of 90 or higher, either.