EA Sports drooped a Tuesday morning nuke on Twitter when it announced that the NCAA Football franchise — now apparently rebranded to "College Football" — will be coming back at some point in the future for next-gen consoles. it sounds like it won't be this year and maybe not even until 2023, but as long as they do this right, it will be worth the wait.
But this exciting news got me thinking about all the amazing college football video game play we have missed over the last seven seasons. Just think of all the guys we missed out on playing with: Lamar, Saquon, Baker, Kyler and the list goes on. And that thought led me to the logical progression of which guys would have been on the cover each season. So here they are.
Keep in mind that each game was named a year ahead of whatever year it actually was and each player had to be out of college to be eligible, so these games are numbered two years removed from each player's final collegiate season.
NCAA Football 15: Johnny Manziel
Jadeveon Clowney was the other guy in the running here, but this seems fairly obvious. Johnny Football was the last great player we actually got to play with in the franchise and it's only right he would have graced the cover of the first NCAA Football game which didn't actually get a chance to exist. It's a damn shame.
NCAA Football 16: Jameis Winston
This was one of the two that was incredibly close, with Marcus Mariota also in the running. But as hard as it would have been to leave the swaggy Hawaiian guy with the cool Oregon uniform off the cover, it would have been equally difficult to omit a fellow Heisman winner who was also a national champion and No. 1 pick. So while I'm not entirely convinced Jameis would have gotten the nod here, I get to make the rules in hindsight and that's who I'm picking.
NCAA Football 17: Ezekiel Elliott
The top of this NFL Draft — Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Joey Bosa — was difficult to find a clear-cut favorite to grace the cover of that year's game, which almost certainly means it would have fallen to the No. 4 overall pick in Elliott. The only other real contender would have been Derrick Henry, but Zeke would have been included on the cover for many of the same reasons he was taken 41 selections ahead of Henry in the Draft — although both would probably be flipped now.
NCAA Football 18: Deshaun Watson
This one was a no-brainer. Obviously Watson was the third quarterback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, but we're talking about one of the leader and catalyst of the only college football program to challenge Alabama's dynasty in the last decade. Obviously Watson has gone on to have a stellar career in the NFL, but I'll always think of him first as an amazing college player.
NCAA Football 19: Lamar Jackson
Now here's where I have to do a little bit of explaining. In the interest of full disclosure, I originally had this one down as Baker Mayfield, before realizing that the following year has to be Kyler Murray because there was literally nobody else worthy of the cover. So in order to avoid two consecutive Oklahoma quarterbacks, I went with a guy who I think would be a defensible choice anyway.
Of all the players we've missed out on in the past seven years, Lamar Jackson is probably the one I'd most want to pick up a controller and play with right now. What you could have done running the football with that guy — in a game where running with the quarterback was already overpowered anyway — would have been unfair.
NCAA Football 20: Kyler Murray
As I stated above, there was nobody else I could find who would have even come close for this year's cover. If we would have known how good A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf would be in the NFL, we could have done a dual cover with those two college teammates, but there weren't many other options outside of that. And Kyler would have certainly been deserving of the honor.
NCAA Football 21: Joe Burrow
If there's an argument for anyone other than the Heisman Trophy winner who led arguably the best offense in college football history to a 15-0 record and a national championship, I'd like to hear it. This would have been the biggest no-brainer on this list. Unfortunately, Joe never got to see his dream of gracing the cover realized.