Sports

Russell Wilson Ties Patrick Mahomes as Most-Liked NFL Player Ahead of 2022 Season

Meanwhile, suspended Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is the only player to have a negative favorability rating, according to new survey

Most popular NFL players 2022
Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes tied as the NFL's most-liked players ahead of the 2022 season, according to new Morning Consult data. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes remains the NFL’s most popular player ahead of Thursday’s kickoff to the 2022 season, according to new Morning Consult research. But now the four-time Pro Bowler has company at the center of America’s hearts, in the form of new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson.

Mahomes, Wilson Top List of NFL’s Most-Liked Players Ahead of 2022 Season

Net favorability rating among U.S. adults (share with a favorable opinion minus share with an unfavorable opinion)

Only quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends were included in the survey. Defensive players were not included.
Survey conducted Aug. 25-26, 2022, among a representative sample of 578-687 U.S. adults per player, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-4 percentage points.

Aaron Rodgers’ popularity rises following a plunge in 2021

  • Wilson, who reportedly signed a five-year, $245 million contract extension with the Broncos after leaving the Seattle Seahawks, scored a net favorability rating of 32, an increase of 4 percentage points from January. Mahomes dropped from 34 to 32 points, tying Wilson.
  • Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose net favorability rating dropped from 32 in 2021 to 15 in the January survey because of controversy surrounding his COVID-19 vaccination status, regained some of his popularity. He earned a net favorability rating of 21, cracking the NFL’s top 10 most-liked skill players.
  • Nearly half of U.S. adults (48%) had a favorable opinion of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, the highest of any player included in the 154-player survey. However, the seven-time Super Bowl champion, who briefly retired this offseason, also had the highest share of unfavorable opinions, at 20%.
  • Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who won Super Bowl LVI MVP honors after the Los Angeles defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in February, was the most popular non-quarterback, with a net favorability rating of 22. Kupp and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins saw the biggest gains among January’s top 20 players, up 7 and 10 points, respectively. 
More Than 2 in 5 U.S. Adults Say Deshaun Watson’s Punishment Was ‘Not Severe Enough’

Respondents were asked if they consider the NFL’s punishment for quarterback Deshaun Watson to be too severe, exactly appropriate or not severe enough

Survey conducted Aug. 25-26, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Many fans say Deshaun Watson’s punishment was too light

  • Almost 3 in 5 self-identified NFL fans (56%) said they have seen, read or heard either “a lot” or “some” about Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson receiving an 11-game suspension, $5 million fine and mandatory behavior treatment after two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. 
  • Watson scored a net favorability rating of minus-3, making him the only player included in the survey to have a negative favorability rating.

Who will receive the Super Bowl bump?

The NFL’s top most-liked skill players tend to compete for teams that are more likely to win Super Bowl LVII, according to most sports books’ betting odds. The Buffalo Bills, led by quarterback Josh Allen (tied at No. 13 overall in popularity with Cleveland Browns pass-catcher Amari Cooper, per the survey), are the Super Bowl favorites, based on Vegas odds. Expect to see some of the NFL’s other popular players still competing in the postseason.

Mahomes is likely to be one of them, leading the perennial AFC power Chiefs. It’s unclear if Wilson, in his first year in Denver, will be able to lead the Broncos to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. What is clear, though, is that America will be rooting for him.

The Aug. 25-26, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,210 U.S. adults, including 1,534 self-identified sports fans, with unweighted margins of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points and plus or minus 3 percentage points, respectively. The survey also included 1,068 self-identified male individuals and 1,142 self-identified female individuals, both with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Morning Consult