Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud named ‘Madden’ cover athlete candidate

Some of the best players in the NFL have graced the cover of the iconic football video game, “Madden.”

Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Rob Gronkowski, Drew Brees and Brett Favre are some of the biggest names to be featured. Bills quarterback Josh Allen earned the accolade in 2023 as the 10th different quarterback on the cover.

This year’s version could go in a few different directions. Allen, Mahomes and Jackson are probably out of the running given how recently they’ve been on the cover, which leaves a lot of star players on the table as possible options for the video game franchise.

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A Houston Texans player has never made the cover of “Madden.” Granted, the club has only been around since 2002, so there haven’t been too many “stars” who could have taken the mantle away from the NFL’s most recognizable faces.

But that could change in 2024. Houston is a team on the rise and has a couple of big stars who are potential candidates to make the cover for the first time in franchise history. The Texans will enshrine their first player into the Hall of Fame in wide receiver Andre Johnson. Why not add a “Madden” cover athlete, too?

C.J. Stroud named ‘Madden’ cover athlete candidate

NFL.com’s Bobby Kownack wrote that he thinks Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud is a candidate to be the game’s cover athlete this season. He cited Stroud’s ascension as a rookie as well, his position as a quarterback and the history of Offensive Rookies of the Year on the cover. 

Stroud’s NFL résumé obviously isn’t as lengthy as those of many other notable signal-callers yet to grace the cover, but the 22-year-old immediately catapulted himself into superstardom with a transcendent debut campaign. There’s also precedent for reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year winners receiving the honor, with Vince Young getting the nod in the summer of 2007 and Odell Beckham Jr. following suit in the summer of 2015. Stroud, who threw for 4,108 yards and 23 touchdowns (against just five interceptions), was arguably more prolific than both. He set the single-game rookie passing record (470 yards), led the league in passing yards per game (273.9) and had the best interception percentage (1.0) of any qualifying quarterback, reviving the Texans franchise with a division title and an emphatic playoff win. Plus, Year 2 could be even better, as Houston has set up Stroud to eviscerate all who oppose him after going all in on the offseason with bold moves like the trade for Pro Bowl WR Stefon Diggs.

The Texans are also one of the hottest teams in the NFL this season after Houston made a bevy of moves this offseason to surround Stroud with as many weapons on offense as possible and upgrades on defense. So if this came to pass, it would make a lot of sense for the game, the NFL and Stroud.

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Other ‘Madden’ candidates

Kownack’s other top candidates were 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey and Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson. The reasons are simple: A running back hasn’t made the cover since 2013, McCaffrey led the NFL in touchdowns this past season and Jefferson is one of the most dynamic play-makers in the NFL. 

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There are a few others that make sense as well if Stroud, McCaffrey or Jefferson don’t earn the cover. Here are some other potential cover athletes:

  • Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill
  • Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett
  • Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts
  • Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb
  • Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt
  • 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner
  • Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner

The ‘Madden Curse’

One of the biggest superstitions in sports fandom has to be the “Madden Curse.” The concern is that whoever graces the cover of the game will either get hurt the following season or have a bad year. According to our research, 15 of the 27 cover athletes since 1999 suffered injuries, although the curse seems to have been lifted over the past few years.

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Allen had a fine season in 2023 despite up-and-down moments from his team. Mahomes, Brady and Jackson were fine as well for their respective seasons. Gronkowski, Beckham Jr. and former Steelers receiver Antonio. Brown did endure injuries, though.

There are mixed results from the “curse,” so this looks more like a true superstition than anything else.

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