For a Madden fan, the most important day of 2012 is the day of the iconic franchise's newest release. The second most important day is the announcement of the cover athlete. In past years the cover athlete announcement has spawned debate about whether or not the winner is deserving, who "should" have been selected, and of course whether or not the dreaded Madden curse will doom that player's season. Last year's cover athlete, Browns running back Peyton Hillis, missed six games due to injury and will likely NOT be with the team next year.
For the selection of the cover athlete last year, EA Sports created a 32-player bracket and let the fans decide who would grace the cover of Madden 12. It was such a popular decision, with over 13 million votes cast, that EA Sports has brought back the fan vote to determine the cover athlete for Madden 13. The field this year has been expanded to 64 candidates (2 players per team), and fans will have from March 7th to March 21st to vote for which player will represent each team in the field of 64.
Voters can go to the ESPN SportsNation facebook page to cast their vote.
Below I have a breakdown of all the players selected for the first round of the selection process and who I would vote for vs. who I believe the fans will vote for. Every voter will have their own way of deciding who to vote for, but I have a few guidelines that I follow when making my selection.
1. I don't want a two-time cover athlete
Drew Brees, Mike Vick, Larry Fitzgerald, Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu and Fitzgerald shared a cover on Madden 10, but for me, personally, the only person that should ever be allowed to be on the cover more than once is John Madden.
2. I'm not voting for a second-year player who didn't play all season or didn't have a great rookie season
Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert.
3. I'm not voting for someone who could be gone in free-agency
Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Lloyd, Robert Mathis.
Could all of these players return to their current team? Yes. But does anybody else remember when Brett Favre was on the cover of Madden 09 as a Packer, but started the season with the Jets?
Here is a breakdown of each division and team's selections…
My Picks: Johnson, Marshall, Revis, Gronkowski
Projected Fan Picks: Fitzpatrick, Bush, Revis, Gronkowski
Gronkowski is probably going to come out on top of this division.
My Picks: Green, Thomas, Suggs, Roethlisberger
Projected Fan Picks: Thomas, Haden, Rice, Polamalu
I'm surprised by the fact that who I would pick and who the fans might pick are this different. But there is still enough hatred for Big Ben to keep him out, voters will probably go quarterback over wide receiver (Dalton), and offense over defense (Thomas, Rice). As a Steeler fan, I don't want one of mine on the cover of Madden so I'm going to say Ray Rice emerges as the winner of the division.
My Picks: Freeney, Jones-Drew, Foster, Johnson
Projected Fan Picks: Freeney, Jones-Drew, Foster, Johnson
I think Arian Foster easily wins the votes in a VERY weak division.
My Picks: Miller, Gates, Johnson, Janikowski
Projected Fan Picks: Tebow, Rivers, Bowe, Janikowski
I would LOVE to see a kicker make it to the final 8. But let's be realistic, the fans will pick Tebow (even though Von Miller had a better season last year). And until he's out of the league, there's a group of fans who will vote him in every year.
My Picks: Ware, McCoy, Cruz, Orakpo
Projected Fan Picks: Ware, McCoy, Cruz, Orakpo
McCoy is the most deserving player to win the division, but don't be surprised if either of the two Giants players make a deep run at the cover.
My Picks: Cutler, Stafford, Rodgers, Allen
Projected Fan Picks: Cutler, Stafford, Rodgers, Harvin
This is by far the strongest division for candidates and at least two players will not make the field of 32 that could have had a chance to win the division, Rodgers is the most deserving though.
My Picks: Blount, Ryan, Newton, Graham
Projected Fan Picks: Freeman, Ryan, Newton, Brees
As I wrote above, I'm not voting for a previous cover athlete so I'm not picking Brees. But either Brees or Newton will win this division (probably Brees in a close vote).
My Picks: Willis, Peterson, Long, Lynch
Projected Fan Picks: Willis, Fitzgerald, Lloyd, Lynch
Fitzgerald has been on the cover and Lloyd may not return to St. Louis, either of the two 49ers players could win the division, but I believe Lynch will come out on top.
Check back with CraveOnline.com to see who makes the field of 32, who wins the final cover athlete vote and for all your other Madden 13 news, previews and reviews.