EA Sports Madden NFL Football - Cheats Predictions for Rookie Player Ratings and the Search for the Next Vernon Gholston

This is totally unfair to Mack, but just looking at him I can't help but think of Vernon Gholston. The dudes look more like body builders than ballers!

"I feel like I can contribute to any NFL team right away by intentionally flexing my insanely massive biceps while doing interview with my sleeves rolled up."

Madden NFL 2014 (EA Sports) Predictions for Rookie Player Ratings and the Search for the Next Vernon Gholston

My pick for 2014 didn't take long to figure out. Perhaps it is wrong to lump into one category all defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid-type prospective NFL draftees and rookies-to-be who look like body-builders who spend all their time lifting for cosmetic purposes and pumping gallons of steroids into their arms.

Along with Wide Receiver, 3-4 hybrid Defensive End / Outside Linebacker is one of the most common places that you will find NFL busts who can be used as beasts on the digital gridiron when you're playing EA Sports' Madden NFL Football 2014. In Gholston's case, I would often line up in a 4-3, take him off the line while simultaneously moving the other linemen towards the area Gholston vacated so there wouldn't be a big hole, then ran around like a madman back and forth, up and down, left and right, then try to shoot through any opening like a Kamikaze pilot.

You see, a player's measurables (i.e., speed in a 40-yard dash, the 3 cone drill, bench pressing 225 pounds as many times as possible, etc.) are what ultimately translates into the various ratings that are used in a player's "rankings." Now, the fact that Gholston might be the worst player in NFL history can be accounted for when the computer, rather than the person playing the game, is in control. They accomplish this, to my knowledge, by giving him an embarrassingly-low rating in categories like "awareness" (meaning he's "football dumb" and hence doesn't make good reads, thereby ensuring that the virtual version of Gholston, like the real Gholston, never, and I mean ever, makes a single play that impacts a game).

But when I (or anyone else who does this) utilize him as either an OLB in a traditional 3-4 or instead drop him back into the linebacker's territory from one of the DE positions in a 4-3, and it my football intelligence and not the virtual Gholston's football intelligence that determine where he goes, the man is a nuclear-tipped pass-rushing missile! In one game where I used Virtual Vern in this manner, he racked up 8 sacks and 2 forced fumbles!

And the reason Virtual Vern could do these things when used by a human player is that EA Sports really can't just give pathetic ratings in certain categories for an amazingly athletic OLB or DE, even when they happen to be atrocious football players. I'm talking about categories like speed, agility, strength, and of course the player's height and weight, etc. Putting an emphasis on accurate player ratings is a huge part of how Madden's programmers over at EA are able to make the game-play realistic (the elite players are elite, the crappy players are crappy, etc.)

In any event, none of what I've written on this Hub isn't already known by all die-hard Madden enthusiasts. We've all dreamt up creative ways to exploit the game's inherent inability to make things 100% realistic (not matter how impressive their efforts in this regard have been through this point), such as my incredibly-successful idea 5 or so years ago, which was to put a diminutive backup cornerback with blazing speed (former JETS' cornerback Justin Miller) as the 2nd Tight End on the depth chart, and to run a play action from a 2-TE set with the 2nd THE streaking straight down the field, resulting in an easy touchdown (he was typically defended by slow inside linebackers).

Onto my prediction for who will be this years Virtual Vern!


Look, I have already mentioned that this is definitely unfair to Mr. Khalil Mack. And I've already admitted that I decided to eschew creativity this year and select Mack as the most Gholston-like player in this draft (regardless of position, but Mack's position certainly helped him earn this honor).

Moreover, despite the fact that every year I read a lot about, and watch game tape of, a whole lot of the incoming rookie class leading up to the draft (I love this stuff!), Mack isn't a player I've researched beyond reading a few blurbs, watching a few highlight tapes, etc. Pundits' mock draft have Mack going in the top-5, so one might reasonably ask why I think I'm smarter than them. And to that, my response is that Gholston was drafted #6 overall and many pundits thought he'd go anywhere in the top 5 (some predicting #1 overall was a remote possibility). And those same pundits - almost as an afterthought - mentioned that Virtual Vern was "raw" and needed to refine his technique. I agreed, and having watched a ton of his game tape before that draft, I was terrified that my beloved JETS would draft him!


In closing, as a die-hard JETS fan, I wholeheartedly wish that I had a time machine and could use it to somehow change the Gholston pick. That said, since I'm a huge Madden guy, having a guy like Virtual Vern to infuriate my online opponent with was a nice little consolation prize! After all, while there are a lot of reasons playing online is so much fun, for my money there's nothing more enjoyable than pissing your opponent off so much that you can almost hear his head exploding through the internet connection!

Who is your pick for this year's Gholston?

I ask my fellow Madden enthusiasts to give your $00.02 about who you think will be this year's version of Vernon "Virtual Vern" Gholston.

Chime in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Gholston sitting on the bench, where he belongs in real life. But things got better for him later that night in DSmizzle's online Madden game (5 sacks).

Who Will Be the New Digital Rookie Sensation / Real-Life Bust in 2012?

EA Sports' Madden NFL video game franchise has produced some of the best-selling video games of all time, an impressive feat in its own right. What is far more impressive, however, is the franchise's longevity. Incredibly, each and every year since 1990 when EA Sports acquired the exclusive rights to use NFL teams and players in their video games (a span of over 20 years now), the franchise has been able to release a new version of its game annually which is among that year's best-selling video games. It is a rather safe bet to assume that a large percentage of the purchasers of the Madden NFL games that are released each year are people who had purchased the version released during the previous year, for the same video game system (unless it was one of those years when you made the big upgrade from PS2 to PS3 or XBOX 360, a difficult choice I made in the early 2000s).

There are some years when the game has evolved more than others, years when one or more major, lasting changes were incorporated into the game for the first time. Some of these changes were widely appreciated by long-time Madden enthusiasts, and others caused a collective uproar among the masses (the nearly riotous atmosphere that emerged after the "QB Vision" feature became the default option in the early 2000s comes to mind). Recent incarnations of the Madden NFL franchise couldn't be more fundamentally different than the versions released in the early 1990s, but this evolution has occurred gradually over time rather than overnight. Of course, improvements to the game and incorporating new features and content have contributed to the franchise's ability to retain a large following of consumers who continually buy the newly-released versions of the Madden NFL series each year.

In my opinion, however,while the major technical improvements to the game-play itself over the past two+ decades have compounded to drastically enhance the actual gaming experience itself, the most important changes that are made to the game are made as a matter of course each and every time the new year's version of the game is released. I'm speaking, of course, of how each year the game incorporates the updated NFL rosters into the game, which in my experience immediately renders the previous year's version an inferior product. Being a long-time die-hard J-E-T-S fan, no matter what my financial situation has been over the years, money was not an issue as I anxiously looked forward to seeing how my team's newest players would enhance my Madden talents.

Obviously, when playing online or using the "Play Now" mode with updated rosters, I don't care whether a player was picked up via the draft, free agency or, less often, an offseason trade. However, because I grew up well before it became possible to play Madden online against complete strangers or friends hundreds of miles away and track your record and statistics over time (these features have made online game-play my preferred mode in recent years), the new players acquired via the NFL draft were the ones I looked forward to using the most each year. Before the advent of online play, I looked at the JETS' draft class as the building blocks of a JETS dynasty along with the many other young players I planned to acquire in absurd, unbalanced trades with teams managed by the CPU. I remember being particularly excited to use the new, updated version of the JETS roster during years when they drafted players at positions which have the most notable impact in the Madden series. Each year, I would count down the days until the release date finally arrived, at which point I could finally get to see how easy it would be to sack the opponent's QB after they drafted Hugh Douglas in 1995, to throw bombs to Keyshawn Johnson after the 1996 draft, to rush the passer (yet again) in 2000 with Shaun Ellis and John Abraham, to run circles around defenders and take a screen to the house with Santana Moss in 2001 (a few years after the juke move and ability to cut on a dime became almost unfair), terrorize the field between the hash marks with Jonathan Vilma in 2004, to win multiple Super Bowls in "Franchise mode" and have a winning online record with a young team with solid building blocks in Revis, Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and David Harris that would be putting its destiny in the hands of an offense spearheaded by rookies Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene (who I of course started over Thomas Jones) ... the list goes on and on.

The release of the game after the 2008 NFL draft was no exception, as I thought it would be simply unfair to give me Brett Favre throwing to Dustin Keller over the middle after years of playing with Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens as my starting QB. On the defensive side of the ball, in real life I was very unhappy with the high-risk pick of Vernon Gholston, as I just didn't like what I saw of him in college, and felt he was far more of a raw athlete rather than a polished football player. However, this didn't prevent me from looking forward to terrorizing opponents' passing games online with Gholston's freakish speed and athleticism when the new version of Madden was finally released.

Generally-speaking, I think EA Sports does as good a job as can reasonably be expected in undertaking the purely speculative task of giving ratings to the new crop of digital rookies that are incorporated onto virtual rosters each year to mirror the changes in the actual real-world NFL rosters. A player like Vernon Gholston presents a particularly interesting challenge for the game-makers. How can they account for a rookie so obviously being a "workout warrior" when that player is used by the human player? Giving him a horrible "Awareness" rating isn't exactly going to stop me from starting with Gholston as my 4-3 DE on the defense's right side, shifting the 3 other DL's and the 3 LB's to the right to create a mutated cousin of the 3-4, and using Gholston to relentlessly speed-rush the QB from wherever he's standing as I hyperactively move him back and forth from the left to the right prior to the snap, at which point he's very hard to stop, no matter where he ends up coming from. In real life, Gholston, the 6th overall pick in the NFL draft, does not have a single sack after 3 NFL seasons. But when used this way in Madden online, he would often rake in 2-5 sacks and send the QB's home on a stretcher. Even more interesting is that, no matter how horrendous his play was in the real world the previous year, I was able to use Gholston the exact same way for 3 seasons of Madden gaming. What could EA Sports do, reduce his skills in a measurable category like speed, strength or acceleration? Take a few inches of height from his frame or make him 50 pounds lighter? This "Digital Rookie Sensation / Real-Life Bust" phenomenon happens every year, but in all my years of playing Madden, Gholston is the player who stands out the most in terms of the difference between his abilities in the game and his feckless play in the real-life NFL.

So, who do you think will be this years most notable "Digital Rookie Sensation / Real-Life Bust"?

Cam Newton is perhaps the most obvious choice here, but that's too easy and doesn't require any imagination, so I'm going to try to dig a little bit deeper.

At LB, one might compare Denver's first pick Von Miller - the #2 overall pick in this year's NFL draft - to Gholston in terms of sheer freakish athleticism, but the similarities end there. I watched both of these guys in college, and Von Miller is far more than just a freakish athlete. And make no mistake, Miller is one of the best athletes at DE that I've ever seen play college football in terms of his ability to explode off the line of scrimmage towards the opponent's QB in the fraction of a second immediately after the ball is snapped. His explosiveness actually reminded me of when I saw Brian Orakpo make a mockery out of Phil Loadhoalt, who has been a strarting NFL Tackle for the Vikings the past few years, in the "Red River Shootout" between Texas and Oklahoma that takes place at a neutral site each year. So count Von Miller out.

At CB, one might see an obvious candidate in Patrick Peterson solely as a result of - once again - his incredible sheer athleticism making him an obvious stud in Madden. However, as with Von Miller, I think Peterson has a great chance to be a very good NFL player (although due to his size he may be utilizing his freakish athletic abilities as a punishing hitter and ball-hawk at Safety in a few years).

At RB, I don't think even Mark Ingram has the measurables that will make him a Madden freak, and - barring injury - I can't see him being a "bust" in real-life playing in this Saints' offense.

This year's crop of DE's and DT's in the NFL draft was very deep and strong, with a large number of DL's having been taken in the first 2 rounds, but I don't see the kind of rare athlete whose physical attributes will make him a total beast in Madden.

This year, by process of elimination, I think you've gotta believe that the most likely candiate will be one of the big-time top-10 WR's, as both AJ Green (Cincy) and Julio Jones (ATL) were very early picks with the rare combination of a huge frame. Both are big, tall WR's whose height poses unique problems for even top-notch CB's, particularly for long TD passes and on fade routes or other "jump-ball" situations in the red zone. Both of these rookie WR's also have very impressive physical measurables like speed, jumping ability, circus-catch skills, etc., which are attributes that EA Sports cannot downgrade in order to account for the shortcomings in their game that will of course exist in the real world by virtue of their being rookies. These attributes also happen to be the most important measurables at the position. Of the two, I would have to go with AJ Green as the more likely to be a Madden legend, but to simultaneously be a real-world NFL bust. This isn't necessarily a knock on Green as much as it is the situations that these rookie WR's find themselves walking into. In Madden, I'm confident I could huck up 5 TD's in an online game to AJ Green using rookie Andy Dalton or career Jordan Palmer at QB, as I'm sure Jones will have the ability to jump up and grab even the most poorly and/or severely underthrown passes. Will he be able to make magic happen in the situation that he's walking into in real life? I doubt it. Highly. Jones, on the other hand, is going to be running routes for Matt Ryan, with Roddy White on the other side. Atlanta is also a strong candidate to have a very productive, rejuvenated running game to draw the defense into the box and bolster their play-action package.

So my pick is AJ Green, what's yours?

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