Hah! You thought it was dead, didn’t you? Admit it. I refuse to let it die. That’s how hard core I am.
However, this will be a short piece, because, with one absolutely glaring exception, there are plenty of talented offensive linemen. I’ll leave it to Kevin to comment on whether his old “two linemen for every position” approach still works (one for pass blocking and one for run blocking). I’ll just go over the positions, give some tips on how to get them, and then call it a post.
The book Blind Side (which is excellent; the movie was a B+ sports movie, but lacked some of the charm of the book) notes that, since LT was terrorizing QBs in the 80s, LTs (see what I did there?) have become the second most important position in football, after QB. I’m here to tell you that’s total BS.
They’re way more important than any QB.
Here’s the sad truth in Madden. There is one, and only one, good A-level LT in a draft, at absolute maximum. Oh sure, there are some tricky ones, like 60 rated As, that will never get that high. And it isn’t like B-rated tackles can’t be good; they can.
But the super elite LT (high strength, decent speed, great blocker) is the single rarest player in all of Madden. As in, don’t count on getting lucky and nabbing one of out of the top 5. Of course, since the AI never trades up, you can either torpedo your season on purpose or stockpile picks. That’s pretty much the only way to get one.
What’s the big deal? Well, LTs protect most QB blindsides, except for left-handed throwers like Michael Vick and Matt Leinart (are there any others in the NFL right now?). And the difference between the merely good and the elite can be a sack a game.
But let’s say you can’t get that super awesome LT. What should you prize?
That’s easy. Technique, then speed, then strength. See, the LT will, 90% of the time, face a team’s best pass rusher, and most truly elite pass rushers are based on speed or technique. Thus, if you get in their way, you can negate most of that. That’s really what the LT is for. In previous Maddens, it was actually possible to pancake pass rushers. Since that’s no longer the case, you’re just looking to buy time, and speed and technique are more important for that than strength.
The difference is pretty slight, although RGs will jump a point or two if you put them at LG (but weirdly, it’s LTs that jump up compared to RTs). Guards have two functions: run blocking and supporting the center. If you have a tremendous center (I’ll get to that in a minute), they can focus entirely on the first task. Strength matters in either case. They normally aren’t stopping pass rushers; they’re trying to unclog the center of the line so your power back can get a few yards. Failing that, they almost always act as pull blockers on sweeps, counters, and other outside runs. So what do we prize here?
Strength>Technique>Speed. Almost the exact opposite of tackles. You’ll have very little problem finding quality guards, even quite late, if you scout for impact blocking in in-season scouting, and you’ll probably get two of the three without too much trouble. Fast guards (60 speed +) are a little harder to find, and to be truthful aren’t totally necessary. Even the most outside run oriented team doesn’t use pull blocking on every play.
Centers have an unpleasant job. They have to stop nose tackles. Now, most NFL teams don’t make their centers handle DTs on their own. There’s nothing stopping you, though, and the better your center is, the less work your guards have to do.
Unlike LTs, the very best centers are rarely 1st rounders. It’s all about scouting. Again, impact blocking is where you start, but the key stat is strength. The stronger a center, the better he’ll do against the nose tackle. Technique is nice; speed is almost useless. Strength is the key.
Honestly, most of my right tackles are failed LTs. They’ll also be picking up pass rushers, but for the most part the lesser of the two rushers. Since it usually isn’t the blind side, you’ll usually see them coming, so you can avoid them or just throw a little quicker to avoid a blitz. A good center will also let the guards help out in this area too, and since right guards tend to be better than left ones, you have a little more support here naturally. Technique is your focus here too, like with LTs, but strength is a little more important than speed. You could be facing linebackers, and most tackles can occasionally pancake linebackers.
That’s it for this installment. We’ll do DEs, Linebackers, DBs, and Special Teams in the last four installments. See you then!