Inside Madden 23 Ratings: Best players, rookies, teams, 99 club, franchise mode and skills

Madden NFL 23 is here, with the latest edition of the classic video game series releasing Friday, Aug. 19, on the Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Windows platforms.

After iconic coach and broadcaster John Madden died on Dec. 28, 2021, this year's game was always going to be at least part about legacy; that's why Madden is back on the cover of all three editions. It's the first time in over two decades that Madden will be the focal point of the cover.

Madden is literally all over the game. He appears as a coaching character in certain modes, and there's now an All-Madden Legacy mode of the game to be played as well. This is in addition to the changes made to the game itself by EA Sports and the modes already ingrained into the culture of the game.

The franchise mode has altered its free agency module (finally), altered the offering of contracts to free agents and how draft classes shake out. EA Sports added better draft and trade logic, too. In Ultimate Team, there are now more ways to progress. Developers paid attention to changes in game play from last year's version, called "FieldSENSE" to try and up the realism between the lines.

The hope is it's a better game than last season -- although often what so many people care about is who is rated where and what it all might mean. With the game launching Friday, we have got you covered with the information of players (and teams) you need to know, from the highest-rated rookies and players with the best hands to the most elusive players and the league's best spin moves:

The 99 Club

Aaron Donald, RE, Los Angeles Rams
Myles Garrett, RE, Cleveland Browns
Trent Williams, LT, San Francisco 49ers
Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

It's a different type of 99 Club this year. There are no quarterbacks -- Patrick Mahomes was a 99 to start last season -- and Williams is the first offensive lineman to make the 99 Club at game's launch since Walter Jones did so for the Seahawks in Madden '07. It's a small list of 99s for offensive linemen -- including Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen and Dermontti Dawson.

Garrett became the Browns' first-ever 99 Club member at midseason last year and he begins the year in the same spot. Donald is a 99 for the sixth straight year -- tying Peyton Manning for the most all time -- and Adams continues the tradition of at least one receiver being in the 99 Club, which has happened every year since Madden '18.

Lowest-rated players overall

Joe Cardona, TE, New England Patriots (25)
Zach Wood, TE, New Orleans Saints (25)
Matthew Orzech, TE, Los Angeles Rams (25)
Ross Matiscik, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars (26) Zach Triner, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26)

As for the game's lowest-rated players, long-snappers labeled as tight ends (it's how the game has to do it) continue to bring up the bottom. Triner actually got a bump up from last year, when he was a 25 and rated with Orzech as the lowest-rated player in the game. In non-long-snappers, Green Bay quarterback Danny Etling is a 48, Washington center Jon Toth a 49 and Chicago quarterback Nathan Peterman a 49 -- the only non-tight ends listed as under a 50 overall.

Highest-rated rookies

Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions (78)
Jordan Davis, DT, Philadelphia Eagles (78)
Sauce Gardner, CB, New York Jets (78)
Evan Neal, OT, New York Giants (77)
Kenneth Walker III, HB, Seattle Seahawks (77)
Aidan Hutchinson, LOLB, Detroit Lions (77)
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, Houston Texans (77)

It's a tight group at the top of the first-year players -- perhaps not a surprise because of the way this draft shook out with intrigue from the top down. That Williams, Davis and Gardner are the top-rated rookies is not a big surprise. Williams went in the first round despite a torn ACL and was one of college football's most dynamic playmakers. Davis has all the intangibles as an elite run-stopper, and Gardner is a corner with Pro Bowl potential.

Neal was considered the top offensive lineman in the draft, and Walker one of the top two running backs along with the Jets' Breece Hall (who is a 76). Hutchinson was pro-ready from the jump, and Stingley Jr. has all the traits of a dominant player.

Travon Walker, the first overall pick to Jacksonville, is a 76 overall as an outside linebacker. The top-rated quarterback is Atlanta's Desmond Ridder, with a 70 rating, and the only quarterback to go in the first round, Kenny Pickett to Pittsburgh, is a 68 -- tied with Carolina's Matt Corral for No. 3 among rookie signal-callers.

The fastest players in the game

Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins (99)
Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions (98)
Kalon Barnes, CB, Carolina Panthers (98)
Quez Watkins, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (98)

No surprise receivers are here, but it is a little jarring to see Williams up there so soon. Then again, last year Cleveland rookie receiver Anthony Schwartz (now a 96 speed) had 98 speed, so there is precedent. The speediest non-receiver or cornerback is Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is a 96, and along with Miami running back Raheem Mostert are the only non-receivers or corners at 95 speed or better. The Dolphins have a ton of speed in Madden with Mostert, Hill and receiver Jaylen Waddle (97) all at 95 or better.

The slowest players? Among linemen it's Buffalo tackle Bobby Hart, who is the only player in Madden below a 50 speed rating at 49. Not sure who at Madden headquarters Hart offended to have that happen. San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould remains the slowest non-lineman -- at 56, dropping him from a 57 last season. Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby (58) is right after him.

In maybe the biggest shocker of all -- 45-year-old Tom Brady added speed this year, jumping up to a 71 from last season, when he was a 59. Maybe Brady really can do everything. He's not even the slowest quarterback on the Bucs, as Ryan Griffin (62) and Kyle Trask (70) are both rated lower. He's not the slowest full-time starting quarterback, either. That's Indianapolis' Matt Ryan (69).

The strongest players in the game

Aaron Donald, DE, Los Angeles Rams (99)
Trent Williams, LT, San Francisco 49ers (98)
Vita Vea, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (98)
Jeffery Simmons, RE, Tennessee Titans (97)
Quenton Nelson, LG, Indianapolis Colts (97)

Donald remains the strongest player in the game -- as it should be. Behind Donald there has been some change. Williams, with his 99 overall rating, moves into the top five and Vea jumped from a 97 to a 98. Nelson, one of the best and strongest out there, remained at a 97. Philadelphia defensive tackle Jordan Davis is the strongest rookie, at 96.

Madden continues its picking on all athletic attributes for Gould, as he's the game's weakest player with a 25 for the fourth straight season. Chicago kicker Cairo Santos is the next-weakest -- at a 33 -- and the weakest non-kicker in the game is Rams receiver Tutu Atwell, who is a 40 overall. Arizona receiver Greg Dortch is a 41, as is the speedy Quez Watkins. Real disparity for Watkins between speed and strength.

Quarterbacks with the strongest arms

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (99)
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (97)
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (96)
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams (95)

Quarterbacks with the weakest arms

Logan Woodside, Tennessee Titans (77)
Ryan Griffin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (77)
Matt Barkley, Buffalo Bills (78)
Nathan Peterman, Chicago Bears (78)

Allen and Mahomes remained the same from last year, and Stafford's throw power is unchanged. The newcomer is Herbert, who leapt Stafford as part of a big jump for him to an 88 overall rating. The hardest-throwing rookie is Tennessee's Malik Willis, with a 94, followed by Washington's Sam Howell (93).

Twenty-five quarterbacks have a throw power of 90 or better -- up from 24 last season, the fourth straight year it has grown since the ratings spread of throw power for Madden '20 to add to realism.

The only change among the weakest arms is the addition of Barkley (78), who replaced Colt McCoy, now an 81. Woodside remained the same after gaining two throw power points in last year's version of the game. Jacksonville's E.J. Perry has the lowest-rated arm of any rookie, with an 83, followed by Indianapolis' Jack Coan and San Francisco's Brock Purdy, both with an 84.

Best hands

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams (99)
Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (99)
Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills (98)
Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Commanders (97)

Adams remains one of the surest-handed receivers in the game, but he's joined at 99 by Kupp, who led the NFL in receptions (145), yards (1,947) and touchdowns (16) in 2021. Kupp had a career-best 75.9 catch percentage, too. Adams, meanwhile, caught 72.8% of his targets.

Linemen continue to be the worst catchers (not surprisingly) as Baltimore right guard Ben Cleveland, Giants right guard Ben Bredeson, Carolina center Bradley Bozeman, Philadelphia right guard Jack Anderson and Washington right guard Wes Schweitzer all have 12 ratings again this year.

The most elusive players

Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins (98)
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins (97)
Zyon McCollum, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (97)

Madden made a bunch of players with 96 agility ratings, but these three stand above. That Hill and Waddle are teammates in Miami, with that level of speed (see above) and agility is going to be frightening for Madden opponents.

Offensive linemen -- shocker -- are the least agile. Only two are under 40, though, as Rams right tackle Adrian Ealy (38) and Baltimore right tackle Daniel Faalele (39) are the two lowest in the game. The least-agile non-linemen are Seattle kicker Jason Myers and Arizona kicker Matt Prater, at 47.

The best tackle-breakers

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns (98)
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (95)
Javonte Williams, RB, Denver Broncos (94)
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings (93)
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (93)

Running back hierarchies can change quickly, but Chubb remains the strongest for the second straight year. Taylor was next-to-impossible to tackle in real life and this year it'll likely be the same. Cook dropped three break-tackle points but will still be hard to deal with. San Francisco receiver Deebo Samuel (91) is the top non-running back in the category and only one rated above a 90.

The best stiff-arms

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (99)
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns (94)
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (93)
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals (92)

Henry's stiff-arms are legendary (really, just look on YouTube or Twitter) so if it was anyone other than him at the top, it wouldn't make sense. Like with breaking tackles, Deebo Samuel is the top non-running back here, too, with an 88 rating.

The best spin moves

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (91)
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (89)
Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills (89)
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (88)
Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks (88)

McCaffrey remains one of the NFL's most electrifying backs when healthy -- he's a 96 overall -- and that he's the only player with a spin move rated 90 or above makes sense just like Henry for stiff-arms. Interestingly, Minnesota cornerback Patrick Peterson is rated with an 87 spin move as he and New Orleans safety Tyrann Mathieu (85) are the only defensive players in the top 20.

The best juke moves

Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins (98)
Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills (97)
Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders (95)

Madden highlighted these three above the rest -- four guys, including Green Bay running back Aaron Jones and Minnesota's Cook are at 94 -- and their play has shown it over the years. Hill is a master at making guys miss -- hence his insane agility numbers and his 99 change of direction, so that he would be the juke master would be in line with everything else.

Five guys not in top five at his position to start a franchise around

Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears: There are, without question, higher-rated young quarterbacks to build a franchise around, including Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson. But Fields is intriguing. He's a 74 overall but hits a lot of good growth attributes -- 90 speed, 91 acceleration, 92 throw power, 85 short accuracy and 83 deep accuracy. If you're looking for a quarterback to really build, he's an intriguing one with a good starting base.

Micah Parsons, ROLB, Dallas Cowboys: If building around pass-rushers is your thing, Parsons could be the young guy for you. He has an 88 rating, which is good, but that he's young (in real life it wouldn't shock me to see him get a 99 Club rating in his career) with 91 speed, 94 acceleration, 88 agility and 86 tackling. He has all the tools to be special in real life and in Madden.

A.J. Terrell, CB, Atlanta Falcons: If coverage is how you want to build, Terrell is a great young player to start. He's already in the top 10 corners -- he's an 89 overall -- with 92 speed and 92 agility. His zone coverage (95) is exceptional, and his man coverage (90) is easily built on and something you can work with if you play mostly man defense.

DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks: Metcalf is literally all you could want in a Madden receiver. He's a taller receiver with a good rating (89 overall), ridiculous speed (95) and agility (94), has a good catch rating (92), can make the eye-popping catch (97 spectacular catch rating) and can catch well enough in traffic (89 rating). His route-running isn't great in the game, but everything else makes up for it.

Rashawn Slater, LT, Los Angeles Chargers: It might not be the most fun way to build out a team, but left tackle is one of the most important positions in football and in Slater you'd get one of the top young ones. With an 84 overall rating he can grow and he's young enough to grow fast. He's a phenomenal run blocker (93) and good pass blocker (85) who has an 89 impact blocking rating as well -- meaning he'll make a difference. It's not sexy, but it's fundamentally a good strategy.

Teams you do and don't want to play with

Top teams overall: Buccaneers (92), Bills (90), Packers (88), Rams (88)

Bottom teams overall: Texans (74), Giants (75), Seahawks (76)

Top offensive teams: Buccaneers (92), Bills (89), Chargers (88)

Bottom offensive teams: Giants (68), Bears (69), Seahawks (70), Steelers (70)

Top defensive teams: Rams (88), Bills (88), Steelers (87), Packers (87)

Bottom defensive teams: Texans (70), Lions (72), Falcons (73)

Top special teams teams: Ravens (88), Chiefs (87), Bengals (85)

Bottom special teams teams: Jaguars (68), Packers (68), Cowboys (70)

The Buccaneers may be the top team overall, but there's little question the Bills are the most balanced team in the game -- top three in offense and defense -- and potentially the most fun to play with as well with the strongest-armed quarterback in Josh Allen and a dynamic receiver in Stefon Diggs. Playing as the Bills might not be unfair, but it should give you a jump on your friends.

You want a challenge? Go play as the Texans, which need rebuilding a bit of everywhere. Davis Mills could be a fun build as a quarterback in franchise, but in terms of just playing -- only use the Texans if the person you're playing needs a big, big advantage. The difference between Houston and the other bottom teams -- the Giants and Seahawks -- are playmakers. New York has Saquon Barkley, and you could control a game with him, and Seattle has good receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett if whichever of Drew Lock and Geno Smith that you use can get them the ball. But with any of those teams ... good luck.