Salem, OR — Most NFL clubs will soon kick off their training camps. Football has returned to the sports fan’s mind after a brief absence, assuming it ever truly left. And it brings with it the time to get ready for the newest Madden video game. The game this year, which will debut on August 19, is a little bit different.

There is a sense of heritage around the game this year due to the passing of the series’ namesake, Hall of Fame coach John Madden, on December 28, 2021, and EA Sports’ choice to place Madden on the cover. But Madden always intended the game to be about football and to as nearly as possible reflect the reality of the sport he loved to play, coach, and discuss. He was the one who initially advocated for an 11-on-11 format. He was the one who continued to work on the video game after he passed away.

Certain elements shone out more than others as the game became increasingly prevalent in American society. Ratings are important to gamers. They’ll complain on social media about their rating and occasionally ask who is doing it and why. The whole rating-adjusting team on the Madden staff works all year round. It is significant.

And with that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the initial ratings at launch for Madden 23, some top players at each position, and the annual 99 club, which has turned into an honor around the sport. We’ll roll out more positions each day this week:

Wide receivers

1. Davante Adams, Raiders: 99
2. Cooper Kupp, Rams: 98
3. Tyreek Hill, Dolphins: 97
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals: 96
5. Stefon Diggs, Bills: 95
6. Justin Jefferson, Vikings: 93
7. Mike Evans, Buccaneer: 92
T-8. Terry McLaurin, Commanders: 91
T-8. Keenan Allen, Chargers: 91
10. Amari Cooper, Browns: 90

In real life this past offseason, receivers may have benefited more than any other set of athletes. When Christian Kirk signed his four-year, $72 million contract with Jacksonville, it appeared to ignite a financial frenzy for top players at the position. As a result, receivers joined the quarterback, left tackle, edge rusher, and cornerback as important positions in the NFL. Receivers are making enormous sums of money, and in Madden, their rankings have demonstrated exactly how great this group has grown.

As many as five receivers might stake a claim to being the best in the league because it’s one of three categories where the top 10 players have ratings of 90 or above.

Adams is still the best receiver in the game and was a member of the 99 club at game’s start, despite switching teams from the Packers to the Raiders. Adams made a significant improvement last year; he had a 94 overall rating at the start of Madden 21.

Adams is being followed by a lot of movement. Hopkins slipped from second to fourth, and from 98 to 96. Kupp, who rose from outside the top 10 at the beginning of last year to a 98 overall after a 145-catch, 1,947-yard, 16-touchdown season, replaces him at No. 2 overall. The rise of Kupp forced many players to drop at least one position.

Tight ends

1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs: 98
2. George Kittle, 49ers: 97
3. Mark Andrews, Ravens: 93
4. Darren Waller, Raiders: 91
5. T.J. Hockenson, Lions: 89
6. Kyle Pitts, Falcons: 87
7. Mike Gesicki, Dolphins: 86
8. Dallas Goedert, Eagles: 85
T-9. Zach Ertz, Cardinals: 84
T-9. Hunter Henry, Patriots: 84

Although Kelce is no longer a part of the 99 club, don’t be shocked if he gains it back during the 2022 season since he still ranks as the top tight end in the league with a 98 rating. The list below him is not particularly tight, save for one guy.

Kittle, a pillar of the Tight End University, is Kelce’s fiercest rival. This season, Kittle is once again the No. 2 tight end and has improved from 96 to 97 overall. The plunge follows. Andrews (93 overall) climbs from No. 4 to No. 3 as the 1990s begin. He flips with Waller, who falls from third to fourth place and from 93 to 91 this year.

Big movements then take place. Hockenson, one of the best young tight ends in the league, has moved up from ninth place and an 85 last season to fifth place and an 89 overall. With 68 receptions and 1,026 yards, Pitts had the second-best rookie tight end season of all time in 2021, moving him up to No. 6 with an 87. Gesicki moves up little in rankings from No. 8 to No. 7 and from an 85 to an 86. Goedert moved up similarly from positions 10 to 8 and 84 to 85. Ertz, one of the league’s most reliable tight ends, increased significantly from an overall rating of 80 to 84 and now sits at No. 9 in the rankings.

Madden NFL 23, which features the late John Madden back on the cover of his namesake game, will be released on August 19.