NFL: Madden ratings guru has the players’ attention

First Published Aug 18 2014 09:14AM      Last Updated Aug 19 2014 04:46 pm

Denver • Donny Moore can be the most reviled man in NFL locker rooms.

He’s not a coach, a referee or a drug tester. He has never played or coached a game. Still, NFL players — and millions of fans — can’t wait to see what he has to say.

Moore is the "ratings czar" for "Madden NFL," the man responsible for making sure the popular video game’s virtual avatars accurately reflect their real-life counterparts.

Moore uses all sorts of metrics and measurements to come up with ratings. Then, he tweaks the numbers weekly after watching all the games and pondering feedback from fans and even the players themselves.

Sometimes aging stars first recognize their careers are on the downslopes when the new Madden game arrives in August and their ratings have slipped.

They’ll let Moore know they disagree, often using Twitter or even sending him a YouTube video.

"It’s usually more tongue-in-cheek versus truly getting upset," Moore said by phone from Orlando, Florida, where he works for EA Sports.

Only one time, Moore said, he felt he truly angered a player. Moore won’t name the player, but when an EA Sports film crew went to scan the face of the Arizona Cardinals player, he asked them to deliver an "F-bomb-filled" message to Moore.

Save for the select few superstars like Richard Sherman or Peyton Manning who earn 99s and 98s on Moore’s 1-to-100 scale, nobody ever seems to be happy with their ranking.

"My ratings haven’t been very good. So, based off of that, I guess I’m not a fan," Bills running back Fred Jackson said with laugh. "But he has a hard job to do. There’s, I don’t know, 1,800 of us? And he’s not going to make all 1,800 of us happy."

Moore, 36, uses a 1-to-100 rating scale for dozens of categories, including strength, catching, jumping, speed, awareness and toughness.

"Everybody thinks they’re a 100," said Bills wide receiver Mike Williams. "No matter what you get, you’re not going to like it."

Moore dives through data, comparing 40-yard dash times for speed, 10-yard split times to determine acceleration and 20-yard shuttles for agility.

"We’re trying base our real numbers in the real world," he said.

To fine-tune his assessments, he goes to the video. After all, Jerry Rice ran the 40-yard dash in a relatively pokey 4.71 seconds, but you’d never know that by the way he played.

"So, really, for a receiver, for example, we’re trying to capture game speed with pads on, not how fast you run in a straight line on a short lawn in a T-shirt," Moore said.

Sometimes video game players complain a player is too good. Or the game designers complain that Moore has guys rated so highly in certain categories that it throws the game off-kilter.

Among the guys he underestimated were Washington running back Alfred Morris and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, both of whom started a season with mid-60s ratings and finished in the high 80s. It works the other way, too. Ray Rice started last season at 95 and finished at 82.



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Madden NFL 15 overall ratings

The new EA Sports Madden game comes out next week. Here are the players with the top 10 ratings.

Top 10 overall (plus ties)

1. Richard Sherman - 99

2. JJ Watt - 99

3. Calvin Johnson - 99

4. Adrian Peterson - 98

5. Joe Thomas - 98

6. Peyton Manning - 98

7. Jamaal Charles - 97

8. LeSean McCoy - 97

9. Darrelle Revis - 97

10. Jimmy Graham - 97

11. Robert Quinn - 97

12. Ndamakong Suh - 97

13. Evan Mathis - 97

14. Josh Sitton - 97


Ratings Hub