Last year, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes ranked second in Morning Consult’s annual survey identifying the most-liked skill-position players in the NFL, behind only then-New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. With Brees now retired and analyzing games for NBC Sports, the latest research shows that Mahomes has become the league’s most popular player heading into this weekend’s 2022 postseason.
What the numbers say
- Mahomes scored a net favorability rating of 34 among U.S. adults in a poll conducted during the final weekend of the NFL regular season, a figure calculated by taking the 41 percent of respondents with a favorable opinion of Mahomes and subtracting the 7 percent with an unfavorable opinion of the fifth-year signal-caller. Sentiment toward Mahomes, whose endorsement portfolio includes State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Procter & Gamble Co.’s Head & Shoulders shampoo and Adidas AG, is virtually unchanged from last season’s survey.
- Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who ranked just behind Brees and Mahomes in last season’s survey, has seen his net favorability rating decline precipitously — from 32 last season to 15 this season — due to controversy surrounding his vaccination status against COVID-19. Rodgers told the media during the offseason that he was “inoculated” against the virus, but it was later revealed when he tested positive during the season that he had never received the vaccine. State Farm, Rodgers’ most prominent sponsor, maintained its relationship with the three-time league MVP while scaling back the frequency of ads featuring him. Several smaller brands cut ties with him altogether.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who this week launched his own eponymous apparel brand, is still by far the most well-known player in the NFL— as well as the most polarizing. Ninety-one percent of Americans said they had heard of the seven-time Super Bowl champion, putting him well ahead of Rodgers, whose 70 percent awareness was second among the 157 players included in the survey. The 47 percent of respondents who said they had a favorable opinion of Brady was the highest of any player, while the 22 percent with an unfavorable opinion of him was the second-highest, behind only his former teammate, wide receiver Antonio Brown (28 percent unfavorable; minus-13 net favorability rating).
- Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski, a spokesperson for brands such as USAA financial services and cryptocurrency exchange Voyager Digital Ltd., is the most popular non-quarterback with a net favorability rating of 27, good for third overall behind Mahomes and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce also cracked the top 10 in a tie at No. 8 overall.
This year’s NFL playoffs will feature more of fans’ favorite players than last year’s postseason. Of the top 30 players on this year’s list, 23 play for teams whose teams earned a playoff berth, compared to 15 out of the top 30 last season. That’s more good news for a league that already saw viewership increase 10 percent during the regular season and was responsible for 75 of the top 100 most-watched TV programs of the last calendar year.
The latest NFL player favorability poll was conducted Jan. 8-9, 2022, among a representative sample of 513-621 U.S. adults per player, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.