Photo courtesy of Arkansas athletics
EA Sports brought the prime message this summer to gamers and college football fans alike. The return of the king — the NCAA Football franchise — is back in motion.
July 9 marked the nine-year anniversary of the most recent release in 2013. Dates line up for 2022 to be the final year without the franchise. When summer of 2023 rolls around, many questions surrounding its development will be answered.
There is still a wait.
Many since have experimented with player ratings and rosters. That leads to the question of which players will be the highest rated for each team. We’ll try to answer that question as it pertains to Arkansas.
If the game were released a year early, curiosity demands who might be the top rated players on the roster. Before jumping in, the rating system EA uses for the franchise must be scoped.
Also, NIL legislation, which did not exist in 2013, has changed the whole structure of college athletics. Team branding at some very pristine universities also carries more weight. Luckily, sporadic intel lists that EA has some form of an answer.
University Branding Packages/NIL
Since the announcement of the franchise’s return, EA has a new partnership. Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) is vital to the game’s success. Teaming with CLC brings not only the schools, but tradition, in-game music, uniforms, playbooks, and more. Of the 130 FBS teams, 118 are a part of CLC.
Arkansas is safely one of those 118 schools. Big names have decided to watch from the bushes, though. The one with the most weight is certainly Notre Dame.
Other universities that opted out want to see the athletes receive benefits or legal terms ironed out first. If certain demands are met, individual agreements can be made. Schools in the game get paid on an incentive based 4-tier level.
AP Poll finishes within the last 10 years will determine payout. Tier one is upward of $100,000 while tier four is around $10,000.
As for the NIL aspect, there haven’t been any announcements yet. The early stages of exploring possibilities is where they stand. Equality amongst player profits might be their biggest decision.
There is a fallback option, however. Exhibited by games in the past, player likeness can be done with ease if deals can’t be met. Player likeness is also reflected in ratings.
Rating System Breakdown
Before making judgment based on stats alone, there needs to be some understanding. As with any other EA Sports game, there is a way each player receives a rating. Lack of information on their process of rating college athletes leads to the Madden franchise.
While there is much nitpicking about the game itself, player ratings seem reliable. For each individual player, a composite score via 43 categories determines their ‘number grade.’ That aspect will most certainly translate. From there, classification of rookie or veteran are tagged.
Rookies have events such as college Pro Days and the NFL Combine to mix with their statistical reputation. Rookies can be translated as incoming freshmen for college. Scouting and film lead to ratings for the veteran group.
Those can be mirrored as college sophomores or higher when translated to college. Body composition also plays a role in player ratings. Confirming such info for thousands of athletes seems unlikely though.
Reviewing last season’s player stats and team importance translates best. Let’s jump into which Arkansas players might be highest rated if NCAA College Football were released this summer:
Who Might be the Top Rated Razorbacks?
*Ratings are based on a 40-99 overall scale with 99 being the best possible grade.
10. Raheim “Rocket” Sanders (Sophomore RB) 84-85 overall
Raheim Sanders is coming off a rocket start to his career. Being part of one of the best rushing attacks in the country didn’t go unnoticed as Sanders was named to the All-SEC Freshman team. Statistically, Sanders had 578 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 2021.
His balance of power and agility create solid category ratings across the board. Playing in arguably the toughest conference aids Sanders’ rating also.
9. Dwight McGlothern (Junior DB) 84-85 overall
Becoming LSU’s most consistent cornerback in 2021 gets a lot of attention. McGlothern is known as a hard hitter and patient defender. Being able to tackle and cover will make him difficult to subdue in the ratings.
He racked up 31 tackles, a forced fumble, and a pick-6 last season. McGlothern was thought to be the Tigers’ best returning corner. Now at Arkansas, those feelings would be shown in his overall.
8. Jordan Domineck (Senior RS DE) 84-86 overall
Transferring from Georgia Tech, Domineck caused havoc. With one of the top pressure ratings in the FBS, he forced 3.5 sacks in 2021 to go with 38 tackles and a forced fumble. While his bull-rushing ability may not be reliable yet, his finesse moves are.
7. Drew Sanders (Junior ILB) 85-86 overall
A guy that could be higher, Sanders just needs to prove himself. Playing behind Will Anderson and Dallas Turner at Alabama, there’s not much anyone can do against near generational talents.
His abilities and dominance at the high school level is known and proven with a 5-star rating. For a linebacker with his acceleration and size, Sanders may just need reps.
6. Jadon Haselwood (Junior RS WR) 85-87 overall
An Oklahoma transfer, Haselwood brings six career touchdowns and a ton of talent. Route running at each level is his greatest aspect and should generate big statistical numbers. Although his receiving yards weren’t stellar, Haselwood should emerge as the best wide receiver on the Arkansas roster.
5. KJ Jefferson (Junior RS QB) 85-88 overall
Two categories that come to mind with Jefferson are pocket awareness and throw power. Plenty others would encourage good ratings such as throw accuracy, scramble ability, and strength. Statistically, his 21-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 67.3% completion rate sticks out.
Often, dual-threat quarterbacks with accuracy find themselves highly rated. In the most recent game, there is a highly rated quarterback who has similar characteristics. In NCAA Football 14, Clemson’s Tajh Boyd’s likeness was rated a 95 overall.
4. Cam Little (Sophomore K) 88-90 overall
Not much needs to be said about the sensational kicker. Little earned All-SEC Freshman honors in 2021. Little didn’t miss an extra point or a kick shorter than 30 yards. He showed plenty of leg strength and made 83% of his field goal attempts.
3. Bumper Pool (Senior LB) 90-92 overall
Like with Domineck, experience and all-conference honors pay off. Pool has an excellent shot of breaking the tackle record at Arkansas this coming season. One might knock his speed, but Pool does just about everything else well.
Pool has more than 100 tackles in each of the last seasons. Anything less than a 90 rating would be a disservice.
2. Ricky Stromberg (Senior C) 90-92 overall
Stromberg is another player with lots of experience and all-conference honors. With more than 2,000 college snaps on his game resume, he has only given up three sacks for his career. Stromberg thrives as a run blocker.
Schematically and physically, he understands the run game to a T. There is room for improvement as a pass blocker but he’s already proven himself as an All-SEC center and one of the most reliable players in the country at his position.
1. Jalen Catalon (Junior RS S) 92-94 overall
When discussing names with the most weight, none hold more than Catalon. Plagued by an injury in 2021, none dare forget his 2020 breakout season in which he finished with 99 tackles and three interceptions. He still had a solid 2021 until he had to lay down his helmet.
Many still have stock in him presently – and they should. A potential first-round NFL Draft pick, Catalon is among the best safeties in college football. A lack of size is the primary knock on Catalon, but that shouldn’t matter much when it comes to a video game.
There are plenty of quality players who could fall in the 80-85 overall range. A majority of guys could even be swapped in and out.
The internal withholding stems from doubting EA Sports would have so many that highly rated. With that in mind, here are some honorable mentions outside the top 10:
Dominique Johnson, RB
Brady Latham, OL
Beaux Limmer, OL
Reid Bauer, P
Myles Slusher, DB
Latavius Brini, DB
Eric Gregory, DL