Each NFL Team's Biggest Fan Favorite

Sean Hojnacki@@TheRealHojnackiFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

Each NFL Team's Biggest Fan Favorite

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    Johnny Manziel isn't the only rookie who's already the biggest fan favorite on his team.
    Johnny Manziel isn't the only rookie who's already the biggest fan favorite on his team.Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Johnny Manziel hasn't played a single NFL snap, but he's already the most popular player on the Cleveland Browns, which sometimes happens when a roster lacks a marquee player.

    A range of factors can go into identifying a team's top fan favorite. Each team's most beloved player is often the best player on the team, but that is not always the case. Some players have the ability to captivate fans with their inspiring journey to the NFL, hard-nosed play on the field, dedication to a single franchise or selfless charity work in the community.

    Here is the one player on each NFL team that has risen about the rest in status with fans, and they've used a variety of methods to do so.

Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, WR

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 82 catches, 954 yards, 10 TDs

    Larry Fitzgerald has a smile that could light up a stadium, and his personality matches that same sunny attitude. And why not? It's good being one of the league top wideouts for a decade. That's how you make eight Pro Bowls. Others might have jumped ship, but Larry has remained in the desert.

    Fitzgerald constantly retweets fans messages supporting him and the Arizona Cardinals, as well as a host of other messages. He followed the NBA Finals closely, but he primarily uses social media to champion the causes he supports. 

    Fitzgerald especially showers social-media love on those in the armed forces and others who tweet support for veterans. 

    My grandpa Dr. Robert Johnson 1st Lt Army purple heart, Korea. Share your photos & show vets you care. #StandWithVets pic.twitter.com/jBBMJsU78x

    — Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) June 11, 2014

    Commentators and fans often refer to football players as "warriors" on the field, but Fitzgerald helps keep perspective by honoring the nation's true heroes. 

Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones, WR

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 41 receptions, 580 yards, 2 TDs (5 games)

    Julio Jones is not particularly outspoken. He lets his play on the field do that. As one of the most dynamic receivers in football, Jones makes the Falcons offense a potent threat every season, provided he's healthy. 

    Jones is Atlanta QB Matt Ryan's top target and his injury in 2013 helped devastate the Falcons' chances for the playoffs after the team made it to the NFC Championship Game after the 2012 campaign. Fans in the ATL will be pining for a better result this upcoming season.

    Jones relentlessly retweets the outpouring of love he receives from Falcons nation. His Twitter timeline mainly features pictures of his own jersey, but they're just tweets sent to him by adoring fans. He also lends his time to support young football players.

    He'll even retweet you for adding a Falcons decal to your minivan or helping a child build a team-themed pinebox derby racer.

Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco, QB

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 3,912 passing yards, 19 TDs, 22 INTs

    Joe Flacco made a huge bet on himself and won. Twice, actually. Everyone should be so lucky (and so confident). And while he suffered a down year in 2013, the Baltimore Ravens front office is partly to blame for failing to provide him with any receivers. 

    Coming straight out of Audubon, NJ, Flacco was first recruited by the Pittsburgh Panthers before getting stuck on the depth chart behind the eminent Tyler Palko. Flacco transferred to the University of Delaware, where he proved himself the finest Blue Hens QB in school history.

    An impressive showing at the Senior Bowl made him a first-round pick, but Flacco wasn't done proving himself. Prior to the 2012 season, he turned down a large contract offer believing that he could play his way to a more lucrative payday. Then he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship, winning the MVP in the title game. 

    And verily, this average Joe got that lucrative payday. His combination of grit and confidence serves as an inspiration to fans in the team's blue-collar home city.

    If quarterback glory boys aren't your cup of tea, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has long been a popular member of the defensive front.

Buffalo Bills: Kiko Alonso, LB

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 87 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 INTs

    While megabucks pass-rusher Mario Williams garnered most of the headlines on the Buffalo Bills' defense prior to 2013, Kiko Alonso began making them as soon as the slate of games kicked off. 

    Coming out of the University of Oregon, Alonso proved that the Ducks can do more than just score with their blurry offense. He proved to be a surprising difference-maker on a franchise in need of solid young talent. He eventually claimed the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year award for 2013, and looks poised to anchor the Bills defense going forward.

    With a wealth of question marks remaining the Buffalo offense, the Bills could be witnessing the dawn of a potent defensive unit. 

Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly, LB

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    2013 stats: 96 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 INTs

    While the media has obsessed about towels around the head of Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, not to mention his outlandishly collared sweaters, one linebacker has quickly become the face of the Carolina Panthers' ferocious defensive unit.  

    After his second year, Luke Kuechly is where Kiko Alonso wants to be. They're just about the same size, and Alonso would love for his upcoming sophomore season to be as successful as Kuechly's was in 2013. 

    After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, Kuechly wasted no time in collecting AP Defensive Player of the Year honors.

    That type of accomplishment will endear you to fans pretty quickly. 

Chicago Bears: Charles Tillman, CB

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 32 tackles, 3 INTs, 3 forced fumbles (8 games)

    Charles Tillman eagerly engages with fans. In fact, he does not mind going the extra mile to do so, at least when a middle-school math teacher happens to display a bias toward the Green Bay Packers in the vicinity of Chicago Bears country.

    During an appearance at a sporting good store near Chicago to promote his charity, Cornerstone Foundation, a young girl asked Tillman for his autograph. It was the daughter of the store's owner who was busy doing her math homework at the time.

    That homework just so happened to include a word problem stating that the Packers have an 80 percent chance of beating the Bears in any given game. Tillman wrote a tongue-in-cheek response to the teacher advising him not to assign homework disrespecting the Bears and signed it for the girl, via NFL.com: "Your All Pro Corner Charles 'Peanut' Tillman 33 Geaux Bears P.S. Bear Down."

    If you can't love a guy nicknamed "Peanut," then you must be a Packers fan.

    As for honorable mentions, running back Matt Forte is great and all, posing one of the league's best dual threats as a runner and receiver, but the Bears' top fan favorite has to play on defense. That's the franchise rule on fan favoritism.

Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 98 receptions, 1,426 yards, 11 TDs

    A.J. Green has played three years in the league. He eclipsed over 1,000 receiving yards in each of those seasons and enjoyed his finest campaign yet in 2013. He's a baller. 

    Green drew huge numbers of votes in the Pro Bowl tally and made his third trip to Hawaii. It's been a long time since the Cincinnati Bengals had a marquee wideout who wasn't a basket-case diva (hint: the guy who changed his last name to the Spanish for "Eight Five"), and Green comes as a breath of fresh air. 

    Now the only sticking point for Cincy is whether the quarterback can maximize the potential Green brings to the field.

    Congrats to all of my new teammates! Welcome to Cincy! #WHODEY great draft...let's work!

    — Aj Green (@ajgreen_18) May 11, 2014

    With a tough defense in Cincy, this team is poised to make noise in the AFC for several years to come.

Cleveland Browns: Johnny Manziel, QB

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 4,114 passing yards, 37 TDs, 13 INTs (at Texas A&M)

    With no insult meant to defensive stalwarts like cornerback Joe Haden or tackle John Hughes, they lack the sizzle that Johnny Manziel brought to the Cleveland Browns before even playing a single down. 

    The former Aggies QB offers Cleveland a marquee star under center after the team has struggled mightily to find a competent signal-called ever since Bernie Kosar left town. 

    Now #Browns QB jersey guy has to add another name. #JohnnyFootball pic.twitter.com/GoNdScsEA1

    — Tim Whelan Jr. (@thattimwhelan) May 9, 2014

    Manziel brings electric abilities as a playmaker and won the Heisman as a frosh, but his rookie season will surely bring plenty of mistakes and interceptions as "Johnny Football" realizes it's harder to be "money" in the NFL than in the SEC.

    Regardless, his jerseys are flying off the rack like hotcakes, which are a foodstuff that used to be very popular.

Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten, TE

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 73 receptions, 851 yards, 8 TDs

    Since Dez Bryant acts too nutty (read: passionately) and Tony Romo can't win in the playoffs, Jason Witten takes the honor of Dallas Cowboys fan favorite with ease.

    Witten is closing in on 10,000 career receiving yards and remains one of the league's most talented tight ends. He plays the position in an old-school manner, showcasing skills both as a pass-catcher and blocker.

    While he's no "joker" tight end like the new generation of big-bodied receivers who combine a power forward's skill set with the speed of a center fielder, Witten still has remained one of the few constants in the Cowboys offense for the last 10 years. How about that?!

Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning, QB

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 5,477 passing yards, 55 TDs, 10 INTs

    Older brothers out there feel Peyton Manning's plight: Despite working to become the finest, most cerebral QB in league history, little bro Eli Manning has more Super Bowl rings. That's why brothers typically play each other one-on-one in the driveway, not in teams.

    Manning's future grew uncertain due to a neck injury that cost him the entirety of the 2011 season, but the Denver Broncos clearly made a shrewd decision by sending Tim Tebow out of town and bringing in a quarterback who commands as much respect from the fanbase as team president John Elway.

    Peyton set single-season passing record for yards and touchdowns and led the Broncos to another Super Bowl appearance. He's also active in the community by giving to charity and also offering a lot of Papa John's pizza (at cost) to the Denver metro area.

    Though linebacker Von Miller is no slouch when it comes to generating fan enthusiasm, but no one can compare to Peyton. 

Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson, WR

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 84 receptions, 1,492 yards, 12 TDs

    One word sums up all you need to know about the league's best wide receiver: Megatron.

    After hauling in a preposterous 122 catches for 1,964 yards in 2012, Johnson couldn't possibly duplicate that total. However, he did score more than twice as many touchdowns, finding the end zone a dozen times in 2013 after just five in his career-year a season prior.

    He's not only a star on the field either, as his "Catching Dreams" charity helps underprivileged youth through scholarships and community outreach. 

    While Reggie Bush has joined Johnson on the Detroit Lions, the running back's popularity is misleading. Most of his Twitter followers are just USC fans or holdovers from Bush's stint dating Kim Kardashian.

Green Bay Packers: B.J. Raji, DT

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 13 tackles, 6 assisted

    The way they eat in Wisconsin makes choosing a rotund defensive lineman as the fan favorite all the more appropriate. In fact, he's the NFL's biggest fan favorite, in literal terms.

    B.J. Raji's job does not involve doing much aside from clogging the middle with his 340-pound frame, and yet he could probably run backward faster than any Green Bay Packers tailgater outside Lambeau Field can run forward.

    Have you seen this guy dance? It's hypnotic! That serves as perhaps the greatest testament to his athletic ability. 

    Sure, quarterback Aaron Rodgers' star shines brighter, but Raji still managed to horn in on the "discount double check" commercial bandwagon. Linebacker Clay Matthews and wide receiver Jordy Nelson are two other fan favorites on this ever-popular team located in the smallest of NFL markets. 

Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 65 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 7 passes defensed

    When he's not playing football, J.J. Watt looks like a big kid. His smile beams an infectious disposition, and if you're in a bad mood, just remember that it could be a lot worse if Watt sacked you. 

    Watt's annual charity softball event featuring numerous Houston Texans players turned out to be so popular, fans scrambling to get tickets crashed the server on the website of the minor league baseball team hosting the event. 

    A physical freak, Watt's not only one of the league's strongest defensive linemen, he's also one of the most athletic. If he can't get all the way to the QB, he'll just fill the passing lane with his giant mitts like an NBA defender, earning him the moniker "J.J. Swat."

    Super-cerebral running back Arian Foster also nears this fan-favorite honor, but some fans soured after his retirement from social media, not to mention his somewhat inconsistent health during football season.

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 3,822 passing yards, 23 TDs, 9 INTs

    This guy exudes so much cool, he took over for Peyton Manning, and it actually turned out to be the right decision for the franchise.

    Indianapolis Colts fans have gleefully watched Andrew Luck lead numerous game-winning drives already, proving that the Stanford signal-caller was the right choice to assume the mantle.

    The one crucial difference between Luck and Manning is that the youngster can actually scramble for first downs and touchdowns. For answering the call when Manning's time with the Colts ended, Luck endeared himself to legions of proud Indy fans.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles, QB

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    2013 stats: 3,581 passing yards, 25 TDs, 9 INTs (at Central Florida)

    Choosing the Jacksonville Jaguars' fan favorite can be a little like choosing between liver and tripe for dinner: There are no attractive options being offered.

    Blake Bortles has yet to play an NFL snap and seems like a very risky pick at No. 3 in the 2014 draft. However, at least the Jags made a play for somebody.

    This is the same team whose best player, wideout Justin Blackmon, keeps getting suspended for substance abuse violations. Heck, Jacksonville even took a punter in the third round in 2012—before a guy named Russell Wilson.

    Pakistani owner Shahid Khan could possibly be angling to move the team to London, which is just as well since they plan to install pool cabanas and the NFL RedZone channel at their current stadium to help distract fans from the moribund product on the field.

Kansas City Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, RB

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 1,287 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs, 5.0 yards/carry, 70 receptions, 693 yards, 7 receiving TDs

    The info section of Jamaal Charles' Twitter account tells you everything you need to know about the man: "I want to thank everybody for your support. The Lord has blessed me, and allowed me to take care of my family through football."

    A man of tremendous talent and humility, Charles' demeanor does not fit with his sensational play that racked up 19 scores and nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2013.

    No running back in history has ever boasted a higher yardage per carry for his career, according to Pro Football Reference, and yet most know Charles merely as a very good running back.

    Depending on how long his career continues, Charles could retire as a historically great runner. While casual fans may not appreciate Charles' prowess, Kansas City Chiefs fans certainly do.

Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 3,913 passing yards, 24 TDs, 17 INTs

    You will find this extremely hard to believe, but Ryan Tannehill's jersey sells more than most other franchise quarterbacks in the league. In 2013, he outsold Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers for a three-month span, according to the NFL Shop, via Big Lead Sports.

    And that was no fluke. From April 2013 to February 2014, Tannehill's jersey ranked 10th in sales, ahead of Robert Griffin III, Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Eli Manning and Tony Romo.

    The primary takeaway here: There are a lot of Miami Dolphins fans. Some of them may regret the purchase after Tannehill chucked 17 picks in his sophomore season, though he also raised his completion percentage and doubled his touchdown total.

Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson, RB

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 1,266 rushing yards, 10 TDs (14 games)

    Adrian Peterson rumbled for over 2,000 yards in 2012 after rehabbing a severe knee injury. Simply put, he's the best pure rusher in the league when he's on top form. 

    Minnesota Vikings fans have had to endure much suffering over the years. Before the Buffalo Bills, the people in purple gained the first distinction of losing four Super Bowls. Peterson's superb running has captivated the league and enthralled Vikes fans everywhere.

    He's even got a quirky sense of humor to boot.

    Hahahahaha pic.twitter.com/FrtVrW7IT6

    — Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) June 5, 2013

New England Patriots: Rob Gronkowski, TE

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 39 receptions, 592 yards, 4 TDs (7 games)

    You thought it would be Tom Brady, didn't you? Sure, "Tom Terrific" has legions of fans throughout New England and around the globe, but it can be difficult to root for any man with a supermodel wife and every other accoutrement a dude could ask for.

    Brady lives in the stratosphere, far above mere mortals. You don't want to party with him. You might not own the correct boating shoes (or any, for that matter), and you're sure to confuse your shrimp fork with your salad fork. 

    Rob Gronkowski, on the other hand, just wants you to know that it's happy hour somewhere, and he's doing his part. From partying with Johnny Manziel to his smiley-face-instead-of-fig-leaf appearance in the Bodies issue of ESPN The Magazine, this guy brings the fun wherever he goes.

    If Gronk can ever stay healthy, the New England Patriots will indeed win another ring for Brady before he retires, as long as they doesn't have to play the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. 

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, QB

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 5,162 passing yards, 39 TDs, 12 INTs

    This entry could still be for Archie Manning, but he is technically retired. After multiple decades of wearing bags over their heads, New Orleans Saints fans can finally stand tall with a Super Bowl title to their credit.

    Who dat man who delivered dem rings? Drew Brees, of course. 

    Allegedly undersized to play QB in the NFL, the 6'0" Brees has made every single one of his critics eat a heaping plate of crow. He's averaged over 322 yards per game in each of the last three seasons. They love him in NOLA more than chicory in their coffee.

New York Giants: Victor Cruz, WR

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 73 receptions, 998 receiving yards, 4 TDs (14 games)

    New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has cemented his status as an enduring New York sports legend with a pair of game-winning drives to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

    He's also got that post-interception hangdog look which still rankles some fans, plus an "aw shucks" demeanor which doesn't play well with some rabid devotees of sports talk radio.

    Victor Cruz, on the other hand, is a local boy from Patterson, NJ. His meteoric rise from undrafted free agent to play-making wide receiver for the G-Men has endeared him to fans young and old. He also has a jolly, magnetic presence, loves his family and dances a mean salsa, which itself is a tribute to his late grandmother.

    Chunky Soup couldn't act fast enough to get this charming wideout signed for an endorsement. 

New York Jets: Geno Smith, QB

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 3,046 passing yards, 12 TDs, 21 INTs

    Hey, at least he's not Mark Sanchez. After the infamous "Butt Fumble" game on Thanksgiving in 2012, New York Jets fans had a tough time respecting the player formerly known as "Sanchize." The former USC star's downfall transpired nearly as swiftly as Victor Cruz's vault to stardom.

    The teams also shared a stadium, and the Giants inaugurated it with a Super Bowl win. Perhaps Jets fans could not bear the weight of such a burden. Sanchez became the scapegoat for a team with virtually no offense, though the QB did regress noticeably. 

    Enter the most popular man in the room: Any Other Quarterback. Geno Smith experienced extreme highs and lowly lows during his rookie season, but he'll actually have some people to throw to this year like free-agent wideout Eric Decker and rookie tight end Jace Amaro.

    If Smith can make some progress in his second year, like not throwing a slew of interceptions, Jets fans will be flying high with Geno. 

Oakland Raiders: Charles Woodson, S

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 75 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT, three forced fumbles

    This choice is particularly bittersweet. The Oakland Raiders jettisoned Charles Woodson because they thought he was washed upin 2005.

    Then he went to Green Bay and became a stalwart on a Super Bowl champion defense while earning four more Pro Bowl selections and as many All-Pro nods. The AP also named him Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.

    Clearly, the Raiders had no idea what they were doing in 2005, and nothing could be more Raiders than bringing Woodson back eight years after deeming him over the hill. He turned 37 last year.

Philadelphia Eagles: LeSean McCoy, RB

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 1,607 rushing yards, 9 TDs, 52 receptions, 539 receiving yards

    They call him "Shady," but in a good way! It's a nickname from his mother.

    LeSean McCoy has a chance to become the league's most productive back in perpetuity as the feature of Chip Kelly's "Blur Offense." 

    McCoy is a pretty affable guy as well. He could easily transition to broadcasting when he hangs it up, which Philly fans hope won't be for another decade or so.

    I had a Blast at the Espn campus ..... I think I found my job when I retire lol

    — Lesean McCoy (@CutonDime25) May 19, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers: Troy Polamalu, S

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    Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

    2013 stats: 50 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2 INTs, 11 passes defended

    As Troy Polamalu's coverage abilities as a safety have begun to decline at age 33, his endorsement presence has risen sharply. His enormous tresses made him an obvious candidate to hock shampoo. 

    Even if you don't care for his commercials or his center field defense, you have to love his Superman-dive blitzes at the goal line.

    He's so popular, they make him out of wax. He also holds the Guinness record for "highest-insured hair," which provides further proof his value.

Saint Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    2013 stats: 1,687 passing yards, 14 TDs, 4 INTs (7 games)

    Michael Sam, whose jersey has been a massive seller nationwide since the draft, merits some consideration for this spot, but the young man has not played a single down of NFL football yet, so it's prudent to wait for him to actually make the roster. 

    Another Sam, Sam Bradford, still stirs the drink in St. Louis. An ACL injury ended his 2013 season and, effectively, the team's as well.

    Entering his fifth year in the league, the Rams will look for Bradford to prove his status as the franchise quarterback. If he can do so, he'll be the biggest thing in a Rams uniform since Kurt Warner beguiled the league. Unfortunately, Bradford plays in the NFC West, perhaps the toughest division in football.

San Diego Chargers: Antonio Gates, TE

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 77 receptions, 872 yards, 4 TDs

    Antonio Gates has already hauled in 719 career receptions and 87 TDs, both the most in San Diego Chargers history. Just 400 more receiving yards will carry him past Lance Alworth for that all-time franchise mark.

    After the departure of LaDainian Tomlinson, Gates and quarterback Philip Rivers have been the franchise players and most reliable performers on the Charger offense (save 2012 when both had down years in terms of production).

    A review of Gates' Twitter feed reveals that he primarily uses it to promote events and causes that he cares about, and each burst of tweets typically serves as a call to action for volunteers or contributions to a good cause.

    He's a feel-good star.

San Francisco 49ers: Vernon Davis, TE

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 52 receptions, 850 yards, 13 TDs

    Colin Kaepernick looks poised to become one of the league's biggest stars, but Vernon Davis is the elder statesman.

    Davis like to give back to his community, and he knows how hard it is to come by success. Davis spent several years as the only decent receiver on the San Francisco 49ers, and he never went into full diva mode to demand the team give him more support. That's not his style.

    (Well, until his recent holdout that is, though such behavior is uncharacteristic for Davis, plus pretty much every talented tight end is looking for more money right now.)

    Instead, he does things like set up art initiatives for kids. 

    See all the fun from last week! Check out the details for next week's art class and sign up! http://t.co/pT866J9Ruu pic.twitter.com/YMuvP6qSRL

    Vernon Davis (@VernonDavis85) June 16, 2014

    Davis' social media influence also extends to nearly 2 million followers. 

    Proving that karma exists, Davis has seen the Niners transform into an NFC powerhouse once again. With some more good works from Davis, perhaps his team can finally add another Super Bowl to the franchise's impressive resume.

    Other 49ers inspire fans in their own unique way. Tackle Joe Staley hosts his own show of sorts and generally acts like a wacky guy, while linebacker Patrick Willis has a big, engaging personality with the play on the field to back it up. 

Seattle Seahawks: Derrick Coleman, FB

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    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 8 receptions, 62 yards, 1 TD (12 games)

    Yes, quarterback Russell Wilson and Michael Crabtree-berater Richard Sherman have garnered more media attention, but Derrick Coleman is notable for more than just sharing his name with a talented former basketball player. 

    The Seattle Seahawks fullback is deaf. His story featured in a Duracell commercial about his fight against adversity and those who thought a deaf player couldn't cut it in professional football. 

    A young hearing-impaired girl from New Jersey named Riley Kovalcik wrote a letter to Coleman in January 2014. She stated that she also wore hearing aids, knew how he felt and encouraged him to do his best, via New York Daily News.

    Coleman penned a personal response and met Riley and her sister, who is also hearing impaired, in person as arranged by ABC’s Good Morning America.

    So happy to have these girls come to the game and share this awesome experience with me! #extramotivation http://t.co/SwUu4vy9uE

    — Derrick Coleman Jr (@DC2forlife) January 30, 2014

    He even gave them Super Bowl tickets, and they watched Coleman and the Seahawks won the title.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin, RB

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 456 rushing yards, 1 TD (6 games)

    Veteran Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson ranks a close second, but anyone with the nickname "Muscle Hamster" will always rate highly with fans. 

    Doug Martin exploded into the NFL like a human pinball. He piled up 1,926 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns as a rookie. A torn labrum ended his 2013 season prematurely, but he's got better offensive options around him now to help shoulder the workload. 

    It's always fun to root for a 5'9" running back, and since Martin's injury last season was not sustained to his legs, look for his shocking speed bursts to be back in full force.

Tennessee Titans: Delanie Walker, TE

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    USA TODAY Sports

    2013 stats: 60 receptions, 571 yards, 6 TDs

    Delanie Walker may have some competition. Offensive tackle Michael Oher, inspiration for the film The Blind Side, just joined the squad. 

    Though Walker stands on the margin of the team's skill players, he enjoyed his best season in the league in his first year with the Tennessee Titans. 

    He's also very focused on charity work and giving the the community, an effort he has continued after the move to Tennessee. 

       To all the young men out there who don’t have fathers on this Father’s Day: I believe in you. We’ve got your back. http://t.co/IsAkKseuek

    — Delanie walker (@delaniewalker82) June 15, 2014

    Like good defense in basketball, charity work never goes into a slump.

Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2013 stats: 3,203 passing yards, 16 TDs, 12 INTs (13 games)

    The Washington Redskins have an owner and a coach, but it sometimes feels like Robert Griffin III has his own dominating gravitational pull in the nation's capital. 

    After rushing for seven scores in 2012, RGIII didn't crack the end zone once in 2013. The leg injury he suffered in the final game of his rookie season seemed to bother him throughout his second year, and the team took some steps to protect the player they yielded a boatload of draft picks for.

    After all the hand-wringing over who to draft in 2012, the Colts and Redskins seemed to choose wisely with Andrew Luck and RGIII at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. Of course, Russell Wilson went 75th, and he has a Super Bowl ring already.

    Griffin has plenty of time to make good on the heaps of hype he brings with him. However, some feel as uneasy about his injury risk as they do about the team's racist name.