Keeping It Real With EA Sports: Michigan's ten best players

USA TODAY Sports

EA Sports has released NCAA Football '14, and it promises to be the most realistic and improved edition of the game in quite some time. Will Michigan's ten highest-rated virtual players live up to the billing?

It's Tuesday, and I can't wait for Friday. I'll be cramming for a financial engineering exam between now and Friday, and I'll have a fresh copy of the game waiting for me when I get home following the exam. Drinks will be had, games against my friends will be played, and the promised realism of this new game will finally be on display for me to see in person.

Part of the anticipation lies within player ratings. Fans across the country obsess over their team's ratings, but even more interesting are the ratings of each individual players on each roster. Remember when Michael Hart and Chad Henne returned after a promising freshman campaign together? I was irate when EA left both players below the 90 overall mark, but I wasn't aware of that being an outstanding rating for such young skill players.

Here's my take on the ratings of Michigan's ten best players, according to EA Sports.

#1: Taylor Lewan, 96

It would be hard to mess this one up. Lewan is easily one of the best tackle prospects in the entire country, if not the very best. He's extremely long, carries very little fat for someone his size, and he held the best defensive prospect of his generation in check for the vast majority of the Outback Bowl. He's a holy lock to be a top-ten NFL draft pick, so he's rated accordingly.

#2: Jeremy Gallon, 90

The battle for second was a close one, and EA decided to go with former slot receiver Jeremy Gallon. His overall rating is lofty but realistic: Gallon did major work against a legitimate SEC opponent and would have torn the Big Ten up if he had a legitimate threat opposite him. His numbers will all rise this fall, making him a second team All-Big Ten selection at worst.

#3: Devin Gardner, 89

This must have been the toughest rating to come up with, as Gardner is a raw signal caller with an elite ceiling. I think the rating is good for now, but Gardner should outplay it and end as one of the top seven quarterbacks in the country by season's end, making him a mid-90s kind of player. He played extremely well at the end of last season for a player who bounced from receiver to quarterback, eventually running a pieced-together offense at a fairly high level.

#4: Jake Ryan, 89

This is by far the most puzzling rating. Is EA Sports knocking Ryan down a peg because of injury? If not, the people responsible for the ratings were just plain wrong. Ryan recorded 88 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 3 pass break-ups and 4 forced fumbles in 2012, making him one of the most disruptive players in the Big Ten. He's explosive and long yet weighs 240 pounds, making him a terror against the run and a threat to get to the quarterback. He deserves to be in the low 90s, especially considering that Brennan Beyer somehow ended up one point short of Ryan.

#5: Matt Wile, 88

This rating is also a bit perplexing. Why would a specialist who only struck the ball fifteen times in 2012 get a rating higher than all but four of Michigan's players? And why is he ranked ahead of a proven, cold-blooded kicker in Brendan Gibbons? Don't get me wrong, the fact that Michigan has two legitimate specialists is just another positive piece of proof that this team is on its way back, but this rating doesn't make much sense. Wile should be in the mid to low 80s.

#6: Brennen Beyer, 88

This is the third straight questionable rating. Beyer is a player who hasn't been able to lock down a job, and he contributes very little in the pass rush. He'll need to add quite a few moves to his rush and dominate the discussion at weak side defensive end in order to live up to this fairly lofty rating, which is only a single point behind the rating of Jake Ryan. Oh, and he might not even play at that position for another year.

#7: Brendan Gibbons, 88

Gibbons' rating ends the abysmal streak of ratings. He was great in 2012, making all but two of his eighteen field goal attempts, and even those two tries were past the forty-yard mark. The rating is right where it should be: Gibbons lacks elite leg strength, but he'll still be one of the nation's most reliable kickers.

#8: Thomas Gordon, 88

Gordon's rating puts EA Sports above the .500 mark in the ratings department. He isn't a very rangy safety and lacks elite deep speed, but he's awesome in the box and will be the field general of a relatively young defensive backfield. He'll need to contribute a bit more in the passing game to warrant a rating just below 90, but I fully expect him to do that.

#9: Raymon Taylor, 87

This rating could spark a debate amongst Wolverines, but I totally agree with it. Taylor played well for the better part of 2012, especially considering that he wasn't even expected to start and got thrown into the fire midway through the Alabama contest. His zone coverage should improve, and Michigan's [hopefully] new-found ability to rush the passer should benefit him as well. Blake Countess isn't in this spot because his apparent greatness was all based off of spring hype that never came to fruition, so don't go crying about it.

#10: Desmond Morgan, 87

It's hard for me to agree with this rating, but I'm sure others will disagree with me. Morgan isn't a very good athlete and he lacks the length needed to keep blockers off of his body, making him a liability on the edge and in the passing game. I remember him most for his tendency to over pursue and break his ankles, forcing me to believe that this rating is a touch too high.

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EA Sports' view of Michigan's roster is a bit off. I think it's a shame that right tackle Michael Schofield and nose tackle Quinton Washington were left out of the top ten, and players like James Ross, Frank Clark and Devin Funchess could all make arguments to be on it. The team's overall unit ratings look more realistic than the ratings of Michigan's top ten players.

What do you think? Who would make up your top ten list? Discuss.

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