Three San Francisco 49ers, including Hall-of-Fame teammates Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, are No. 1 seeds in the third edition of Madden NFL's tournament style cover vote. Current Niner quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the other top seed, as this year's vote will celebrate the series' 25th anniversary by pitting 32 current stars against 32 all-time greats.
All franchises but the 12-year-old Houston Texans have representatives in the Old School bracket. In the "New School" bracket, Houston is represented by running back Arian Foster, as a fourth seed in a division that includes Kaepernick, breakout rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. In the other cluster of 16, some might find it surprising that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is a No. 2 seed.
Peterson came back from torn knee ligaments in 2011 to win the NFL MVP, lead his team to a postseason berth, and come within nine yards of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record. The No. 1 seed in his region is Washington's Robert Griffin III, an electrifying player who nonetheless tore ligaments in his knee in a playoff loss. He could miss time in the coming season.
Madden NFL 13 cover star Calvin Johnson will sit out this year's contest, with Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford taking his place. The rest of the New School bracket is dotted with players making a repeat appearance in the voting; Foster, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Jake Locker, Ray Rice, Victor Cruz, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte all were in last year's 64-man bracket, whose first round pitted teammates against each other.
This year's novelty is the Old School half of the voting. The final round will pair a winner from that half of the bracket against a current star, with the winner getting the cover. Like the frequent fliers among the current stars, many legends have had long relationships with EA Sports. The Denver Broncos will be represented by Terrell Davis and not by John Elway, even though Elway appeared on the "Canton Greats" roster in Madden NFL 13. Had Elway been in the voting, it would have meant all three stars of 2K Sports' All-Pro Football 2K8's cover -- Rice, Barry Sanders and Elway, would have been in the voting here.
The bracket briefly showed Kurt Warner as representing the Rams, giving St. Louis two players. He's in fact representing the Arizona Cardinals, whom he led to the Super Bowl before retiring. Marshall Faulk, the first Madden NFL cover star to be elected to the Hall of Fame (other than John Madden himself) represents the Rams.
Faulk is joined by Ray Lewis and Eddie George as previous Madden cover stars in the Old School division. None of the New School contenders have been featured on the cover in the past. Robert Griffin III was the star on EA Sports' NCAA Football 13.
Voting will take place over the next month, concluding just before the NFL Draft on April 25. To see all of the candidates and vote, visit the link below. I'll handicap the field, who I think has the best shot at prevailing, later in the week.
Madden NFL 25 Cover Vote [ESPN]