The Top Ten Football Players In Video Game History

By James Hawkins in Lists!
Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 11:00 am
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Please, don't be mistaken... we're talking about pigskin football here. We're talking about actual, honest-to-goodness carry-that-oblong, wear-a-helmet football. Are you ready for some football, football. Full pads, not shin guards, football. And just in time for exhibition play to start.

These players are the ten most dominant players to grace a rendered gridiron. They are sometimes criminally overpowered, while other times, they are simply motored by their real-life on-field acumen and real athletic ability. Let's delve in, shall we, to these players that made torching our friends easy. And the unfair advantage. Enjoy.
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10. Terrell Owens
Philadelphia Eagles - ESPN 2K5
As the primary wideout for the Super Bowl bound Philly Eagles, Terrell Owens was a showboating, wildly acrobatic athlete. He hauled in passes from QB (and commensurate badass) Donovan McNabb, tallying eye-popping numbers and making defensive backs miserable with his height and speed.

The Terrell Owens inside ESPN 2K5 was equally stellar. He boasted the game's highest player rating, and could always be found either in the endzone, or heading full tilt that way. For opposing defenses, he was a constant mismatch and bought a blinding quickness that always made him a step ahead.

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9. Marshall Faulk
St Louis Rams - Madden 2003
The Greatest Show on Turf, led by Faulk, hit St Louis in 1999 and never looked back. The lightning-quick running back posted video game numbers, and laid the foundation for one of the NFL's most prolific offenses of all time. Basically, the guy could motor an offense.

In the game, his speed rating was a notch or two shy of 100, and he was nearly impossible to tackle. With soft hands, he could play effectively in the flats, as well as burn defenders on wheel routes. The Madden Curse struck his ankle a year after he headlined Madden 2003, but his in-game persona definitely could no be slowed down.

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8. Devin Hester
Chicago Bears - Madden 2008
Devin Hester is well known as one of the most dangerous return men in the history of professional football. He's blazingly fast, lithe, and accelerates unlike any other special teamsmen in sports. And, additionally, he could be utilized as a decent wide receiver, using his speed to breeze by unwitting defenses.

But that guy made for some unbalanced games, without a doubt. He wasn't an every-down player, like a Marshall Faulk or a Peyton Manning, but he was so much more dominant than anyone else at his position. Even if he didn't take a punt to the house, he was always reliable to set up awesome field position, and keep opposing defenses backed up against those proverbial ropes.

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7. #28 (Adrian Peterson)
Oklahoma Sooners - NCAA Football 2006
Recently, Adrian Peterson has been the NFL halfback. He's fast, powerful, elusive, and can catch the ball with great ease. He's a dream for quarterbacks to rely on, and is an immediate game changer when deployed onto the field. And he's been exactly that way since his college days.

Peterson is a great player in NCAA Football 2006. His speed, elusiveness, and overall ratings are in the mid-90s, and opposing defenses can't stop him as he jukes this way and that to get to the endzone. Typically games as recent as 2005 don't have these overpowered types. But Peterson isn't typical.


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​6. Brian Dawkins
Philadelphia Eagles - ESPN 2K5
Probably the player best suited to cover Terrell Owens in ESPN 2K5 is Brian Dawkins. But, being as they're both on the Eagles, teams playing the Eagles have very little chance of success on either side of the ball.

He's a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame, and one of the most athletic and instinctive defensive backs of all time. In the game, he's quick and agile, able to provide necessary run support and keep in line with wide receivers. And he'll practically induce snapping your controller in half, because he's able to pluck the ball out of the air with very little effort.

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Singletary bonus.
5. Barry Sanders
Detroit Lions - Madden 1998
Barry Sanders is an absolute NFL great -- a total legend that sits along with Unitas and Simpson and Smith and Montana. He's one of the most elusive runners ever and a monstrously prolific yard-gainer. So his play in Madden 1998 mimicked just that -- he practically dominated every single snap. 

It was the end of his career, and he went out with a total bang. Sanders was unarguably the best player in the '90s Madden games and a delight to fans of the Detroit Lions. We don't see running backs get the same kind of abilities in football games any more, but there aren't running backs like Barry Sanders.

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4. Peyton Manning
Indianapolis Colts - Every Madden
It is hard to compare Peyton Manning to any other quarterback in the Madden franchise. In reality, he's comparable to Tom Brady, and head and shoulders above everyone else. He's the playcaller -- the field general that can call the right plays and make the right passes. And he's exactly that in Madden.

Year in and year out, he's given the "99" player rating, which makes him an unthinkably accurate passer. He can pick apart opposing defenses with ease, and thread passes through double or triple coverage with ease. A little more dynamic than in real life, but frankly, not really.

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3. Michael Vick
Atlanta Falcons - Madden 2004
It had been many years since a player was featured in a video game and "broke" it. That was definitely a product of the 1980s, maybe even as late as the early 1990s, and one that was quickly fixed as technology began to handle realistic sports games. But Michael Vick destroyed any sense of balance that Madden had built in a single, ankle-breaking swoop.

Vick was impossible to get a hold of. His speed rating was 95 -- considerably higher than even elite running backs -- and he could heave a floater 80 yards in a scramble, or tag a route-runner with a frozen rope in a two or quick three step drop. Hope was just about the only thing that could contain him.

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2. Lawrence Taylor
New York Giants - Tecmo Bowl
It is rare that a defensive player can make such a definite impact on a game, but Tecmo Bowl produced Lawrence Taylor, one of the most overpowered, unstoppable players to ever grace a video game screen. He was a dynamo, able to propel his Giants team to one of the top squads in the game.

He was the king of the sacks, easily picking up 7 or 8 sacks in a game and forcing people into mistakes. Opposing quarterbacks couldn't get away from him, and runningbacks would be stopped short on almost every down. His ferociousness was obviously inspired by his real life skills, but blown hugely out of proportion. 

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1. Bo Jackson
Oakland Raiders - Tecmo Bowl
I should've amended that last entry -- the part about the runningbacks. Lawrence Taylor could stop all running backs except for one: Bo Jackson. The guy could run for about 400 yards in a single carry -- weaving back and forth, circling defenders, and being a general pain in the ass for anyone who wanted to have a legitimate game.

In real life, Bo posted the fasted clocked 40 yard dash time in NFL combine history -- 4.12 seconds. He was a blur on the field, and posted a remarkable career. But he wasn't anywhere close to as good as his video game doppelganger might suggestt -- in fact, no one in history or the future was, will, or could be as great as that. Hands down.


Follow James on Twitter @JamesHawk1ns.
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