Now that the 2020-21 NFL season is over, we can take a good look at the performances from every player and determine whether or not they’re deserving of making the cover of “Madden NFL 22.”
Earning the title of Madden Cover Athlete is something a lot of player cherish. Lamar Jackson called it “a dream come true” and said he shed tears looking at himself on the cover.
While there was a short stretch of a “Madden Curse,” that has been pretty much eliminated in recent years. In fact, four of the last five players on the cover just played in Super Bowl 55.
While the first edition of the video game was “Madden NFL 95,” players only started appearing on the Madden cover in the year 2000. In the editions prior, John Madden would simply grace the cover. It is worth noting in 1998, 49ers running back Garrison Hearst made the cover on the PAL version, which is released in markets outside of North America.
But 2000 is when EA Sports made the full switch to nothing but players on the cover. Since then, EA Sports has gone heavy-handed with quarterbacks, selecting the position to grace nine of its 21 covers, more than any other position. Running backs follow up with five covers. Wide receivers have made four covers. There’s only been three defensive stars, and one of those was on a shared cover.
With all of that in mind, we try to make our best predictions for who will be on the cover in Madden 22.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers seems like the logical choice for the Madden 22 cover. He’s fresh off of an MVP win, and the last two Madden covers have been the previous year’s MVP winner. Also, Rodgers has been one of the most dominant players over the past decade, and has never graced the cover of Madden. It feels like it’s time. But I almost feel like he won’t make the cover because he seems like the obvious choice. EA Sports might want to break away from the MVP-winner-to-cover-athlete trend. Also, a quarterback has been on the cover for three of the past four years.
2. Derrick Henry
As we mentioned before, running backs have been a staple of Madden covers in the past. But the last time we had an active running back on the cover was Madden 12, with Peyton Hillis (Barry Sanders was on the Madden 14 cover). Derrick Henry is a great candidate for Madden 22 as he’s coming off of a 2,000-yard season and an Offensive Player of the Year award. Also, with the meta in Madden 21 being so pass-heavy, I could see EA Sports going the other way in Madden 22 and trying to add more features to encourage people to run the ball. And what better way to hype up some additional running features than by having a running back on the cover?
3. Aaron Donald
There have only been two solo defensive stars on the cover of Madden — Richard Sherman in Madden 15 and Ray Lewis in Madden 2005. The only other defensive player was Troy Polamalu in Madden 10 alongside Larry Fitzgerald. Aaron Donald just won Defensive Player of the Year, an award he’s won three times now, and would be a nice darkhorse candidate for the cover. While he’d be the third solo defensive player to grace the cover, he’d be the first ever defensive lineman to make it. Donald has also been a member of the 99 Club (players who get a 99 overall rating in Madden) for a few years now, so he seems like the best defensive candidate to make the cover.
4. Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce is just one of six players to finish Madden 21 with a 99 overall rating. One of those players has already been on the cover (Mahomes) and one is a player we already mentioned (Donald). Kelce would be another unique option as there’s only been one other tight end to make the cover of Madden — Rob Gronkowski in Madden 17. Kelce is certainly deserving of the honors as he’s been on an absolute tear lately. He has five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, with 2020 being his best one yet. He finished with career highs in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,416) and touchdowns (11). Kelce feels like a fun choice, a break from the norm, but a well deserving player.
5. Davante Adams
We mentioned that the three big positions to earn cover honors are quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. I went with Davante Adams as my choice at wide receiver, but there are other deserving candidates here as well. DeAndre Hopkins (another 99 Club member) finished with more receiving yards than Adams, and is a potential option. Tyreek Hill is a popular player in Madden for his 99 speed, and is a really good player at the game (but would come with a serious downside given his history off field). Stefon Diggs led the league in the receiving yards last year, and is another option as well. But Adams feels like he has the best chance out of all of these players. He led the league in receiving touchdowns (18) and had more receiving yards per game (98.1) than any other player. He’s also a member of the 99 Club, which makes him feel like a standout candidate.
Darkhorse candidate: Josh Allen
If EA Sports goes with a quarterback on the cover this year, it feels like it should be Rodgers, which is why we ranked him No. 1. But Josh Allen is a fan favorite, and he’s a young quarterback coming off of an impressive season. However, there are a few snags to Allen actually making the covers. For starters, he’s not even rated 90+ overall in the game, and he plays for a smaller market team in Buffalo. If EA Sports wanted to have some fun with their pick this year, I could see Allen as a potential cover athlete.
Bold prediction: Tom Brady
EA Sports has never used a cover athlete more than once, but that’s exactly why Tom Brady feels like a potential choice. It’d be a great marketing ploy to include Brady on the cover for Madden 22. He’s with a different team, so the cover would have a new look, and it’d essentially cement his status as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time). Brady is coming off of an incredible run where he finished with a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP. If EA Sports wanted to be bold and go with a duplicate cover athlete, it seems like Brady is the only one who truly deserves it. And he doesn’t have many years left of playing, so this year would make the most sense to do it if that’s something EA Sports wants to consider.