Antonio Brown is the latest NFL superstar to grace the cover of EA Sports’ "Madden." Truly one of the highest honors a current player can achieve. You are amongst the elite of the elite in NFL history if you make this esteemed fraternity. Think of the names: Tom Brady. Ray Lewis. Peyton Hillis. Wait, who? Oh, yeah: Clevelanders stuffed the ballot box in 2011 to get their one-year wonder of a running back on the cover. You know, it’s been a rough decade (or six) for the Browns fans. I’ll let that one slide.
But don’t let that take away from AB. One of the top receivers in the game. I would say the best to do it in the last 20 years. And yes, I saw Randy Moss play. Look, we’ve talked about this previously. We’re not going to rehash it now. But let’s just say it’s a great honor for Antonio Brown.
And it got me thinking: Who are some other superstars who could receive this honor next year? Here are five likely candidates to front "Madden 20":
1) Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles is the place to be for sports. We have the best player in Major League Baseball, Mike Trout. We have LeBron James. And we have the best running back in the NFL. (Don’t @ me.) Gurley is coming off a season where he posted 2,093 all-purpose yards and scored 19 total touchdowns — both tops in the NFL. He’s just getting started in Sean McVay’s offense. And with those Hollywood connections, I have Gurley as the early favorite for next season.
2) Deshaun Watson, QB & DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
A combo cover isn’t without precedent. Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald shared the spotlight for "Madden 10." But this would be the first time a pair of teammates graced a cover. And I can’t think of a better tandem right now. In just seven games, Watson threw for 1,699 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. In Watson’s last five starts, he connected with Hopkins on a whopping seven scores. There is a lot of excitement for the Texans this season, but the haters doubt Watson will be able to return and duplicate his success. I’m not one of those people.
3) Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Ramsey sauntered into EverBank Field after the Jaguars‘ (don’t call it an upset) win over the Steelers in the Divisional Round in January and told the raucous crowd to bring it because they were going to go to the Super Bowl and win that [female dog]. And in doing so, he instantly became one of my favorite players. Like when Rocky Maivia became "The Rock" on August 8, 1997. Of course, the Rock was being jeered by the WWE crowd that night, while Ramsey was lauded with the admiration from the fans in Duval County, Florida. But I think you get the point.
4) Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Kamara was a legit superstar during his rookie season with the Saints. Some are expecting a downfall. Comparing him to Gurley, who himself struggled in Year 2, I’m thinking the same thing can happen here. But wait … (Checks notes.) Nope, Jeff Fisher was not hired by the Saints during the offseason! So, I will instead place my faith in one of the best offensive play callers on the planet getting the most out of Kamara this season. Besides, I’ve already petitioned to get him in the 99 Club.
5) Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but … Jimmy G has never lost an NFL game he’s started. If you just look at the numbers and the trends, you could make a case for him going 16-0 this season. It would be foolish, but you could do it. I do, however, believe Garoppolo will thrive under Kyle Shanahan and put up the numbers to put his name in the conversation. I mean, he’s already growing in popularity. In fact, he’s selling more merch than Le’Veon Bell.
Follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.