Top Ten Defensive Rookies in Madden 21

Best Defensive Rookies in Madden 21

As EA continues to unveil player ratings, we are going to take a look at the best defensive rookies in Madden 21. Developing a young core is a major key for building a successful roster. If you build your team around young stars, your team will continue to get better each year. Trading for one or two of the players on this list could drastically increase your on-field performance.

Building a young defense is arguably more important than the offensive side. It will be substantially easier to develop offensive players because you control who gets the ball. However, defensive play relies heavily on the overall and development of your players. You can only control one player, meaning you will be leaning on your teams performance a lot more on defense. It is much easier to work around weak areas of the offense by controlling where the ball goes. If your right tackle is below average, you can make up for it with quick passes and by running the ball to the left. If your defensive end is below average, you will not be able to get pressure or control the run game to one side. Stacking the box will hurt you a lot more than throwing short passes will.

Chase Young – 80 – Washington Football Team

No surprise here — Chase Young is without a doubt the best defensive rookie in Madden 21. Young dominated opposing linemen while leading the Ohio State defense into the college football playoffs. He mirrors Aaron Donald in the sense that he is a massive individual yet an athletic specimen at the same time. Young will be faster and stronger than the majority of the players he lines up against. Madden has Young listed as a right end for the Washington Football Team. He tops the list of defensive rookies in Madden 21.

Key Attributes

  • Strength: 86
  • Power Move: 73
  • Finesse Move: 80
  • Block Shedding: 75
  • Tackling: 83
  • Pursuit: 84
  • Hit Power: 84
  • Play Recognition: 71
  • Awareness: 74
  • Change of Direction: 70

Young has a powerful set of key attributes. On top of that, he has 85 speed and 91 acceleration. His speed and size combination makes Young a deadly defensive end. He will excel as a pass rusher and run stopper. Expect Young to spend a lot of time in the backfield in 2020. Young will likely be almost impossible to trade for, but worth building a franchise around. He has no weaknesses in his game and will have incredible range given his speed, change of direction, and pursuit ratings.

Isaiah Simmons – 78 – Arizona Cardinals

I was surprised to see Isaiah Simmons fall all the way to eighth overall in the draft. The Cardinals got an absolute steal and one of the most athletic defensive players in the class. If Simmons can live up to the hype, he could become the most versatile defensive player in the NFL. At Clemson, Simmons started as a safety, then learned how to play just about every position in the front seven as well as some cornerback. The Clemson coaching staff utilized Simmons in just about every way imaginable, and he was a plus defender everywhere he went.

Chase Young has the clearest path to becoming a dominant franchise player for your team, but Simmons would be my top trade target. With Kyler at the helm with that new-look offense, the Cardinals are a great team to pick in franchise mode. Simmons could realistically develop into a superstar at multiple positions. He will dominate in the slot or in man coverage against tight ends. Simmons is just as athletic as any of his opponents and will be bigger with a wide wingspan. He is currently listed as a strong safety, but I believe he could be utilized in a more impactful role.

With 93 speed and acceleration, I would use Isaiah Simmons as a right outside linebacker in his rookie season. If you run certain blitz packages and plays like Pinch Buck 0, you could realistically break the single season sack record and skyrocket his development. He should be able to get off the line of scrimmage untouched the majority of the time. He will then either rush freely or get picked up by a running back that will be clearly overmatched. From there you can move him into any role that needs to be filled. You could even change his position based on the upcoming game or make him a safety that is the primary slot corner and sub linebacker. That way he will be used similarly to how he was utilized at Clemson.

Key Attributes

  • Tackling: 78
  • Pursuit: 84
  • Hit Power: 86
  • Block Shedding: 65
  • Play Recognition: 69
  • Awareness: 74
  • Zone Coverage: 72
  • Man Coverage: 68
  • Press: 72
  • Change of Direction: 85

Isaiah Simmons is one of the best defensive rookies in Madden 21 because of his versatility. Athletically, Simmons is one of the best in the league. 93 speed and acceleration puts him right up there with some of the top wide receivers in the league – as a linebacker. He can run stride for stride with any player that did not make the fastest players in Madden 21 list. His 85 change of direction rating means he can flip his hips and get to any ball carrier. This new rating will pair perfectly with his 84 pursuit rating. With experience as a safety, Simmons is solid in coverage and will be elite in that category if developed for a season or two. I try to fill my defense with as many gifted athletes as I can, and Simmons certainly fits that bill.

Derrick Brown – 78 – Carolina Panthers

Brown was a wrecking ball when he played for the Auburn Tigers. His ability to get pressure consistently while impacting the run game was truly special. I typically do not spend draft capital or substantial cap room on the defensive line. That is because interior defensive linemen not named Aaron Donald rarely impact the game on their own. You usually have to use a defensive tackle to make any kind of impact.

If you want a defensive presence up the middle that has a chance to be special, Brown is the best player in the rookie class to do so. I can’t guarantee that Brown will develop into the next Aaron Donald for your franchise, but he has as good of a shot as any. I expect Brown to be a disruptor in the running game from week one with the ability to get consistent pressure if you choose to use him.

Key Attributes

  • Strength: 90
  • Power Move: 76
  • Finesse Move: 61
  • Block Shedding: 80
  • Tackling: 85
  • Pursuit: 85
  • Hit Power: 84
  • Play Recognition: 74
  • Awareness: 75

Derrick Brown is a large presence at 6’5″ 324 lbs. Not only does he look the part, but he has 90 strength and 84 hit power. He has the physical characteristics to take on double teams and pierce his way into the backfield. His block shedding is high for a rookie but his moves could use some development. He will make an impact in the run game immediately, especially with his heads up play recognition and awareness. With some development, Brown can become a real threat as a pass rusher. He is certainly one of the best defensive rookies in Madden 21 and a huge part of a young Panthers’ defense.

Jeff Okudah – 76 – Detroit Lions

Jeff Okudah is another Ohio State alumni making the list of top defensive rookies in Madden 21. Okudah is tied with C.J. Henderson as the top ranked cornerback in the rookie class at 76 overall. I would have thought Okudah would have been given a slight edge, but after looking at the ratings I could see how they tied. The easiest way to put it, Henderson is the slightly better athlete, but Okudah is a more skilled cornerback.

After a disappointing 40-yard dash, Okudah was given just 90 speed and 89 acceleration. To be clear, Okudah still ran a 4.48 40-yard dash. However, people around the league believed that the Ohio State standout was going to run in the lower 4.4’s or better. That said, scouts saw enough of his tape to rank him as the best secondary player in the 2020 draft, and he was drafted third overall. Here are some ratings to pay attention to:

Key Attributes

  • Man Coverage: 75
  • Zone Coverage: 77
  • Play Recognition: 75
  • Awareness: 78
  • Press: 81
  • Tackling: 61
  • Pursuit: 74

Jeff Okudah will be able to be plugged into the starting lineup week one with his current skill set. His coverage skills are quite high for a rookie. He ranks first in zone coverage and second in man coverage among the rookie class. His press rating is also first in the class and should make you feel much better about leaving him in man coverage or zone blitz packages. His tackling and pursuit do not pop off the page but are fairly high ratings for a cornerback. Okudah’s game is very balanced which should make you feel comfortable leaving him on the outside. He is sure to have a high development rating and become a top corner in franchise mode in no time.

C.J. Henderson – 76 – Jacksonville Jaguars

The last time the Jaguars drafted a cornerback in the first round they ended up with Jalen Ramsey, one of the top corners in the NFL. Now the franchise will lean on another top prospect from a top Florida school to shut down opposing receivers. C.J. Henderson was a shutdown corner for the Gators, facing top-tier competition each week. Months after finishing up his time at the University of Florida, Henderson lit up the combine. He ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, which Madden developers have rewarded him for. Henderson has been given 93 speed and 92 acceleration in this year’s game. At 76 overall, C.J. Henderson is on the best defensive rookies in Madden 21.

Key Attributes

  • Man Coverage: 77
  • Zone Coverage: 72
  • Play Recognition: 69
  • Awareness: 73
  • Press: 75
  • Tackling: 50
  • Pursuit: 75

Okudah is definitely the more well-rounded cornerback. That said, Henderson is still a strong cover corner with more athleticism. I would rather have Okudah week one, but Henderson has more potential with his speed and acceleration already high enough to run with just about anyone (but Tyreek Hill). Henderson should be on the field from the start and will have a high enough development trait to excel quickly. His man coverage ranks first among rookies and a lot of his other ratings are right towards the top of the list. He is the most complete cornerback behind Jeff Okudah in the rookie class.

Javon Kinlaw – 76 – San Francisco 49ers

Kinlaw is the second defensive tackle in the rookie draft class. At 6’5″ 319 lbs. Kinlaw is an athletic run stopper and will develop into a quality pass rusher up the middle. It is not easy to get to the quarterback through the interior in Madden 21, which will make it hard to rack up stats as a rookie. With some user skill, you may approach double-digit sack territory. If you let him roam free however, his production will likely be slim. That has more to do with how hard it is for defensive tackles to collect stats than my opinion of Kinlaw as a player. He will be taking on double teams to free up other pass rushers and will be an important player on the roster.

Key Attributes

  • Strength: 88
  • Power Move: 80
  • Finesse Move: 76
  • Block Shedding: 77
  • Tackling: 81
  • Pursuit: 83
  • Hit Power: 80
  • Play Recognition: 72
  • Awareness: 75

Javon Kinlaw is a slightly better athlete and more technical than Derrick Brown. Brown is the better overall player because of his sheer power and relentless will to get to the ball carrier. Attribute-wise, they are very close in all the most important categories and Kinlaw is in a much better situation with the 49ers. Kinlaw is a very strong defensive tackle with a power move that will get better over time. His tackling and pursuit is already NFL ready and his development trait will almost certainly be high. If I had Kinlaw on my roster, I would make sure to get some user reps in to try and pad his stats and boost his development. Playing as a defensive tackle is not the most entertaining way to play, but it will help in the long run when Kinlaw becomes a key piece of the defense.

Antoine Winfield Jr. – 75 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antoine Winfield Jr. is a part of the highly talented rookie safety class. While Simmons is listed as a safety in Madden 21, he’s really more of a linebacker at the NFL level. Winfield is the number one free safety in the rookie, class and if Simmons was listed correctly would be the highest safety in the class. I am a little surprised to see Winfield over McKinney, though they are definitely in the same tier.

Key Attributes

  • Man Coverage: 69
  • Zone Coverage: 74
  • Play Recognition: 73
  • Awareness: 77
  • Press: 68
  • Tackling: 68
  • Hit Power: 86
  • Pursuit: 77

Winfield is a player that is going to need some development. With 89 speed and 90 acceleration, Winfield is a solid athlete but not a burner by any means. Overall-wise Winfield is one of the best defensive rookies in Madden 21. His skill set however is not exactly elite. His speed is average, his coverage is low even for a rookie safety, and he only has 68 tackling, meaning he will be lackluster in the run game. That said, if you throw him out there week one, Winfield should grow into a solid overall safety. Every attribute is in the same ballpark and with development he will be an all-around great safety with no real weak points in his game. I think his overall rating is correct, but his key attributes are lower than he deserves.

K’Lavon Chaisson – 74 – Jacksonville Jaguars

K’Lavon Chaisson was one of many key players on that loaded 2019 LSU Tigers Football Team. He will be heading down to Jacksonville to be a very athletic right end. Chaisson may be listed as a defensive end, but he could certainly handle playing outside linebacker as well. Chase Young and Isaiah Simmons get all the hype for being athletic freaks, but K’Lavon Chaisson is not far behind. He was awarded 85 speed and 90 acceleration at 6’3″ 254 lbs. Like Simmons, Chaisson has a versatile skillset centered around wreaking havoc in the backfield.

Key Attributes

  • Strength: 78
  • Power Move: 64
  • Finesse Move: 72
  • Block Shedding: 70
  • Tackling: 75
  • Pursuit: 83
  • Hit Power: 85
  • Play Recognition: 71
  • Awareness: 73
  • Change of Direction: 75

K’Lavon Chaisson has the tools to become a dominant pass rusher. He already has elite speed and acceleration for the position. His strength is good enough and will continue to go up. His finesse moves and block shedding ratings were lower than I anticipated, but will rise quickly. I love his athletic profile and ability to get to the ball carrier. His combination of speed, tackling, and pursuit ratings will make it easy for him to contain the edge and allow for Chaisson to line up as an outside linebacker (preferably in a 3-4). Chaisson is one the best defensive rookies in Madden 21, and one of my favorites in the class.

Xavier McKinney – 74 – New York Giants

Xavier McKinney slid in the draft and has now fallen to the third safety in the Madden 21 rookie draft class. I loved how McKinney played in college and was upset when my team passed on him in the first round. He is not the fastest safety in the class by any means with 86 speed and 89 acceleration. However, I thought he played hard with good technique, fitting the Alabama pipeline perfectly. I viewed McKinney as the best safety in the class, though Winfield being a point higher is not worth much of a debate. As I said before, Simmons would be a great safety but he really is not a pure safety, as he was very versatile and listed as a linebacker on draft day. I definitely view Xavier McKinney as one of the best rookies in Madden 21, and his overall reflects that.

Key Attributes

  • Man Coverage: 70
  • Zone Coverage: 73
  • Play Recognition: 74
  • Awareness: 76
  • Press: 70
  • Tackling: 71
  • Hit Power: 81
  • Pursuit: 78

Most of Xavier McKinney’s key attributes are exactly one point different from Antoine Winfield Jr. The biggest difference is that McKinney has a slightly lower floor on some of these ratings. He will be the more reliable player against the run and can hold his own in coverage. That said, he will need to develop in all areas but he will be a solid contributor week one. His speed and acceleration are borderline red flags, but I still would be very excited to have McKinney on the roster. At 6’0″ 201 lbs., I would tab McKinney as a player who could transition into a super athletic linebacker that could be assigned to spying some of the more mobile quarterbacks. Regardless of how you utilize McKinney, he will have a bright future.

Yetur Gross-Matos – 74 – Carolina Panthers

Yetur Gross-Matos picked up more and more hype as the 2020 NFL Draft drew nearer. He ended up going to the Panthers in the second round, but had some serious interest in round one. Gross-Matos will be another large piece of the revamped Panthers defense, alongside Derrick Brown. Yetur Gross-Matos is listed as a right end, at 6’5″ 266 lbs. He has some wheels to go along with his large frame, with 84 speed and 87 acceleration. Gross-Matos has the prototypical build and skillset for a defensive end. He is the last player on the list of the best defensive rookies in Madden 21.

Key Attributes

  • Strength: 81
  • Power Move: 74
  • Finesse Move: 66
  • Block Shedding: 74
  • Tackling: 82
  • Pursuit: 82
  • Hit Power: 82
  • Play Recognition: 72
  • Awareness: 72
  • Change of Direction: 70

I am a fan of Yetur Gross-Matos both in real life and in the game. His athletic ability and combine numbers bode well for his development as a young player. All he really needs to do is improve his technique as a pass rusher. His moves and overall block shedding ability should go up rather quickly. His development trait may make it hard to trade for Gross-Matos, but it would be worth a shot to try and acquire him. If you choose the Panthers off the bat, Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos will make for a young and exciting tandem across the defensive line.

If you liked this article, check out the rest of my Madden 21 content. To see the rest of Madden’s ratings, click here.