In a previous blog post, I examined the relationship between body composition and the overall Madden Rating used in the popular video game Madden NFL™. To arrive at the overall Madden Rating, there are 43 categories that each player is graded on. Some of these category values come from pro days as well as the NFL combine (i.e., speed, strength, etc.) while other category values (i.e., awareness, elusiveness, etc.) are determined from scouting reports. Some category values (i.e., block shedding, pursuit, etc.) are specific to a given position while other category values are used in all position ratings. Body composition could factor into some of the category values common to all positions, such as strength, speed, acceleration, and agility. These four categories make up 18-35% of the overall Madden Rating, depending on player position. Working with my colleague Dr. Joe Ostrem from Concordia University, we decided to explore the relationship between an athlete’s body composition and some of the individual category values used in the Madden NFL™ video game, specifically speed, strength, acceleration, and agility. Body composition data in NFL players was taken from a paper that I wrote in 2014 (Dengel et al., 2014).
In the initial blog post that examined the overall Madden Rating, we found there was no significant difference among the different player positions and the overall Madden Rating. In regards to body composition, we also found that in the total group there were no significant relationships between any measures of body composition (i.e., total lean mass, fat mass, and body mass) and the overall Madden Rating. In this blog post, we will examine the individual category values for strength, speed, acceleration, and agility among the different positions and whether these category values are related to body composition. Below is a table that contains the mean + standard deviation for body composition determined in 411 NFL players using dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) (Dengel et al., 2014). Of these 411 NFL players, we were able to determine the Madden Overall Score in 214 players. The individual category values for speed, strength, acceleration, and agility values for each player were retrieved from Madden NFL™ (Electronic Arts Inc., Redwood City, CA, USA) using the Microsoft™ platform (Xbox™ and Xbox 360™) (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA, USA). To be as accurate as possible we retrieved the closest performance values for each player from Madden NFL™ video game that corresponded to the date of that player’s body composition test. The mean + standard deviation for these values by position are also reported in the table below.
The mean strength score for all football players examined was 70.9±12.9. As expected, there were significant differences in strength between the various positions with offensive linemen and defensive linemen having the highest strength scores. Tight ends, linebackers, and running backs had the next highest values for strength. As expected, wide receivers and defensive backs had the lowest strength values. Strength values were positively related to total body mass (r=0.870, p<0.01), percent body fat (r=0.782, p<0.01), lean muscle mass (r=0.823, p<0.01) and fat mass (r=0.805, p<0.01). In other words, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your strength value. This makes a lot of sense, but an interesting observation was that greater fat mass and percent body fat was also related to a higher strength value. That may seem confusing, but it is important to remember that larger overall mass typically means more lean muscle mass as well as more fat mass.
The mean score for speed for all football players examined was 76.7±13.0. As expected, there were significant differences in speed with wide receivers (WR) and defensive backs (DB) having significantly higher speed scores than the other positions. Linebackers (LB), tight ends (TE), and running backs (RB) have moderate speed scores, and offensive (OL) and defensive (DL) linemen, as expected, have the lowest speed values. Unlike the overall Madden Rating, speed scores were significantly related to body composition. Speed was negatively related to total body mass (r=-0.895, p<0.01), percent body fat (r=-0.853, p<0.01), lean muscle mass (r=-0.782, p<0.01) and fat mass (r=-0.873, p<0.01). In other words, the lower the total body mass, percent fat, and fat mass the faster the individual. This makes sense given that the fastest individuals on a football team are usually wide receivers and defensive backs who are typically the smallest individuals, while the heaviest individuals on a football team are the offensive linemen and defensive linemen, who are often the slowest individuals on the team.
The mean acceleration score for all football players examined was 81.6±9.4. For acceleration wide receivers and defensive backs had the highest scores followed by running backs. Tight ends, linebackers, and running backs had similar acceleration scores. Defensive linemen were similar to tight ends while offensive linemen had the lowest acceleration scores. Similar to speed, acceleration values were negatively related to total body mass (r=-0.771, p<0.01), percent body fat (r=-0.729, p<0.01), lean muscle mass (r=-0.685, p<0.01) and fat mass (r=-0.744, p<0.01). This means the lower the total body weight, percent fat, and total fat mass the higher the acceleration score. The fact that lean muscle mass was also negatively related to the acceleration score should not be that surprising given that muscle is still weight that needs to be moved.
The mean agility score for all football players examined was 75.7±13.0. Defensive backs and wide receivers had the highest agility scores. Running backs were close to wide receivers in agility scores. Tight ends and linebackers followed running backs in agility scores with offensive linemen and defensive linemen having the lowest agility scores. The relationship of agility to body composition was similar to what we found for both speed and acceleration. Agility scores were negatively related to total body mass (r=-0.910, p<0.01), percent body fat (r=-0.860, p<0.01), lean muscle mass (r=-0.799, p<0.01) and fat mass (r=-0.855, p<0.01), meaning the lower the total body weight, percent fat and total fat mass the higher the agility score.
So what is the take-home message? First, it is important to remember that Madden NFL™ is a video game. Although real data are used to determine some of the category scores, it has been reported that players often complain to EA Sports™ about the inaccuracy of their rating and that adjustments to the scores are sometimes made (Hruby, 2010). Keeping that in mind, the Madden Individual Ratings for speed, strength, agility, and acceleration scores were related to body composition. This is much different than what we found regarding the overall Madden Rating, where there was no relationship between body composition and the overall Madden Rating. However, this is plausible since each position has 18-35% of the overall Madden Rating determined by speed, strength, agility, and acceleration. What we do observe is the bigger the football player, the stronger they were, and the smaller the player, the quicker, faster, and more agile the player was. This definitely falls in line with what we see in football players in the NFL. In other words, there is some reality built into the Madden NFL™ that may explain its popularity not only among fans but also the players themselves.
Dengel DR, Bosch TA, Burruss TP, Fielding KA, Engel BE, Weir NL, Weston TD: Body composition of National Football League players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2014;28(1):1-6.
Hruby P. (2010-08-05). "The Franchise”. ESPN. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
About the Authors: Joe Ostrem, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Sciences at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota. Don Dengel, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.