Drafting Your Team's Identity In Madden NFL 17

Madden NFL 17's franchise mode is deep and addicting, but what are the best strategies to drafting a Super Bowl contender?

Madden NFL 17 may realistically be the best sports game of 2016. Between a deep franchise mode, improvements to career mode and Draft Champions, and a better-than-average soundtrack, this is arguably EA Sports' best football game since the PS2 era.

With the holiday break coming up, plenty of Madden players are going to try getting into the franchise mode -- especially those who have been waiting months to get their hands on the game. Taking a team from nothing and turning them into a champion is what makes sports games the way they are, especially in a sport like football where mistakes cannot happen.

To build a Super Bowl contender, you need guts, glory, and excellent drafting. Don't let the pundits and talking heads fool you into thinking that free agents and schemes are all that make a team; you need good, young players that you can develop and turn into workable players -- not always stars, but guys you can work with and turn into playmakers.

Today, let's look at five simple tips for drafting in Madden NFL 17 that will turn even the Cleveland Browns into a long-running dynasty. I'll be using some shots from my New York Jets dynasty to explain the process, which worked infinitely better through three years than the Philadelphia 76ers'.

1. Scout

I'll admit, I used to hate scouting. In the super old days of PlayStation 2 Madden, I had no problem scouting, but once the series went next-gen (for back then)... I don't know what happened. Honestly, I would say that it wasn't until Madden NFL 12 or so that I really started to get back into the scouting aspect in franchise mode.

Which, looking back, was a big mistake because scouting is actually fun in a weird way. We still don't get to do things like the East-West Shrine Game, NFL Combine, or draft interviews, but the intrigue of scouting and looking for that hit-or-miss product is still there.

So yes, you need to scout. Even if you decide to sim your first year completely, I would still take the time out each week to get some scouting in after.

2. Identify your needs

Why is identifying your needs after scouting, you ask? You probably think I'm crazy, but just hear me out here. I promise this makes some degree of sense.

In real life, the New York Jets and tight ends go about as well as Paul Finebaum making sense (seriously, the guy pointed to Lane Kiffin taking a job at FAU as bad because of their attendance) during one of his ESPN interviews. That's why I moved Quincy Enunwa, normally a solid wide receiver in real life, to the tight end position at the start of my franchise.

The truth is, I needed a tight end that could at least hold the fort down on a cheap contract while I did some scouting and research for who I could land for the 2017 season. Enunwa, though, surprised everyone by catching 73 balls for 880 yards and 8 touchdowns despite Ryan Fitzpatrick starting at quarterback for the Jets, so I crossed off tight end as a 'NEED' for the draft.

The offensive line and outside linebacker positions, however, needed some major help in the draft. In fact, outside linebacker was originally below tight ends on my list, but the development of Enunwa meant I could go for a linebacker in the middle rounds.

Thankfully, that paid off in the fourth round of my first draft as I landed with Stephen Flynn, a linebacker from Notre Dame. I fell in love with the kid's attributes and once hit the field... well, I'll let you see the stats for yourself.

Don't let those 2019 stats fool you: this kid has been my best defensive player since I drafted him. Even when he wasn't getting sacks for those two years, he was making plays, breaking up passes, even did some blocking on a couple of goal line sets when my backup tight end was hurt.

Now, imagine what would have happened if I did what I originally intended and went tight end in the fourth round? By identifying your needs throughout the season, you gain a better understanding not only of the upcoming draft, but of your team.

Think of it almost as like a poker game, a game where the secret is...

3. Know when to hold 'em...

When you scout enough guys, you start seeing the prospects that really jump out grade and attribute wise. You found a defensive back with A speed and A- hit power? Awesome! A quarterback with A+ arm power and B- acceleration? Michael Vick in Madden 04 is about to look like Jared Lorenzen in Madden 10.

Unfortunately, while you may want to snag that defensive back as quickly as you can, he's projected to go in the fifth round. Taking a projected fifth-round player in the fourth isn't always the worst thing, but in the first or second when there's so many better prospects on paper?

Hold on to your picks, go for guys in that draft range at the start, and don't be swayed by attributes of guys lower on the draft board. It's tempting, I know, but you don't want to reach on a guy because his early grades look good. With that said, now that you know how to hold 'em...

4. ...and know when to fold

As soon as you saw that Ravens logo, that should have been a perfect indication that things were going downhill. I got tempted with my second-to-last pick with the Baltimore Ravens, saw a quarterback with great throw power and speed, and thought he would be a gem pick.

Well, mistakes happen. Let's just say he didn't stay on my roster too long.

The mistake that I made here was I saw two attributes I liked and, instead of re-thinking the pick when I saw his low combine grade, I instead got greedy. With a seventh-rounder, I could afford to make that mistake, but it doesn't change the fact that I was bothered by how easily I made that mistake.

Knowing when to fold is vital in drafts, whether it's potentially trading up too many assets to move up for that one player you really want or avoiding the player that seems tempting. Do not make rookie errors in a desire to gloat on Twitter about your wonderful late-round pick.

Folding isn't just when you're in the draft itself. Yes, sometimes you are going to have to give up a veteran player that has been nothing but excellent for you. I've been a fan of Eric Decker since he was at the University of Minnesota and he was huge in my first two franchise years, but the time came when he was starting to lose snaps and catches to younger players.

With that said, I dealt him and Sheldon Richardson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for picks. I didn't want to, but I had to if I wanted to win.

You're not always going to be in that situation where you can keep players on big contracts or who are getting older around just because they've done things for you in the past. This truly is like a business: what have you done for me lately and what are you going to do in the future? 

5. Experiment

I have a guilty habit I need to admit to: I scout more guys projected to go in rounds six and seven -- plus guys who are likely to go undrafted -- then I do players projected to go in rounds three through five.

It's something that I need to work on, I know, but part of my addiction to scouting those lowkey guys has to do with experimenting. You never know what you're going to find in those final rounds

Take my selection of Marshall's Chase Inzer, for example. I've always been a Madden player who, when I draft or sign tight ends, I go for ones who can catch the ball. Part of that likely comes from my love of Peyton Manning and him having Dallas Clark, one of the better receiving tight ends of this generation, as his safety blanket for his Colts career.

If you played me online in Madden, chances are I'd be balling with guys like Kevin Boss, Martellus Bennett, and Dennis Pitta -- not star tight ends or guys who would scare you at first glance, but safety blankets for my quarterback and players that could get nine, ten yards with ease.

Normally, I wouldn't really go near Inzer, a tight end that excels in blocking; this was already after I'd started to develop an offensive line unit that as a whole would make a Pro Bowl in two straight seasons, but Inzer was on the board late. Besides, not every seventh round pick makes the team so, worst case scenario, I could stash him on my practice squad.

So imagine my surprise when Izner, who I thought would be entirely raw due to his young age, turned out to have a 70 overall and was ranked as an excellent pick! Not bad!

Hopefully, you've learned something about how to draft in Madden NFL 17 other than just the basic tips you'll see on Reddit and message boards. If you need me, I'm off to go mortgage my future for two veterans and a player I'll trade by the deadline.

What tips do you try to utilize while drafting in Madden NFL 17? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!

Published Dec. 13th 2016

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