Although technology has advanced nicely in the last few decades, there are still moments where gamers can tell the difference between the real game on the field and the action in a video game. Nowhere is it more glaring than when comparing Madden NFL 23 to the actual NFL.
While the real game of football tends to be quarterback-centric, Madden NFL 23 is all about the running backs. The pro players win tournaments with special teams players at quarterback but invest in big-time running talent. Unless that equation changes, that means these players will be the most important pieces to winning in the video game.
10 Ezekiel Elliott – 88 OVR
Last year was only a disappointment for fans that expected too much as Ezekiel Elliott still broke 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. But the Dallas Cowboys were used to Elliott vying for Pro Bowl numbers. Turns out, Elliott tore his PCL in week four and finished the season anyway.
That’s frightening to think that the great performance last year was in spite of injuries, both disclosed and undisclosed. When healthy, there is little doubt that Elliott can go back to competing against the best at his position.
9 Austin Ekeler – 88 OVR
Among the league’s most heavily-used running backs, how many can say that they never fumbled the ball last year? That would be just one, Austin Ekeler, who kept the ball secure and continues to provide a great backup to Justin Herbert and the receivers.
Ekeler isn’t the spiciest player. Last year, he wasn’t a danger to cruise the length of the field. However, there is something to be said for consistency, especially in the running game, and Ekeler plays his part to perfection.
8 Aaron Jones – 89 OVR
Over the last two seasons, Green Bay has gone from a predominantly passing team to an almost exclusively passing team. That makes sense with Aaron Rodgers racking up MVP awards. But they haven’t forgotten about their Pro Bowl running back in the middle of everything.
Jones caught more touchdowns than he ran last season. Between his rushing and passing, Jones is dependable for massive chunks of yardage.
7 Alvin Kamara – 90 OVR
It’s easy to look at Alvin Kamara’s 2021 rushing statistics and be confused as to why he made the list. Statisticians will need to scroll down a page or two before finding him. If his rushing numbers are good and not great, why is he ranked so highly?
Kamara has always been an equal or greater threat to catch the ball in addition to running. He led the New Orleans Saints in receptions last year despite missing some games. When both rushing and receiving are factored in, it becomes apparent why Kamara always makes the Pro Bowl.
6 Joe Mixon – 93 OVR
Every football season, the rumor mill gets pumping about who the next big thing will be. There has been way too little gossip about Joe Mixon. Yes, Joe Burrow and the air targets are going to see an improvement with a brand new offensive line.
But what about their stud running back who was putting up huge numbers even when the line was atrocious? Mixon, third in yardage and fourth in touchdowns, is set up to somehow do even better.
5 Dalvin Cook – 94 OVR
For the last several seasons, the talk has been about when the passing game in Minnesota will explode. The Vikings spent money to make their quarterback and wide receivers as flashy as the box art. Somehow, Dalvin Cook, the running back, stole the show.
Cook has consistently been a top-five running back and this year is no different. The Vikings have had their ups and downs over the last few seasons, but Cook has been one gigantic positive, even when the team struggled.
4 Jonathan Taylor – 95 OVR
The fact that Jonathan Taylor wasn’t rated as a top three running back is, frankly, insulting. Not only did Taylor lead the league in every metric for running backs last year, he dominated most categories. Somebody fell asleep in the ratings department, he carried a mediocre Indianapolis Colts team singlehandedly.
Look no further than rushing yards, where he led the league by a jaw-dropping 552 yards. If players are hoping to improve their franchise experience, they should start by making Taylor their featured running back.
3 Nick Chubb – 96 OVR
The Cleveland Browns were something of a trainwreck last year. Their record wasn’t the worst, but considering they entered the season as a top-dog bet to win the Super Bowl, their below-average season feels almost abysmal.
That made the bright spots, what few there were, all the brighter. Nick Chubb was second in the league when it came to rushing yards and proved that he could be the single back for the Browns. Now that the Browns are building back up, Chubb may see his role expand even further.
2 Christian McCaffrey – 96 OVR
When gamers try to predict how players will be rated, those who struggle with injuries are the most difficult to nail down. Will the ratings adjusters take them down due to never being on the field? Or will they cut them some slack and hope that the player returns to form?
In the case of Christian McCaffrey, despite missing almost two full seasons at this point, it seems the ratings adjusters still believe he’s one of the best. Those with great memories will see how this young star has elements of Marshall Faulk. The Carolina Panthers deserve to get a few healthy years out of him.
1 Derrick Henry – 97 OVR
When comparing last year’s installment with this year’s Madden game, it should be clear that the ratings adjusters are big on Derrick Henry. They’ve had him as the top dog for a while now and the Tennessee Titans are well aware of his importance.
The real key for this upcoming season is keeping the running back healthy. The Titans lean on him heavily and he runs at a rate that has broken Hall-of-Fame runners. Injuries kept him from his usual dominance last season, but when he’s healthy, few are better.
Madden NFL 23 releases on August 15th, 2022 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
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