How the Big Ten’s best players would be rated in Madden
Around this time next year, EA Sports plans to re-release its popular NCAA Football game so there is no better time than heading into the season to grade the top 10 most valuable players in each conference, according to Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney, with a Madden-like score.
This is not judging the overall 10 best players but those who would score best on the video game.
We move to the Big Ten.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
On a team with two first-round NFL Draft picks at wide receiver in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Smith-Njigba was arguably the best receiver on the team and finished with 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Maybe defenses scheme to force another Ohio State receiver to beat them this year but the former five-star is expected to put up huge numbers again.
99 – CJ Stroud, Ohio State
And throwing Smith-Njigba and the rest of the Buckeyes’ loaded receiving corps the ball is Stroud, who almost definitely ends up as the first 2020 quarterback drafted and could be the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy entering this season. Stroud completely obliterated his Big Ten counterparts with 4,435 passing yards and 44 touchdowns last year. The closest in touchdowns was Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell with 28.
95 – Paris Johnson, Ohio State
And blocking for Stroud is an impressive group of offensive linemen but none better than Johnson, another five-star who finished third in the offensive tackle rankings behind Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge in the 2020 class. With another impressive season, Johnson could easily be a first-round NFL Draft pick and he’s playing in an offense that is virtually guaranteed to move the ball up and down the field at will.
94 – Jack Campbell, Iowa
Iowa played 14 games last season. Campbell finished with a conference-high 143 tackles. The former three-star who was only recruited by Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota and Northern Iowa coming out of Cedar Falls, Iowa, averaged more than 10 tackles per game and could have an even more productive season . By any measure, Campbell has to be considered one of the best defenders not only in the Big Ten but nationally.
93 – Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
The only running backs who totaled more rushing yards last season in the Big Ten than Allen were Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker and Michigan’s Hassan Haskins and they were second- and fourth-round NFL Draft picks, respectively. Allen, a former four-star out of Fond du Lac, Wisc., who was the state’s top player in the 2021 class, had 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. We know Wisconsin is going to keep running the ball and stats will come Allen’s way.
92 – TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State
If there’s one player on this list who could have an even bigger breakout season as so many teams try to scheme the pass away from Ohio State it’s Henderson, who excelled last season with 1,255 yards and 15 touchdowns on just 184 carries. In comparison, Walker carried it 263 times and Haskins had 270 carries.
90 – Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
Maryland will have big-time receivers and Tagovailoa, who really didn’t look like an elite quarterback in high school but has transformed his game at Maryland, should put up major numbers. Last year was no fluke as the former four-star outside the Rivals250 threw for more yards than any quarterback in the conference other than Stroud. He also had more TD passes than every Big Ten QB except for three others – Stroud, O’Connell and Michigan State’s Payton Thorne.
88 – Blake Corum, Michigan
Last season, Corum rushed for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns and that was with Haskins carrying the bulk of the load by a wide margin. Donovan Edwards should have more of a pronounced role this season but Corum is still going to get the ball very often and he has that breakaway speed and playmaking ability in the open field.
Henderson could have a monster season at Ohio State and the same could be said for Corum in Ann Arbor.
84 – Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
Skoronski was very talented in high school but there were also some questions about whether he could play tackle at his size or if he’d move inside. It doesn’t matter now because the Northwestern offensive lineman who ended up as a four-star toward the back end of the Rivals250 is one of the best players at his position in college football and his dominating physical presence and footwork could make him a first-rounder.
82 – Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State
Iowa fans might want to see Riley Moss in this spot but Brown had six interceptions last season and returned one for a touchdown to lead the Big Ten. That number of picks is the most at Penn State since 2006 and his 87-yard interception return for a score was the sixth-longest in school history. Brown is a playmaker on the back end and with another season under his belt could have a tremendous impact for the Nittany Lions.