The circumstances may be different, but the hype has built once more for this year’s instalment of the Madden series.
Less than a month from the official release, the jigsaw of features and other details are coming together, as players plan their assault through the game’s various modes.
As we wait for both the current-gen and the next-gen release of Madden 21, what better way to whet the appetite than to take a closer look at the game’s elite weapons: the five members of the 99 Club.
Aaron Donald is the sole 99 OVR survivor from the original Madden 20 ratings, though the overall group grows from four to five in this year’s edition, in a 3-2 split between offense and defense.
Patrick Mahomes (99 OVR)
- Age: 24
- Development Trait: Superstar X Factor – Bazooka
- Contract: $45m per year, 10 years remaining
- 2020 Cap Hit: $5.3m
- Best Stats: 97 Awareness, 97 Throw Power, 97 Throw Under Pressure, 97 Short Accuracy, 97 Throw on the Run, 96 Play Action, 96 Stamina, 96 Toughness
There’s little surprise of Mahomes’ inclusion, starting with a 99 rating this year after finishing at the summit when the final Madden 20 Future Stars update dropped.
A dislocated kneecap and the dreaded ‘Madden Curse’ could not stop the Kansas City Chiefs shot-caller, who finished the season with the Lombardi Trophy and the Super Bowl MVP crown.
Whether you’re a pocket passer or you like to move around through bootlegs and scrambles, Mahomes is a dream with power and accuracy even off-balance or on the run.
For all of his 90-plus ratings in his quarterback play, his mid-80s numbers in attributes regarding his feet mean that he can escape danger and move the chains on the ground too.
Mahomes in the zone will unlock the Bazooka ability, meaning that he can muster up an extra fifteen yards through the air.
For a man who can throw a football 65 yards on his knees, this is apt. Combined with a deep Tyreek Hill route, Chiefs deep bombs are on.
There’s been a changing of the guard at the quarterback position, and as the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers slide, the 24-year-old Mahomes and Madden 21 cover star Lamar Jackson ascend.
However, with what can only be described as a baseball contract, if you’re running one of the other 31 teams in Franchise Mode, good luck acquiring him and keeping your finances in check.
Christian McCaffrey (99 OVR)
- Age: 24
- Development Trait: Superstar X Factor – Ankle Breaker
- Contract: $16m per year, four years remaining
- 2020 Cap Hit: $7.7m
- Best Stats: 98 Carrying, 98 Stamina, 97 Agility, 97 Awareness, 96 Toughness, 96 Injury, 96 Change of Direction, 96 Ball Carry Vision, 96 Juke Move, 92 Speed
Finishing as a 99-rated running back in the final update of Madden 20, McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers maintains his status to open as a 99 for Madden 21 out of the box.
For the last 99-rated player in his position on release day, you need to go back seven years when Adrian Peterson fronted Madden 25.
Third in rushing yards last season (1387), McCaffrey was the only running back to finish with over a thousand receiving yards and will be a vital asset with Teddy Bridgewater under center this year for the Carolina Panthers.
Equipped with the new Ankle Breaker Superstar X Factor – giving him increased fakeout ability after the catch – McCaffrey is a handful on the ground and offers another dimension in the passing game.
The dead leg and side hurdle moves through this year’s new skill-stick control are sure to get a workout, and should lead you to glory, assuming you can keep up while controlling him.
Now the highest-paid player in his position, you’ll need to move the earth to acquire him in Franchise modes, though at 24-years-old and with his best years likely still in front of him, feel free to keep pestering the Panthers organization.
Michael Thomas (99 OVR)
- Age: 27
- Development Trait: Superstar X Factor – Max Security
- Contract: $19.25m per year, five years remaining
- 2019 Cap Hit: $7m
- Best Stats: 99 Awareness, 99 Catch, 99 Stamina, 99 Toughness, 99 Short Route Running, 98 Spectacular Catch, 98 Catch in Traffic, 98 Medium Route Running, 98 Release, 94 Jump
Thomas finished miles clear as the leading receiver in last year’s NFL season (1725 yards), with numbers that even some of the game’s greatest wideouts could only dream of achieving.
Peppered with comfortably the most targets to pump those numbers, the trust from Drew Brees at the Saints is a testament to Thomas’ dependability.
Not only blessed with a safe pair of hands, Thomas’ elite athletic and route-running ability is topped off by a physique that’s almost closer to that of a tight end, which creates a mismatch against everyone on defense.
Unflappable in traffic, defenses will need multiple plans to defend Thomas, who can go up and reach balls that no one else on the field can.
In the zone, Thomas has the Max Security Superstar ability, boosting the likelihood of completing contested possession catches while decreasing knockouts while attempting possession catches.
Thomas should go a head above the rest again this year, in both a literal and figurative sense, though at 29-years-old, it’s worth noting that your best years with him in a Franchise mode set-up are almost sure to be at the front end.
The man known as @Cantguardmike on Twitter certainly lives up to that moniker on the field, and he provides both a safety blanket and the potential to fill a highlight reel by himself.
Aaron Donald (99 OVR)
- Age: 29
- Development Trait: Superstar X factor – Blitz
- Contract: $22.5m per year, five years remaining
- 2019 Cap Hit: $25m
- Best Stats: 99 Strength, 99 Awareness, 99 Power Move, 99 Play recognition, 98 Injury, 98 Pursuit, 97 Finesse Move, 97 Block Shedding, 93 Impact Block
It was always going to be a tall order to match his 20.5 sacks in the 2018 season, though even after a downturn in 2019, Aaron Donald enjoys a 99 OVR rating for the fourth consecutive Madden season.
Beating JJ Watt (98 OVR) as the highest-rated defensive lineman this year, Donald ticks all the boxes on the field and between the ears, able to swim past or power over anyone between him and the quarterback.
If that wasn’t enough, Donald’s 98 injury rating, after missing just two games in a six-season career, makes him as safe a bet one can be in the trenches.
Donald’s Blitz Superstar X Factor ability brings something different in Madden 21 in that once he meets the criteria, the resistance bars of opposing linemen will be wiped.
We’re not too sure exactly how that will play out until we get a bit more hands-on with this year’s game, though it’s fair to assume that Donald will once again stifle opposing offense.
Just get ready to jam with the new skill-stick controls on defense to out-maneuver the opposition.
Stephon Gilmore (99 OVR)
- Age: 29
- Development Trait: Superstar X Factor – Shutdown
- Contract: $13m per year, two years remaining
- 2019 Cap Hit: $18.67m
- Best Stats: 99 Press, 99 Awareness, 99 Man Coverage, 98 Play Recognition, 97 Zone Coverage, 95 Change of Direction, 94 Acceleration, 92 Speed
Even after being crowned Defensive Player of the Year last season, there were a few gasps of surprise when Gilmore was announced as a member of the 99 Club.
Not only that, but the New England Patriots also streaked away as the only player at cornerback with a 99 OVR rating, comfortably ahead of Jalen Ramsey (94 OVR). Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith, with a 96 rating, is the closest to Gilmore in the secondary.
Opposing quarterbacks factored in his presence last year, though it didn’t stop Gilmore from helping himself to six interceptions, of which two were taken all the way back.
Gilmore was the only player with 20 passes defended over the 16 regular season games last year, with his 98-rated play recognition, 95 change of direction, and 94 acceleration underlining his web of influence.
Unrivalled when pressing and with 99 awareness, Gilmore’s Shutdown ability will keep things watertight, and interceptions are sure to be more frequent in contested situations.
Even if you control a lineman or linebacker on defense, the ball-hawking capabilities of Gilmore after a quick switch will be deadly, and a couple of favorable blocks the other way could see him sprint away into the sunset – that’s if the offense dares to take him on in the first place.
All Madden 21 players with a 99 overall rating
|Name||Age||Team||OVR||Development rating||Contract||2019 Cap Hit|
|Patrick Mahomes||24||Kansas City Chiefs||99||Superstar X Factor||$45m py/10yr||$5.3m|
|Christian McCaffrey||24||Carolina Panthers||99||Superstar X Factor||$16m/4yr||$7.7m|
|Michael Thomas||27||New Orleans Saints||99||Superstar X Factor||$19.25m py/5yr||$7m|
|Aaron Donald||29||Los Angeles Rams||99||Superstar X Factor||$22.5m py/5yr||$25m|
|Stephon Gilmore||29||New England Patriots||99||Superstar X Factor||$13m py/2yr||$18.67m|
Looking for Madden 21 guides?
Subscribe to our newsletter for all the latest gaming deals and exclusive offers.