Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Madden Draft Notes

OK -- the draft. This was a huge sticking point with me last year (and basically every year since Madden added a franchise mode.)

Little sidebar:

Madden, for many, many years didn't have a franchise mode. It was an arcade game, period. There's nothing at all wrong with that. As long as a game knows what it is, that's fine.

In the late 90's -- I want to say 1997 -- Madden was showing at E3 and introducing its new franchise mode. If you weren't into gaming over a decade ago -- this was a time when PC sports games were still a huge business. I had absolutely zero interest in owning a console and in fact never did own a PS1. I didn't need one. I had a PC and with it games like Front Page Sports: Football. I had played Madden on the PS1 and it took me about 15 minutes to realize it was not for me...at all. But again, that was fine. The arcade crowd had its game, the simmers had theirs.

Everyone was happy.

Arcade gamers could zoom around the field with Barry Sanders and Front Page PC gamers could print out draft sheets and trade players and create plays, all using the mouse and keyboard and not some clunky controller. (Yes, I do miss those days -- how awesome would it be to be able to print out the draft in Madden 10? Pretty damn awesome and equally useful.)

So anyway, at E3 in '97 or '98 the guy showing Madden started hyping its new franchise mode and he told both me and Todd (curious if Todd remembers this) "See? Now we have the same stuff as Front Page Sports. We can draft. We can trade. We can play seasons."

After actually playing Madden and its new franchise mode it was shockingly clear that the guys designing it had absolutely no idea what made franchise mode, well...interesting. The AI was awful, the interface ridiculous, and you were limited to like 5 seasons or something like that. The fact that this fellow actually had the stones to compare that to FPS: Football was staggering to me.

So here we are over a decade later and even last year's Madden had many of those same faults. Teams drafting 3 quarterbacks, silly trades, signing FAs for no reason, stockpiling players at a position, just pure silliness. This year, with Madden's more simmish approach franchise mode is a much better feature -- as for the draft? Well, here's what I saw at the 2010 draft:

The good thing is that no teams drafted more than 1 QB. In fact most teams didn't double up at a position at all. However, 5 teams did draft 3 wide receivers. Now that is a bit much but I remember when the Browns took linebackers in rounds 4, 5, and 6 one year. Oh, how joyous that draft was. Thanks Butch.

I saw 3 trades, all of which were reasonable. The Titans traded the 26th pick in the 1st round to Tampa for the Bucs' 2nd and 3rd round pick (pick 2 in those rounds). Stuff like that.

Here's a quick R1 breakdown

Det: LT
Tampa: LE
Min: QB
Mia: DT
Cle: RB
Oak: RE
Buf: OLB
Jack: OLB
Tex: HB
Cin: DT
Phil: OLB
Dal: WR
Den: LG
Car: QB
Wash: HB
Jet: HB
Ari: TE
Balt: LE
Atl: RT
Tampa: LT
Indy: FS
Chi: LE
Sea: HB
NO: QB (oddest pick in the draft)
Pitt: FS

Overall, none too shabby. No crazy runs on centers or guards, teams mostly drafted for need. Not bad at all and like I said, only a few teams went nuts drafting wide outs but other than that, it was good stuff.

Player Progression:

Another BIG issue with Madden's franchise mode was player progression and while I need to play more seasons to see how this shakes out, early tests are promising, to a point

The Browns had 5 players drop at least 6 OVR points: Shaun Rogers (ack!), Ryan Tucker, Robaire Smith, St. Clair (-7), and Bowens.

What do they have in common? Age.

8 players gained at least 5: Quinn, Robo, Mass, Wright, McDonald, Rucker, Veikune, and Mack

What do they have in common? Young players -- all of them. The young guys should get better, but McDonald went from a 71 to a 77, so it's not like he's an All Pro now.

Everyone else either stayed the same or went up or down only a point or two.

This is MUCH better than previous Madden games.

I still don't think it goes far enough, but it's a big step in the right direction. I'd still like to see 30+ year old halfbacks start to slow down a bit quicker. Jamal Lewis is still an 86. He didn't drop at all. Looking around the league, Fred Taylor, 34 years old, didn't drop 1 point. He should. He's *34* -- it's time to at least show some signs of age. He's still a mid 80s rated back. He doesn't need to fall off a cliff, but it's time that Father Time started chipping at his ability.

Tony Gonzalez is still a 98 after 12 seasons. He didn't drop either. It will be interesting to see what happens to these players in the coming years. My hope is that age starts to take a fast toll soon -- like 6 to 9 point drops. If a player is still rated a 98 he should not retire. Why would he unless he gets hurt? He's a 98! If Brett Favre was a "98", i.e. playing at 1995 Favre ability, he'd be in uniform today. So we'll see what happens with these highly rated players in a season or two.

One cool thing about progression: No one got FASTER. All progression was in other areas but Braylon Edwards all of a sudden didn't gain 2 points of speed or whatever. Very good.

OK this is getting long so I'll wrap up with some 2010 preseason news. I started simming the preseason and then started looking around the league. Everything looked in order but for a few items of note:

Washington has 2 QBs on its roster: Colt Brennan and some rookie. Both are rated 55. They could sign Tavaris Jackson or Rosenfels or any of the 12 65-69 rated QBs in the FA pool. Hell sign Troy Smith. He deserves a shot. :)

Surely they aren't going into the season with a 55 OVR QB...

Denver is starting a 65 OVR 2nd year player. Now, a 65 is bad, but not Colt Brennan bad. They have one backup -- a 37 rated rookie. Yikes. They let Orson go to FA after he had a really good season -- an 84 QB rating year -- so Orton ends up signing to be the backup in Pittsburgh. Sorta odd.

But other than those oddities, teams are maintaining roster integrity, which is another thing Madden used to really struggle with.