Count the good folks at EA Sports among the skeptics of the 2022 Detroit Lions’ talent — especially at quarterback.
Even though ESPN’s Bill Barnwell liked the Lions’ running backs, receivers and tight ends enough to bump Detroit 14 spots in his annual playmakers rankings, makers of Madden NFL 2023 threw some cold water on any Honolulu Blue hype.
Jared Goff is one of the lowest-rated starting quarterbacks, and just two Lions received an 81 overall rating or better.
While Madden is just a video game, the EA Sports-developed franchise has sold more than 100 million copies over nearly three decades. Today’s professional athletes grew up playing the game, and the annual ratings release spawns debate from NFL players about how accurate the game is, leading to an ESPN show that marks the occasion.
POSSIBLE PLAYMAKER:Lions coach says WR Quintez Cephus at his best in competitions
VOTE NOW:Which Lions, Pistons, Red Wings or Tigers 1st-rounder is the next big thing in Detroit sports?
THE WORLDWIDE LEADER:What’s the Lions’ biggest strength and weakness? ESPN has the answer
The Lions appear to have gotten better across the board but are outside of most playoff projections.
Let’s see how they stack up on Madden, which assigns all 2,000-plus NFL players a rating based on dozens of individual categories including (but not limited to) speed, strength, catching ability, throwing power, ball-carrier vision, tackling, run blocking, pass blocking, awareness and toughness:
Madden czars aren’t feeling the late-season renaissance from Goff.
Goff, who completed 67.2% of his pass attempts in 2021 while throwing for 3,245 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 14 games, is among the lowest-rated veteran starting QBs in the game. He was averse to risks — and big plays — often opting to check the ball down (6.6 yards per attempt) instead of pushing it downfield to a shaky set of wideouts.
With a 72 overall, only Davis Mills (Houston Texans), Mitchell Trubisky (Pittsburgh Steelers), Marcus Mariota (Atlanta Falcons) and Daniel Jones (New York Giants) are worse, in Madden’s analysis, among projected starters. Second-year QB Trey Lance, set to take the reins for Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, is also a 72.
MORE GOFF:How Lions OC Ben Johnson plans to help Goff have ‘best season of his career’
MORE LIONS:Why DT Alim McNeill, ex-Michigan star Kwity Paye could break out in 2022
It could be worse, though. Goff could be rated as low as the top QB in the 2022 draft, Kenny Pickett, who was awarded a 68 after being drafted in the first round (No. 20 overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s a far cry from the 78 for top 2021 QB, and top pick overall, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence (down to a 76 this year).
RELATED:Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi hammers Michigan State football and the Big Ten
While the Goff questions are valid, is it fair to place him behind Lawrence or Chicago’s Justin Fields, who are talented but only flashed occasional signs of being plus passers? What about Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland-turned-Carolina QB who had a better supporting cast in 2021, but had a lower QB rating, worse interception percentage and fewer total yards while playing nearly as much as Goff?
When comparing the ratings, Madden adjusters gave Mayfield better running traits (speed, ball-carrier vision, trucking, agility, etc.), more throwing power, better toughness and better awareness. Goff has the edge in stamina, short-pass accuracy and medium-pass accuracy.
Not a lot behind Hock
Last year, the Lions as a team were a 74 overall — one of the lowest ratings in the NFC — and this year doesn’t figure to be much better.
Tight end TJ Hockenson is rated the best player on the Lions with an impressive 89 overall, up four points from last year. Center Frank Ragnow lost a point, down to 87, but is still among the Lions’, and the position’s, elite.
[ Lions’ Frank Ragnow honors late father with ‘Rags Remembered’ launch event ]
Running back D’Andre Swift, offensive tackle Taylor Decker and offensive tackle Penei Sewell are all rated at 80, with Decker and Swift rising two points this year. That gives the Lions just five players at 80 or higher and none in the 90s. (The rival Chicago Bears aren’t much better with six players rated 80 or better and linebacker Roquan Smith’s 89 topping the team). That’s bad, but not as bad as the Houston Texans, with just three players at 80 or higher.
Defensive end Michael Brockers came into the 2021 season as Detroit’s highest-rated defender at 82, but fell to 73 in the upcoming edition after just one quarterback hit and four tackles for a loss.
[ The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive content. ]
What about the rookies?
According to Madden, Lions’ 2022 first-round draft selections Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams are already among the best players on the team.
Hutchinson, the former Michigan football star who became the No. 2 overall pick, is a 77 while Williams, whom the Lions traded up to draft No. 12, is a 78.
No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker (Jaguars) is a 76 and No. 4 pick Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, a Detroit native with the New York Jets, is also a 78 (tied with Williams and Jordan Davis, the No. 13 pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, for the best rookie).
For more about the ratings, tune into ESPN’s reveal show Saturday night at 9 pm or pick up (err, download) a copy when the game is released Aug. 19.
Follow the Free Press on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Tyler Davis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TDavisFreep.
Your subscription makes work like this possible. Get exclusive subscriber content and more here.