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Madden Ratings give Saints lots of love, but snub league’s best o-line

Move over, Dallas.

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ORCHARD PARK, NY - Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with teammates Josh Hill #89 and Larry Warford #67 after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter on November 12, 2017 at New Era Field.
ORCHARD PARK, NY - Alvin Kamara #41 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates with teammates Josh Hill #89 and Larry Warford #67 after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter on November 12, 2017 at New Era Field.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

EA Sports helped out our drive for offseason content with their initial player ratings for Madden NFL 19! 21 different New Orleans Saints received initial grades over 80, with the top scorers consisting of:

1. 95 - Cameron Jordan

2. 91 - Drew Brees, Michael Thomas

4. 90 - Marshon Lattimore

5. 88 - Alvin Kamara

6. 87 - Ryan Ramczyk

7. 86 - Mark Ingram II

8. 85 - Demario Davis

9. 84 - Marcus Williams

10. 83 - Cameron Meredith, Patrick Robinson

The Madden developers are buying into the hype on several additions, most notably at linebacker (Davis), receiver (Meredith), and cornerback (Robinson). That’s encouraging on some level. Among the rookies, Marcus Davenport takes the lead at 75, with Tre’Quan Smith and Boston Scott tied at 72. Other draft picks Kamrin Moore (68), Natrell Jamerson (67), Rick Leonard (65), and Will Clapp (62) sit clearly behind them, while rookie quarterback J.T. Barrett (65) rounds out the pack.

But here’s the rub. Despite paving the way for historically-great running back production, the Saints’ offensive line is rated pretty poorly. Andrus Peat was given a mere 72, while the only member of the group to make the Pro Bowl (Larry Warford, at 77) had the second-lowest grade among the five starters. Ramczyk played incredibly well for a rookie, but there’s no way he should have the highest grade of the bunch at 87.

It gets laughable when you look at other contenders for the league’s best o-line. The Dallas Cowboys rested too hard on their laurels last season, allowing 153 quarterback pressures on just 522 dropacks (a rate of 29.3-percent) and getting Dak Prescott sacked 32 times. They struggled on the ground, too, with Ezekiel Elliott gaining a very average 4.1-yards per carry. By the way, Dallas only had to trot out 8 different line combinations all season - the Saints deployed 18, and allowed a pressure rate of just 19.8-percent.

I’ll give the Eagles credit: they had to use an insane 28 different combinations of blockers, but made it work thanks to top-to-bottom depth. They still allowed 154 pressures on 600 combined dropbacks between Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, and Nate Sudfeld, a rate of 25.6-percent. But strong individual performances from players like Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks kept things running smoothly up front. They’re the only squad I could be talked into competing with New Orleans for football’s best.

On the other side of the ball, Marshon Lattimore joins the league’s elite cornerbacks with a score of 90. That ties Seattle Seahawks icon-turned-San Francisco 49ers signee Richard Sherman. Jacksonville Jaguars standouts Jalen Ramsey (97) and A.J. Bouye (94) lead the pack, while names like Desmond Trufant (93), Patrick Peterson (92), Xavier Rhodes (92), and Darius Slay (91) stand well within Lattimore’s class. Another year of pro experience could see the 22-year old overtake each of them.

That’s fantastic news considering the Saints now have an elite talent in the secondary to bookend with Cameron Jordan up front. Jordan was given the third-highest grade of all left ends at 95, placing just behind a former Defensive Player of the Year in J.J. Watt (98) and one of the game’s great young defenders in Khalil Mack (98). If Davenport can help out on the other end and progressing interior linemen like David Onyemata and Sheldon Rankins continue to make strides, Cam may even reach that 98 rating.

But let’s not miss the forest for the trees. Madden ratings are even more subjective than Pro Football Focus ratings, and less substantive than metrics like Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value. It’s just silly numbers thrown around for us to argue over in July.