This article is part of our The Reddit Madden League series.
One of my favorite parts of any iteration of Madden is the offseason. I love constructing teams - re-signing players, making bids on free agents, and most importantly, drafting my team. Given the real life NFL Draft is my favorite holiday, ahead of Christmas and whatever week the Bears are ruled out of postseason contention (I get to celebrate it earlier and earlier each year!), it makes sense that the video game version of the NFL Draft is a riveting venture for me.
What makes it more fun, for me, is creating backstories for players, particularly ones with awful names. Since Madden does a horrible job of highlighting incoming players, other than tipping off who has superstar potential, I've at times been guilty of letting my mind wander to a place where the game gives a detailed explanation for why there are 13 Wisconsin QBs projected to go in the first round.
With the introduction of the RML Series, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to let my imagination run wild. Each offseason, I'll be highlighting a handful of players and creating scouting reports for select players in order to build depth to the young, up-and-coming players to the fictional National Football League. All the information regarding position, school, age, weight and names will be consistent with what is presented in a given Madden season. The in-depth backstory, well, there’s no way to know if I’m wrong, so I have to assume it would all be entirely truthful.
Position/Height/Age: QB, 6'1”, 22 years old
Projected to go: Undrafted
*Update* Chocolately declined his opportunity to be drafted in the NFL
Chocolatey, formerly named Preston Kumquat, was an up-and-coming prospect following his breakout performance during his sophomore season, in part based on a massive game against Northern Arizona State University, where he threw for over 600 yards on a whopping 13 attempts, eliciting Big Sky Conference announcer Greg Ranklin to utter the now infamous line "A throw as sweet as chocolate!" which prompted the quarterback to capitalize on the publicity and change his name midseason. However, a drastic fall off during his junior year, in which he threw more interceptions (23) than touchdowns (14) has sent Chocolately's stock in a melting, hot mess. There's a chance Chocolatey could end up being a quality backup for an organization, but he'll need to show coaches that his boneheaded tendencies were more of a product of poor talent around him, rather than destructive decision making.
Position/Height/Age: QB, 6’3”, 23 years old
Projected to go: Early first round
It’s not a surprise to Loverne near the top of draft boards. Simply put, he might go down as one of the best college quarterbacks of all time. That is, if it weren’t for the fact he shared the spotlight with Jase Hallen, ANOTHER Wisconsin quarterback expected to go within the first 10 picks. Yes, apparently it is possible for two quarterbacks from the same school to be taken early on in the same respective draft, and if you look at the numbers, you can sorta see why. While Loverne was the more dynamic of the two quarterbacks, rushing for over 1,546 yards and throwing for another 3,211, Hallen put together a show of his own, leading the NCAA in touchdown passes (47) as well as passing yards (5,402) including a 654-yard passing outing against then undefeated Ohio State. While Wisconsin’s dynamic offense would somehow not lead the team to the College Football Playoffs, with the voting committee stating they would rather see more SEC teams in the tourney despite the Badgers winning the Big 10 Championship and making it through the season undefeated, the odd voting selection hasn’t hurt either player's draft stock.
Position/Height/Age: FB, 6’3, 22 years old
Projected to go: Fourth round
One of the more polished fullbacks in this year’s draft class, Crittenden’s rise up draft boards may receive a boost in large part to a perhaps erroneous claim by NFL Draft expert Ross Tucker suggesting the Wisconsin product “wouldn’t make it past the second round without getting drafted. He’d be a great addition to any team.” Crittenden may also benefit from a rather odd report following the scouting combine where at least one talent evaluator suggested he had the “most burst” of any ball carrier in the Draft, but that was quickly shot down based on the fact it’s far too obscure of a phrase to mean anything. Indeed, Crittenden finished with an even 5.00 40-yard dash, which was the slowest of all fullbacks, much less halfbacks, and as a result, it would be a shock to see Tucker’s hot take come to fruition.
Position/Height/Age: WR, 6’2”, 24 years old
School: Rhode Island
Projected to go: Early second round
Dubbed “The Jickey” by a jealous former girlfriend, Nickey is expected to become the first player since 2001 to make the NFL from the University of Rhode Island, and the first wide receiver to be drafted from the school since 1984 (Chy Davidison, New England Patriots). While relatively fast for a receiver from such a small university, The Jickey’s lack of strength could become an issue on the professional level, with below average three-cone and 20-yard shuttle times highlighting what many experts deemed a “lack of explosiveness.” It seems unlikely the URI product will make good on his lofty projected status, but there’s a chance a team might still be willing to take a gamble on the small school prospect.
Position/Height/Age: C, 6’3”, 23 years old
Projected to go: Undrafted
Vandervelde may be one of the biggest centers to enter the 2018 NFL Draft, but what he has in size, he lacks in relatively strength, ranking 16th of the 15 (yes you read that right) eligible centers in terms of bench press. While Vandervelde attributed the dismal performance due to a malfunction in the weight bar, multiple scouts reportedly saw the former Panther wolf down 17 Big Macs prior to his scheduled lift time, which would likely affect his ability to perform admirably in the weight room. It’s yet another mark on Vandervelde’s record in terms of commitment to the game, with scouts also bringing up his avid devotion to model airplane building as a potential locker room cancer down the road.
Position/Height/Age: LE, 6’2”, 24 years old
Projected to go: Sixth round
If you were surprised Penn was a Division 1 school, and not just a weird reference to Penn State, you wouldn’t be the only one. Yet, the small school may yield one of the most divisive players in the entire Draft, with coaches arguing on both side of the spectrum in terms of his professional prospects. One thing that can’t be argued - Hixon is fast. His 4.62 40-yard dash would wind up being faster than 43 of the 45 eligible linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft and faster than 11 other safeties’ 40-yard times. However, despite his speed, Hixon rarely racked up many sacks at Penn, in part because the team refused to play him anywhere but at defensive end. That’s partially why scouts in favor of Hixon’s talent have ranked him higher, as coaching wasn’t necessarily the team’s calling card. After all, the university just fired Kurtis Calaway this season, after a 13-year stint with Penn that saw the team go 13-117 during that time. Still, some scouts have questioned whether Hixon can develop into anything more than a speed rusher, citing his diminutive height (6’2”) and weight (240).
Position/Height/Age: ROLB, 6’2”, 23 years old
Projected to go: 23 years old
More affectionately known as “Donuts” from his teammates, Dinkins put together an impressive campaign during his junior year at Oklahoma, racking up 14 sacks and another 12 tackles for a loss throughout the season. Perhaps benefiting from a relatively weak linebacker class, Dinkins has a chance to have a “long” NFL career depending on what scheme he finds himself in. Given his expert leaping ability (second for ROLB in vertical) Dinkins could find value as a tweener backer, capable of dropping back into coverage as well as rushing the passer.