We're less than three weeks away from one of the best dates on the NFL calendar. No, not the start of the regular season; it's Madden time, my friends! The 2017 version of the premier football video game releases on August 23, and to tide us over, EA Sports has unveiled the ratings for every team and player this season. Last year, there were three players with a 99 overall rating: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt. This year, we've added two new players to that list -- while simultaneously seeing one of last year's perfect ratings slip in 2017. So who makes the grade?
Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina Panthers
Kuechly is head and shoulders above the rest of the middle linebackers this year, with his next closest competition (Denver's Brandon Marshall) warranting "just" an overall 90 rating. Kuechly excels in every aspect as a linebacker. He finished last year with 76 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed. Sure, he only had one sack, but that's more a product of how the Panthers pressure the QB than an indication of Kuechly's pass-rushing skills.
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
Perception is everything. Miller's always been a fantastic defender, but his reputation exploded last year when he played a huge part in the Broncos' championship last season, including winning the Super Bowl MVP. Now, he's the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and he has a 99 rating to go with all that money.
Denver Post via Getty ImagesJohn Leyba
JJ Watt, DE, Houston Texans
The brains behind the Madden operation aren't concerned with Watt's injury-plagued summer. Now that he's back at practice, Watt can concentrate on continuing his streak of consecutive seasons with a 99 overall rating. Sure, Watt's only played in one playoff game in his career but 2017 is his fourth straight year with a perfect rating, according to a popular Madden player ratings database. And that's what really matters in the NFL, right?
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
There's only one offensive player with a 99 rating in this year's Madden, and there's no arguing with his inclusion. Gronk's a one-of-a-kind offensive menace, a player with the skills of a wide receiver smashed into the body of a linebacker. The only question is whether Tom Brady's four-game absence next year will affect Gronkowski's standing in Madden 2018.