2013 Season Preview: The Madden Minicamp All-Stars

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Take a trip back to August 2004 and understand a new way to evaluate players before the season starts. Who were, and who now are, the Madden Minicamp All-Stars?

"10-11-12-13-23-43-48-49-50-55."

"10-11-12-13-23-43-48-49-50-55."

"10-11-12-13-23-43-48-49-50-55."

...I said in my head as I counted through my small stack of vomit green and white rectangles, making sure none of my precious bills fluttered out. The thin pieces of paper went back inside their sleeping bag for a slumber party with the Blockbuster giftcards and Gattlyland ticket cards that also resided there. I folded my onyx colored synthetic leather wallet, as smooth as a stone condemned to sleep in a creek bed for eternity, and fitted it into my pocket.

"I highly doubt that money is going anywhere," he snickered while scratching at his bicep. His arm was blanketed by a 99.5 Kiss t-shirt splotched with dirt stains from the day's work. Above the shirt's logo was a massive, stout neck supporting a face that resembles mine today, only his was coarser and more rugged. I gazed upon him with a grin.  "You better hope there are more copies left.  Actually, I bet you don't because you know you're going to get embarrassed later."

"We'll see about that," I replied with a sly smirk. I had spent the better part of the day staring at the clock, hanging out with my friend Boredom, sitting around like a dog staring underneath the door waiting for his master. Only today something monumental was going to occur when he arrived. And now the sun had started to sink, peering through the right windows of the store as shadows bled onto the floor like entrails softly swaying outside the gut. The dying sunlight began to turn the Doom 3, Spider Man 2 and Fable signs that hung like lanterns around the store a brilliant bronze orange.

The line began to slowly shorten as the booms of our voice entertained us during the wait. After a while we were finally at the counter and I was venturing where I rarely did--the new games section of the store. They sat on the shelves behind the Gamestop guardian in their transparent packaging, each holding a universe of different possibilities inside. Each game sat in a row, unlike their used counterparts, which were strewn in disarray and categorized only by the system they were played in.

Dad pointed behind the counter. "Look, there's plenty of them, just like I told you. Look at all of them. And you nagged at me to hurry up for nothing. You didn't even let me take a shower and change. I told you there would hundreds of them left." I smiled back up at him and feasted my eyes upon the row of Ray Lewises; he better resembled a pit bull wearing the mailman's shredded purple boxers than a human being. I then walked up to the bench and greeted the ponytailed creature slumping behind the counter like a festering rat.

"You play anything cool lately?"

"Eh, not much. I already beat Doom 3.  It was just OK."

"Really? I thought it looked awesome. What's that?" I asked, shifting my eyes to a screen to the left that had a PS2 connected to it.

"Just a game.  What can I get for you?"

"Madden 2005," I stated with a pitch of excitement in my voice.

He grabbed the version with the green spine and shot the laser to reveal the total price.

"That will be $53.50."

"Huuhhhhhhhhhh," the larger version of myself rattled releasing a giant gust of air.

"What?!"

"$53.50 for a game, it's crazy. I can't believe people actually pay that much. It's your money.  You can do whatever your want, but it is the same as last ye-."

I intervened, spouting off fact after fact that I had read in magazines and on the internet up to this point describing the newest features in meticulous detail like I was giving a dissertation and not buying a new video game.

The ponytail laden person interjected my discourse.  "If you're interested, we have ESPN NFL 2K5 that is probably even better than Madden.  It's only $20."

"Why don't you just get that one? It's cheaper, better and you'll have money to spend when you go out to the movies with your friends."

"It's not the same," I glumly countered.

"Look here," the employee said while opening up the newest monthly edition of Game Informer, this one emblazoned with Sam Fisher. He quickly flipped through the pages until he arrived on to his new batch of evidence. Each review mirror imaged the other; on the left was Madden 2005, decorated with a big bold 8.75, and to the right ESPN NFL 2K5 had a score of 9.5.

I looked up to a face of agreement and stated, "Fine, I'll get the ESPN one." He rang me up, I handed him $23, received my change and the game printed with Terrell Owens snagging a one handed pass. It was a textbook display of how money is a means of exchange. I grabbed my little plastic bag, told the judge goodbye until next time, and we headed out the door. I hopped into the four door Columbia Blue Oldsmobile and cranked the handle to roll down the window. The man to the left of me did the same, then proceeded to spin the little metal wheel with his thumb to produce fire, lit up a cigarette and said," Don't worry. You made the right choice and we'll have a good time with it" while scratching my scraggly brown hair. He rolled the wheel to the right, leaving the shopping center and maneuvered down San Pedro.

When we arrived home, I jammed my thumb into the larger eject button, gently laid the the game onto the tray like a curator setting up an exhibit, and watched in glee as the green globs turned into a giant X and curled the black bulky controller as if it were a dumbbell. I scrolled through the menus and started a quick game where I was greeted by Chris Berman. The first game I played, I watched in misery as David Carr was sacked over and over again in a game where I had no idea what I was doing. It was unlike the Madden games I had spent the past three years playing. You have to tap "X" to sprint.  When picking plays, you have to pick a defensive line stunt, LB and defensive back coverage.  What was this madness? My eyes burned with anger.

Eventually the game grew on me and I started to enjoy the lifelike graphics, the deep franchise mode that generated rookies every year with their own faces, a Chris Berman halftime/weekly highlight show, and gameplay that resembled real football. Madden felt archaic in comparison (I rented it, but soon learned it was an inferior game). It was a rude awakening, reminiscent of the shock I felt when I started to play actual football instead of simply watching it on Sunday.

Even today people will argue with you which one is better-- ESPN or Madden-- evoking arguments of bloodlust not seen since Bleeding Kansas (yes, that is sarcasm). This was the last time there would be an ESPN 2K football game made,  EA (creator of Madden) killed the competition by legally buying the rights to the NFL so no developer could use the names of its players and team logos. This business decision led to Madden growing fat like Jabba the Hutt, guzzling down profits like Lucille Ball working a chocolate conveyor belt. The lack of competition changed Madden from an innovator that brought along new ideas into something stale, a piece of flesh rotting in a crypt and not the leader in sports' video games it had been. I have yet to play one of the yearly iterations since maybe 2009. I was turned off by the zigzagging of Chris Johnson that led to touchdown after touchdown, the in-game ads, pay for this bonuses and the empty promises of, "This is the best Madden yet!" that never came to fruition.

Flash forward seven years: I laid crumpled in the futon during late August, with nostalgic feelings swirling around my insides with nothing to do.  No homework, no job and my roommate and girlfriend would not be home for a few hours. I hopped on Amazon and scrolled through the games I used to play, none of which were the $49.99 I used to pay for them.  Time had depreciated them to a $4.99 price I didn't mind paying.

$1.99--Free Shipping, Madden 2005.

$15.99--$2.99 Shipping, NFL 2K5.

I wanted something quick and simple I could play a game or two of during lulls like this. NFL 2K5 would take me putting actual effort into, so I entered my card information and waited a few days until Ray Lewis came to me in a manila CD envelope. Playing it here and there, I made a franchise mode with the Cleveland Browns where I completed a fantasy draft and then eventually moved the team to Mexico City where the fans of Cleveland would be left screaming,"WHY!?!?!"  I left the game to sit and gather dust until I turned on this silly game to relive the Texans 5-11 Dom Capers glory days.

The game featured a host of ideas.  The hit stick that glorified bone crunching hits that today would be subject to fines and fifteen yard penalty flags, other defensive changes to counteract the unbalanced Michael Vick offense of 2004, and the ability to change the prices of nachos in owner mode. If the game play feels too outdated, it is worth buying simply to look at the roster pictures of the players. For some reason, Madden took the most unglamorous pictures and most of the guys look like they had just come to from a coma.

Another one of the features of the game was the Madden minicamp. The mode was used right before you played preseason games.  You ran various drills with players and rewarded them with attribute points based on the difficulty and the number of points scored. It was a way to increase Jason Babin's agility from 79-82 before the season started. It was also used as a way to unlock Madden Cards by running the drills in order from Rookie-Pro-All Pro-All Madden. The drills are run by controlling NFL players that are ranked accordingly based on their skill. For example, you control Jermaine Lewis when attempting the All Madden Ground Attack. Each drill gives points or a time to complete and is ranked bronze-silver-gold.  When the highest mark is earned, a Madden Card is unlocked. These cards produced classics like sticky hands and gust of wind that when played during a game offer an advantage to the player. Consequently, this mode is also a snapshot in time, showing the expectations of the preseason. Unlike the predictions that are littered in the deep dark archives of the internet and magazines now in a landfill, Madden's best players at each position are still there, locked away on a CD until an on switch is pressed.

I turned it on the other day as the feeling of football around the corner consumed me.  I played a game against the computer on All-Madden. The Drew Brees-led Chargers proceeded to beat my soul into submission to the tune of 45-3. So I messed around with the mini-games to learn how to play again.  My head started to spin as I used Trent Green in precision passing and threw to Tony Gonzalez and Eddie Kennison while listening to the bellows of Green Day's "American Idiot."

So what players in 2013 would be used in these same drills if the game was made today, and how would they rank in each drill?

I decided to take on this task and came up with two rules when making my choices:

1.) The players are chosen based on 2012 and historical performance. Outliers or guys who have had one good season won't get the nod.

2.) In addition to performance, the drill matters as well. Clay Matthews may be a great pass rusher, but he's not going to beat double and triple teams.

Now that the lengthy, sappy introduction and rules have been presented, I give you the Madden Minicamp All-Stars, a revolutionary way to pick the best players in the league.

First, there's two notices:

*The game came out in 2004.  Like all sport video games, they add a year to when it's released.

**Attached to every player's name is a link to their Pro-Football Reference player page. Remember, 2003 is the prior year's performance.  2004 is their actual performance that season.

Pocket Presence

This is the most creative drill in the game because "If you can dodge a ball, you can dodge a 300 lb. defensive lineman". The QB stands in a circular spotlight that resembles a dartboard that he can't leave and throws passes to dummies as tennis balls are shot at him. The catch is If you get hit by a ball it constitutes a sack. After you dodge the shots fired at you, a button is shown over one of the dummies which coordinates who you throw to. You get points for each correct throw you make without getting sacked and the points magnify as you land correct throws in a row. As the difficulty increases, more receivers are added and extra balls are shot at a multitude of directions until it gets more overwhelming than a game of Perfection. The main point of the drill is to stay in the pocket and step up as everything around you collapses which is one of they keys to great QB play.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Michael Vick-ATL Andrew Luck-IND
Pro Daunte Culpepper-MIN Eli Manning-NYG
All-Pro Brett Favre-GB Ben Roethlisberger-PIT
All-Madden Steve McNair-TEN Peyton Manning-DEN

Usually, the QBs who are best at moving up in the pocket are the slower players who know how to maneuver around the pressure. This is what the whole drill is about, but the creators of Madden didn't understand this simple concept when they made their picks in 2004. Instead, they decided to just pick the swiftest mobile QBs who play best when they are able to move around and throw from different locations. Mike Vick, Daunte Culpepper, and Steve McNair are not what you think of when you list the best QBs in the pocket. EA picked these guys, realized they needed a white guy, and thought, "Brett Favre moves around some." (Favre was a very good passer outside the pocket but doesn't fit in this group of passers).

The 2013 picks are all guys who have this ability to remain calm and focus under pressure while in the pocket. Everyone loves to talk about Peyton Manning's accuracy and IQ, but rarely do they mention how he well moves his feet in the pocket-- it really is a beautiful thing. Andrew Luck has been great in this regard, despite being knocked down 100+ times last season. Roethlisberger leaves the pocket occasionally, but most of the time he gets away from sacks by sidestepping or by just being too heavy to bring down, thanks to his enormous head. And Eli Manning makes the same "how the hell did he do that?" type of throws, but less frequently and stays in the pocket more than Big Ben.

Precision Passing

Another passing drill...QBs get all the love. This drill is not unlike your backyard pickup game. There's a QB, two WRs, and one TE.  The receivers run simple routes-posts, streaks, hitches, drags, etc. However, this time you have to time the routes just right so the balls fly through one of these magical rings being dangled from the puppeteer's hand. You throw six times and get points for each route you throw correctly.  You get bonus points if you complete all three before your last throw. It is the most frustrating of the drills because the ball will sometimes soar to the right or below it and you have to change the QB's throwing angle sometimes for the ball to travel through the hoop. There's a lot of guess and check involved.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Kurt Warner-NYG Matt Ryan-ATL
Pro Matt Hasselbeck-SEA Drew Brees-NO
All Pro Tom Brady-NE Tom Brady-NE
All Madden Peyton Manning-IND Aaron Rodgers-GB

Quick question.  Who led the league in completion percentage last season? Thinking, thinking, thinking... it was Matt Ryan (68.6%). I was surprised as well when I saw the numbers. Not only did he lead the league in accuracy, but he did so while still averaging 7.67 yards per attempt. The only reason I put him 4th was because of the historical qualities these other 3 guys have. Rodgers, Brees, and Brady are all players who are just "on" some days, and the other team stands no chance. Matt Ryan is not there yet.  He's on the way and might jump higher in this group after this season.

I want to see more from youngsters like Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson before I consider them for lists like these. Defensive coordinators have been studying the offenses they ran last season all summer and should be prepared for their gimmicks this year. However, if I made the decisions like the game, RGIII, Kap, and Wilson all would have been part of the pocket passers group and would have joined Peyton Manning. Even though they have only been in the league for a season, they are the best QBs outside the pocket. Brady and Brees could have been part of the pocket passing as well, but just like in Madden 2005, I limited each QB to one drill and one drill only.

Chase and Tackle

Chase and Tackle is the easiest of all the drills. You play as a linebacker with a safety lined up behind you.  You unleash hit stick after hit stick on your team's running back. It gets a little tougher when the game adds a lead blocker, but even then he's easy to get around and you have a safety to cover your tracks. Running backs in the game can't really juke.  The only way to get away from a defender is by using a spin move. Unless you are playing against the computer, which has Priest Holmes or LaDainian Tomlinson.  Then they will proceed to break tackle after tackle.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Peter Boulware-BAL Chad Greenway-MIN
Pro Joey Porter-PIT Jerod Mayo-NE
All-Pro Dan Morgan-CAR Luke Kuechly-CAR
All-Madden
Brian Urlacher-CHI Patrick Willis-SF

Peter Boulware? Ray Lewis is a 99 in the game and they favored his ROLB instead. Peter must have sent someone a Christmas card to get lumped into this group. Joey Porter is luckier than the 2012 Colts since he did not play the prime of his career in the Concussion Era of the NFL. He might have never cashed one of his paychecks due to the number of fines he would've accumulated from helmet-to-helmet hits. Kuechly is the second coming of Dan Morgan, but I hope he is able to have a long career unlike his counterpart. He should never wear a visor, change his number to 59 or grow his hair our. If he avoids injury, he'll lead the Carolina defense and the league in tackles for at least the next five to seven years. Willis could be substituted for NaVorro Bowman just as easily as Jerod Mayo could be substituted for Brandon Spikes, but each of the guys I chose had better seasons than the other last year. If Cushing comes back from his ACL, like we all know he should, he will hop into this list next season.  More on this later.

Ground Attack

It's the antithesis of the Chase and Tackle.  You run the same drill, but from the running back's perspective. You have one lead blocker, an imaginary offensive line that takes the form of blocking pads, and you gallop against a few defenders. As the difficulty increases, they add more defenders until there's four pixelated creatures chasing after you. The goal on this one is to just time your sprint right and zig-zag around until you find enough field to reach the endzone.  You have to love older football games.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Priest Holmes-KC Jamaal Charles-KC
Pro Clinton Portis-DEN Marshawn Lynch-SEA
All-Pro LaDainian Tomlinson-SD Arian Foster-HOU
All-Madden Jamal Lewis-BAL Adrian Peterson-MIN

Man, that was a stacked group of running backs back in the day.  In 2003, they combined to rush for 6,720 yards, 58 touchdowns (Holmes had 27! 27 rushing touchdowns) at 5.2 yards per carry. It may be the greatest rushing year for four guys in one NFL season. However, Lewis fell victim to the Curse of 370 and Holmes had injury problems shortly after the 2003 season.  Both were never themselves again.

The group I chose is similar to the 2005 group. They will be drafted in the top 6 of fantasy drafts going on this week and all have produced the past few years. Like the young group of QBs, I'm going to wait a year and see what Doug Martin and Alfred Morris can do (cue the Cadillac Williams flashbacks of 2005). Peterson is the for sure All-Madden pick, thanks to his return from ACL surgery and having one of the greatest seasons in the history of the league. Foster led the league in attempts, yards, and touchdowns over the last two seasons. Lynch is better than Charles, and Jamaal should watch out for C.J. Spiller possibly taking his spot if he has a down year. Out of all the lists, the Ground Attack is the most volatile of the groups. It is hard to sustain production after being hit 300+ times a season and there are always two or three guys who show up out of nowhere.

DB Swat

You are the only player on the field in this one.  You are surrounded my stationary mannequins with their arms placed in certain spots to imitate ball placement. A circle shows you where the ball is about to be thrown and you run from plastic being to plastic being to swat passes, obtaining bonus points for interceptions. As the difficulty progresses, they add more players all over the field until it culminates with five imaginary receivers standing like scarecrows in a X formation.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Troy Vincent-BUF Patrick Peterson-ARI
Pro Aaron Glenn-HOU Tim Jennings-CHI
All-Pro Champ Bailey-DEN Richard Sherman-SEA
All-Madden Patrick Surtain-MIA Darrelle Revis-NYJ

This one is the most difficult to put together because defensive backs are the hardest players to gauge worth from. They're like offensive lineman with regard to the fact that their play is usually only mentioned if they are getting burnt on deep passes or are missing tackle after tackle. If the player is doing his job, he shouldn't even be thrown at and will have only have a few chances to make plays on the ball. There's not many stats to measure their worth, other than numbers produced from game-charting and even then, the stats usually contradict film study. So there are around 10-15 guys who could be part of this list.  It all depends on personal preference and what emphasis you put on certain stats.

Just look at the Madden 2005 list.  They have four players who were known as great at the time, but most only know who 3/4 are. They even had Patrick Surtain as the best DB; he had a 96 rating in the game because of a seven interception season. 2004 would be his last in Miami and he would be out of the league in four years at the age of 32. You have no idea what to expect from defensive backs.

If turnovers are most important  to you, you would go with Jennings, Jarius Byrd and others.  If targets are most important, you would look at corners like Revis and Antione Winfield; those guys are rarely thrown at. Even though Revis tore his ACL last season, he's still the best at his craft.  Thanks to the glory of modern medicine, he should be able to produce at his 2011 levels. Even though I left Cushing off his list because of his injury, he's not the unanimous best player at his position.  Revis is, and there was an entire stable of linebackers who had incredible seasons last year to pick from.

Trench Fight

This drill is set up by having a defensive lineman go through a gauntlet of single, double and triple teams as you rip, swim, and spin your way past them. There's a flag hidden behind each obstacle masquerading as an offensive lineman.  After you grab the flag, you head to the next group until all are collected. The game records the time it takes for you to collect all the flags and the "trophy" you receive is based on that. There are no points in this one, folks. The whole thing is a mess as you run from point A to point B while spamming rip moves unskillfully.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Ndukwe Kalu-PHI Aldon Smith-SF
Pro John Abraham-NYJ Ndamukong Suh-DET
All-Pro Simeon Rice-TB Geno Atkins-CIN
All-Madden Mike Rucker-CAR J.J Watt-HOU

Ahhh, that old Bucs defense with Rice, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks was wild. I still can't believe John Abraham is not only playing, but performing at the high level he has as a situational pass rusher; he even had ten sacks last season. Rucker had 12 sacks and 48 tackles for the Super Bowl losing Panthers in the 2003-2004 season and ate up blocks for Dan Morgan to wreak havoc behind.

The 2013 group is comprised of the best guys who play with their hands down.  All are 26 years old or younger. Atkins, Smith and Watt were part of the top six in sacks of the league; combined, they had 52.5 sacks. Suh only had 8, but he knocked the QB down 23 times and had 27.5 hurries according to the Football Outsiders Almanac. I would have put Von Miller on this list, but he plays standing up.  He's not going to beat double and triple teams in this imaginary drill. J.J Watt was the Defensive Player of the Year and submitted the greatest statistical season for a defensive lineman in the history of the game, but I believe being named as the All-Madden Minicamp Trench Fight Player is his finest achievement yet.

Clutch Kicking

Kickers are people, too.  They have to be accounted for as well. You have one minute to kick as many field goals as possible, but the twist is that the area in between the goal posts is divided up into five different sections like a pie chart and your points vary on your accuracy. There's red right (right in the center), orange (two sections hugging the green) and yellow (in between the inside of the upright and the orange). When the drill increases in difficulty, you are forced to kick from farther away and the PGA Golf '98 style meter whirls by at a faster rate.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Jason Hanson-DET Dan Bailey-DAL
All-Pro Olindo Mare-MIA Phil Dawson-SF
All-Pro Sebastian Janikowski-OAK Blair Walsh-MIN
All-Madden David Akers-PHI Sebastian Janikowski-OAK

Yes, that is the same Jason Hanson who was in the league for 21 years and was still the kicker for the Lions eight years later. Walsh was the best kicker in the league last season, making four more field goals than every other kicker and still making 92.1% of his kicks. Janikowski was just a little worse, making 31 and having a FG% of 91.2, but he gets the nod because of his longevity. Dan Bailey has been the most accurate kicker of all time, but has only kicked for two seasons. Phil Dawson tied him in accuracy last season and has been kicking FGs for the Browns for 59% of my lifetime. I would trust any four of these guys to not only kick a game winning field goal for me, but knock down six to seven field goals right down the middle in only a minute.

Coffin Corner Punt

Punters have the most difficult of all the imaginary drills I have listed. The game gives you six punts and you aim for that luscious gap where the sideline and pylon meet. A sextant is drawn from the corner of the end zone to the twenty yard line and is separated into red, orange, and yellow sections. The goal is simply to kick as many punts as possible to the corner without the ball entering the end zone.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Derrick Frost-CLE Adam Podlesh-CHI
Pro Mitch Berger-NO Andy Lee-SF
All-Pro Chris Hanson-JAX Dave Zastudil-ARI
All-Madden Scott Player-ARI Dustin Colquitt-KC

When researching these past players, the most confusing of the bunch was the infamous Browns punter, Derrick Frost. In the game, he is a 67 overall, so I sat scratching my head wondering why they would pick him for their list of punters.  I thought the Peter Boulware pick was controversial. He did not punt one game in 2003, yet the game claims he was a pro for one year and played for a team in 2002. His career lasted five years, as he bounced around from Cleveland to Washington to Green Bay, where he was cut and left to play in the USFL with the California Redwoods. A player so forgotten that his Google image search shows the actor Michael Arden; he played the character Derek Frost in the movie "Source Code."  Coincidentally, the movie is about Jake Gyllenhaal taking over someone else's body to prevent a train from blowing up. This entire episode is an enormous glitch in the matrix and has resulted in me questioning every aspect of reality as I have grown to know it. Why did EA choose this unknown guy to associate with the best punters of 2004? A player who did not even record a punt in 2003 and does not even have a real Google picture? I demand answers, EA.  I demand it.

Derrick Frost aside, the punters picked were chosen because of their ability to pin the ball inside of the opponent's 20 yard line. All of the players' chosen were in the top five in punts downed inside the twenty yard line. The leader last year was Zastudil, but he downed punts inside the twenty at a rate of 41%, which was inferior to Colquitt's rate of 54%. This was a result of the Cardinals punting the ball 112 times last season, 21 times more than the Jaguars. This is reason #1,258,987 why everyone should give Larry Fitzgerald a hug if they see him.

Catch Ball

This one is not in the Madden minicamp, but is part of the offseason. The creators probably ran out of time and thought nobody would notice.  I noticed.  We all noticed. Even though this drill is not part of the official Madden minicamp, wide receivers should be accounted for. This drill is fairly simple.  A JUGS machine shoots the ball all over the field and a yellow circle marks where the ball is about to land. You maneuver the receiver from circle to circle and catch the passes thrown your way.  Bonus points are added when you make successive catches. The funny part about this drill/game is that no person has ever caught a diving catch in these older versions of Madden. The players just leap five yards like Superman speeding through the atmosphere, only to plummet to the ground like a drunk playing sand volleyball.  The All-Stars:

Level 2005 2013
Rookie Tony Gonzales-KC Wes Welker-DEN
Pro Marvin Harrison-IND Brandon Marshall-CHI
All-Pro Torry Holt-STL Andre Johnson-HOU
All-Madden Randy Moss-MIN Calvin Johnson-DET

Since it was not officially part of the mini camp, I will retroactively make the picks based off of the 2003 season. Randy Moss, Torry Holt, and Marvin Harrison were the greatest receivers of their generation. Each of them had more than 1,200 yards, 90+ receptions (Holt had 117), and 10 TDs (Moss had 17). Not only were they able to do it in 2003, but they put up numbers resembling their 2003 season year after year.

Even though Tony Gonzalez plays tight end, he is the greatest TE of all time and deserves the nod. Since becoming the full time starter in KC during his second year in the league in 1998, he has had at least 650 yards receiving, 59 catches, and has only missed two games. In his entire career, he has 1,242 receptions, 14,268 yards receiving, and has caught 103 TD passes, all of which is the highest for a TE and ranks 2nd only to Jerry Rice, 7th, and 6th in the history of the game, accordingly. In most cases, people can argue for hours and make cases for multiple players about who is the G.O.A.T at their position.  In the case of TE, there is no question. Tony Gonzales is the best TE to play the game.

All four of the players in the 2013 list were in the top ten in receiving yards and catches last season. They were all also the #1 target for their team and are the guys who their QB depends on to get their passing game going. You could make the case for Gronk over Welker, but since he spent the off season spent getting cut up like the Joker's mouth under anesthesia, no one really knows how he will perform this season. If I had to pick players to catch random footballs from a machine, these would be it.

Now that the ballots have been cast and the party is over, here's a list summarizing the picks and rankings the players fall under.

The Madden Minicamp All-Stars

Rookie Pro All-Pro All-Madden
Andrew Luck-IND Eli Manning-NYG Ben Roethlisberger-PIT Peyton Manning-DEN
Matt Ryan-ATL Drew Brees-NO Tom Brady-NE Aaron Rodgers-GB
Chad Greenway-MIN Jerod Mayo-NE Luke Kuechly-CAR Patrick Willis-SF
Jamaal Charles-KC Marshawn Lynch-SEA Arian Foster-HOU Adrian Peterson-MIN
Patrick Peterson-ARI Tim Jennings-CHI Richard Sherman-SEA Darrelle Revis-TB
Aldon Smith-SF Ndamukong Suh-DET Geno Atkins-CIN J.J Watt-HOU
Dan Bailey-DAL Phil Dawson-SF Blair Walsh-CIN Sebastian Janikowski-OAK
Adam Podlesh-CHI Andy Lee-SF Dave Zastudil-ARI Dustin Colquitt-KC
Wes Welker-DEN Brandon Marshall-CHI Andre Johnson-HOU Calvin Johnson-DET

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