The Madden 21 cover vote stirs up fanbases in a way that followers of other sports find mysterious: you won’t find Norwich supporters lobbying to have Teemu Pukki on the packaging of FIFA 21. With the NFL Draft taking place this weekend, speculation over who’ll grace the Madden 21 box is at its peak, so we take a look at the top ten contenders below. Sadly the Madden 21 cover vote is no longer publicly decided – instead, it’s carried out internally by developer EA Tiburon – but these are the elite athletes likely to duke it out for this year’s honour.
UPDATE: Moments after this feature went live, Lamar Jackson appeared to reveal himself as the Madden 21 cover athlete in an interview for the Baltimore Ravens website. You can watch it below.
Lamar says he'll be on the cover of Madden: pic.twitter.com/bPtzFBIlVIApril 21, 2020
10. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
It’s traditional that we pay lip service to the Detroit Lions in our Madden cover vote preview, as they boast more packaging appearances than any other NFL team. Barry Sanders fronted Madden 2000 and the last-gen versions of Madden 25, while Calvin Johnson was the main man for Madden 13. But while traditions are important, Matt Stafford just isn’t likely to shift copies in the same way as some of the QB options we’ll get to shortly…
9. Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders)
New beginnings are afoot for the Raiders as their new life in Las Vegas gets underway, bringing an end to 60 memorable, and often controversial, years in California. If EA feels bold it could usher in a fresh era with Las Vegas front and centre of the box – after all, the Raiders’ most famous coach of all is the very man its series is named for. Thunder-shouldered running back Jacobs is the pick, should that occur.
8. Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
For new eras on the west coast, read new eras on the east coast. New England legend Tom Brady Patriots enters his age-43 season in a uniform different to that in which he scored six Super Bowl rings, and the sight of him wearing another team’s colours still doesn’t feel real. That’s exactly the sort of fantasy football that could tempt EA into granting terrific Tom his second Madden cover in four years.
7. Sean Taylor (Washington Redskins)
This is a tale of unfathomable tragedy. Sean Taylor was senselessly murdered in his own home during a 2007 burglary, aged just 24 – having already established himself as an elite safety for the Washington Redskins. A section of fans started a petition to get him on the cover of Madden 21, in order to raise funds for the Sean Taylor Memorial Trust Fund. It’s an unconventional but heart-warming idea.
6. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
As a rule, EA doesn’t offer anyone consecutive covers. That likely deems cannon-armed, rocket-legged Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes out of the running. Thing is, the Chiefs’ real-life cheat player has spent his two years as a starter tearing up conventions – so being the first pro to claim two Madden covers in a row would be in keeping with his other feats. If not this year, he’s guaranteed at least one more in the future.
5. Nick Bosa (San Francisco 49ers)
Should Mahomes miss out on this year’s cover, two Super Bowl opponents look like intriguing possibilities. 49ers’ 2019 first-rounder Nick Bosa obliterated expectations in his first season, notching nine sacks en route to Rookie Of The Year honours. He’d be the first defensive player to grace the cover since team-mate Richard Sherman – then a Seattle Seahawk – did so for Madden 15.
4. George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers)
If San Francisco are considered a good fit but EA Tiburon feels in a more offensive mood, George Kittle looks like the choice. Two consecutive 1000-yard, five-TD seasons made him a fantasy-football favourite across the world, and his charismatic ways have seen him fill the tight-end entertainment void created by Rob Gronkowski’s retirement (and move into wrestling!). If Kittle misses the Madden 21 cover, there’s always WWE 2K29.
3. Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints)
Ten years since Drew Brees became the first (and still only) New Orleans Saint to front Madden, his main wide receiver stands a great chance of capping the anniversary with some box-art of his own. Michael Thomas smashed the record for most receptions in a single season with 149 last year, and also holds the award for most receptions by a player through his first four seasons – with an astonishing 470.
2. Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers)
Running backs have endured an eight-year drought in the cover department, with then-Viking Adrian Peterson helming the bizarrely named Madden 25 on PS4 and Xbox One. Christian McCaffrey’s mix of power, intelligence and evasiveness make him a worthy successor to AP, with his first three seasons boasting 5,400 all-purpose yards and 39 touchdowns. He’ll be beastly in Madden 21 with or without a personalised box.
1. Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
Pat Mahomes’ Super Bowl heroics make it easy to forget that he was outplayed in the regular season by one man: newly anointed Baltimore Ravens talisman Lamar Jackson. The Louisville graduate stepped into Joe Flacco’s old job and proved an immediate upgrade, throwing for 36 TDs and adding seven more on the ground, and breaking Michael Vick’s seasonal record for rushing yards along the way. A unanimous NFL MVP award, and bunch of skills which translate perfectly to gaming, mean it’ll be a huge shock if he isn’t the Madden 21 cover vote winner.