The Pro Bowl – or the “We took the tackling out of football Bowl” – is behind us, and with less than a week to the Super Bowl, we thought thought it was a great time to take a look at who the frontrunners might be for the Madden 13 cover. If you're a fan of any of these players, pray that the player isn't chosen, because with the Madden cover comes a down season. Luckily, most of these players are sure picks and highly unlikely to have a bad year next year; injuries are a whole other matter. Here are 10 NFL players that are deserving of the Madden 13 cover.
Von Miller, outside linebacker for the Denver Broncos, is an athletic freak and a major reason the Broncos defense played so much better this year. He added 11.5 sacks in his rookie year to form a ferocious pass rush with Elvis Dumervil on the other side. The guy didn't miss a tackle all year. He has all the talent in the world to continue improving, and there's no way that he has a bad year next season. That being said, Von Miller is only a rookie and there are more established players that are more deserving that him to be the cover athlete.
For all of the Tim Tebow fans out there that are wondering why he isn't representing the Broncos, it's because he had way to many games where he only threw for, like, 80 yards. There's way too many good Quarterbacks to include him. He didn't carry the Broncos to the playoffs, the defense and Matt Prater carried them.
Also, look at Von Miller in these glasses. How happy does he look?
Another rookie, Cam Newton had a very impressive first year. 4,000 yards, 60 percent completion percentage, 21 touchdowns, and then added another 706 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. The guy is a true dual-threat QB. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much help outside of Steve Smith, and Quarterbacks usually go through a sophomore slump. Odds are he puts up similar or worse numbers, and then be poised for a breakout year in the 2013-14 season. Still, any rookie that throws for over 800 yards in his first two professional games deserves props.
Matthew Stafford finally had the breakout year that everyone has been waiting for him to have. Up until this season, he had more interceptions than touchdowns. Then he put up over 5,000 yards and 41 touchdowns this year with only 16 interceptions in 663 attempts. 97.2 Quarterback rating? Dude is legit. Granted, Calvin Johnson is a huge factor in Stafford's numbers, but his season can't go overlooked. It wasn't as good as Brees' year, but Brees has been on a Madden cover already. Did I mention that in a week 17 match-up against the Packers, Stafford threw for 520 yards and 5 touchdowns? No? Okay, just checking.
Did anyone expect the Giants to be in the Super Bowl? Not even Giants fans thought that Eli Manning would have the type of year he did. Most of the season he played mistake-free football. On the year he threw for 4,933 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He was without Running back Ahmad Bradshaw for a few games, and Eli took the reigns and turned the Giants into a true passing team. Utilizing Hicks and Cruz, he's now leading the Giants into the Super Bowl against a team he already beat there and stole a perfect season from. However, he won't be the cover athlete due to his goofy face.
The guy that Eli relied on most of the year, Victor Cruz came out of nowhere and had a monster year. Cruz put up 1,536 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in an offense where he started out as the third option in the passing game. The guy quickly established himself as the Giants primary threat. His 82 receptions showcased his ability to catch the deep ball, catch in traffic, and run after the catch. Without him, the Giants would not be where they are now. If not for some other stellar performances by other players this year, Cruz would most definitely be the Madden 13 cover athlete. The problem is that this is his breakout year, and what if he struggles a bit his second year. Those are some big number to try to match, especially with Nicks and Manningham lining up next to him. And the Giants always make a point of having a strong running game with multiple backs, as well. He'll be a contender for sure, though.
Have you seen LeSean McCoy run? The guy moves like a RB in Madden. His jukes make him look like he's in a video game. 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns for a 4.8 yards per carry average? Sign me up. Out of all of the running backs, he is the most likely to be on the cover. He's the most exciting running back in the NFL, mostly because you never know what kind of sick move he's going to do next. Not since Barry Sanders and Terrell Davis have I enjoyed watching a running back so much. No Madden curse is going to slow him down. It's impossible. He's so fast that the curse wouldn't be able to catch up.
Megatron had a monster year. I can only think of one word to accurately describe his skills: filthy. I feel like I need to light up a cigarette after watching him play. Look at these stats: 96 catches, 1,681 yards, 16 touchdowns, and a 17.5 yard average. GTFO. He's 6'5” of awesomeness, and he makes football feel sexy. It's quite possible that he can leap his way onto this year's cover, if it wasn't for the…
YEAR OF THE TIGHT END!
The best pass catcher on the 49ers, Davis had an excellent regular season with 67 catches, 792 yards, and six touchdowns. He had an even more impressive postseason, posting 292 yards and four touchdowns against the Saints and the Giants. The guy is a physical freak, and probably the best all-around tight end in football. He's the emotion of the 49ers team, and he deserves his recognition. Plus, his cover would probably look best. 10 points to whoever tweets me their take on a Vernon Davis Madden 13 cover.
He's not this high up on the list just because I'm a fan of the _. It's because the guy has established himself as one of the top receiving threats in the league in his second year. He's easily Drew Brees' favorite target, as evident by the 99 catches, 1,310 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He tried to pull of some heroics in the playoffs, adding another 103 yards and two touchdowns. He is a tight end who can outrun defensive backs. His basketball athleticism continues a trend of former basketball players becoming really good tight ends in the NFL. Graham is better than that, though; he's a really really good tight end.
But he's not..
Tom Brady should be eternally in debt to Bill Belichick for drafting Rob Gronkowski. In his second year, he helped the Patriots reach the number one seed in the AFC with 90 catches, 1,327 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Then he helps them dismantle the Denver Broncos with 145 yards and three touchdowns – all of his touchdowns before half time. It's not just that Gronkowski scores – it's how he scores. The guy adds speed, toughness, and amazing hands to the team. He makes defenders look silly.
If he's not on the cover, then maybe his girlfriend can be on it?
Okay, so he takes some douchey photos, but ya know what? If I was as good as him, I'd be baggin' girls like this and acting like a d-bag too. The point is, he's established himself as one of the best weapons in the whole NFL, and with Tom Brady throwing to him, there's no chance that he succumbs to the Madden curse. He has to be the front runner for the Madden 13 cover.
If it's not going to be Gronkowski, then it should be all three of the tight ends I mentioned – Vernon Davis, Jimmy Graham, and Rob Gronkowski should all share the cover. It is the year of the tight end, and I don't see things changing as the league continues its trend to becoming more pass oriented, and tight ends continuing to get bigger, faster, and better at catching.
Tell us who you think should be on the cover of Madden 13 and don't forget to follow Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ if you want to debate at all.