Madden 16 Cover Finalist Reactions

     Today EA Sports revealed the four finalists to become the Madden 16 Cover Athlete.  They are the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, Steelers’ Antonio Brown, Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., and Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson.  So how do I feel about the choices made, and who do I believe will win the vote?

     My first reaction was a bit of shock that three out of the four finalists are receivers (two wideouts and a tight end), and that there was no quarterback option.  Personally I would like to see no more than one player from any position if there’s only going to be four slots.
     Then, I realized that the two best players in the game were snubbed.  The MVP of the league, Aaron Rodgers, is not in the running, and neither is defensive MVP J.J. Watt.  I believe either one of these players would win the fan vote given the opportunity.  Their exclusion is even more baffling to me because neither player has previously been on the cover.  In fact, no player from the Texans has ever been on the cover, and the only Packer was Dorsey Levens who appeared on alternate versions of Madden 2000.
      Now as for the players that did make it to the fan vote, I have mixed opinions concerning whether or not their performance has earned them a spot in the running.  
     First I’ll start with Rob Gronkowski.  The Patriots tight end is coming off one of his better seasons in the league, catching 82 balls for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns.  Gronk is a fan favorite guy and has for the last few years has easily been considering one of the best two tight ends in the NFL along with Jimmy Graham, (I consider Gronk to be the best tight end myself, but maybe that’s because he was on my fantasy team).  Considering the Patriots won the Super Bowl last season, it seems fitting one of their players grace the cover, and the only main options on the team are Tom Brady and Gronkowski.  Because Brady is older, and more people seem to dislike him, I feel the fun-loving party animal is the correct choice.  Even during the offseason Gronk has been entertaining and has frequently made the news.  I have no problem with Rob Gronkowski being in contention to become the cover athlete, and I believe he has a decent chance of doing so.
     Antonio Brown came off an incredible 2013 campaign and did even better in 2014, leading the league in both catches and receiving yards, solidifying his position as one of the best receivers in the league.  If you had this guy on your fantasy team, chances are you ended up a winner.  Despite the numbers Brown has put up, I don’t feel he necessarily gets all the attention he deserves, and is not one of the most popular players in the league.  Certainly being the face of Madden would chance that in an instant, so I think he deserves a chance to grace the cover of Madden 16, although I think the chances he wins are quite slim.
     Odell Beckham Jr.  Oh boy, where do I start with this guy?  Everyone knows how much I love Odell, being a diehard Giants fan, and I have stated on numerous occasions that I feel he has the potential to be a Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest receivers to ever live.  However, I feel like giving OBJ this honor would be a year or two premature.  I know he absolutely took over the league after missing time at the beginning of last season, but the fact of the matter is that he was just a rookie.  This offseason, every team that plays the Giants will be looking extensively at how to stop OBJ, because he is that one-of-a-kind player that can instantly change the game.  There is a good chance that Beckham will disappoint next season simply because everyone will expect him to be shattering records, which also may happen (and I hope it does).  This isn’t a knock on Odell at all, but I kind of find it unfair for a rookie hotshot to just swoop in and become the cover athlete after just one season where there may be others who deserve it more.  Odell’s time will come, I just don’t think it has to be immediate.  Now, despite me saying this, I’m fairly confident he will be the cover athlete because he absolutely took the league by storm, breaking tons of records in just 12 games.  But it was just 12 games.  Regardless, his face will sell copies, and that’s what it’s all about (slight sarcasm).
     Now am I just saying this because I don’t want the future of my team to be destroyed by the “Madden Curse?”  I don’t think so, because despite the alarming regularity to which players who are on the cover of Madden regress in the following season, I believe it can easily be attributed to the nature of the award.  If a player on the cover was one of the best players in the league the previous season, they have unrealistically high goals set for them by the general public which are usually unattainable.  But subconsciously I guess maybe the “Madden Curse” might have something to do with my thinking.  Who knows.
     Lastly, Patrick Peterson is the real surprise choice of the bunch, because while it’s only fair to include a defensive player, why they chose Peterson is kind of puzzling.  He isn’t coming off a career season (3 interceptions) and from a pure stats standpoint it could actually be argued to be the worst of Peterson’s four seasons.  There are at least a handful of corners that were more consistent and effective last season, but even in terms of defense as a whole, the nomination clearly (in my mind) should have gone to J.J. Watt, the most impactful, well-rounded defensive player who excels in all facets of the game (even tight end).  Other acceptable defensive choices could have been Luke Kuechly and Justin Houston, although Kuechly is really the only other well known star that would have had a reasonable chance.  Overall, I don’t get this decision, and I don’t think that in a million years Peterson could win this contest, which kind of makes him a waste of a selection.
     If I had to name my ideal cover nominees, and I was restricted to only four choices, I would choose these four:  Aaron Rodgers, DeMarco Murray, Rob Gronkowski, J.J. Watt.  However, I would also like to see Andrew Luck, LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Luke Kuechly.  I believe those eight would make for an incredible vote.  As for why I chose Gronkowski over Brown, it simply comes down to the Super Bowl.  I feel a Super Bowl player should be in contention.
     Who do you think should be on the cover and do you agree with my selections for who I believe should have made the ballot? 
     Thanks for reading,
     Connor

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