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Face of the NFL comes down to Rob Gronkowski vs. J.J. Watt


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The championship round of the SB Nation Face of the NFL tournament doesn't include the two favorites heading into this contest.

On paper, defeating Tom Brady and Cam Newton appeared to be a difficult task. Both quarterbacks are two of the most popular -- and polarizing -- players in the league. But they were both ousted in the Elite Eight and J.J. Watt, the man who surpassed Newton, is one of the last two men standing.

Watt received a whopping 90 percent of the vote in his matchup with Aaron Rodgers in the Final Four, easily knocking off the Green Bay Packers quarterback and 2014 NFL MVP. The result probably speaks just as much to Watt's outsized personality as his dominant on-field performance. In addition to being named AP Defensive Player of the Year three times in four seasons, he's one of the game's most flamboyant showmen.

Watt's opponent, Rob Gronkowski, used a late surge in his Final Four matchup against  Russell Wilson to advance to the championship round.

With the title contest set between two of the game's most popular and colorful stars, it's now up to you to decide the winner. Voting is now closed, but come back on Tuesday to see which player will be crowned Face of the NFL.

No. 3 Rob Gronkowski def. No. 1 Russell Wilson

The case for Wilson: In terms of winning, Wilson's resume to start off his NFL career is second to none. He's made the playoffs all four seasons he's been in the league, won a Super Bowl and played in another. He put together his best season as a professional in 2015, posting a league-leading quarterback rating of 110.1.

Off the field, he's done pretty well for himself, too. He just got engaged to a beautiful pop star, Ciara, and is considered one of the more thoughtful players in the league. And after landing a four-year, $87.5 million contract last summer, the 27-year-old is starting to build a nice nest egg for himself and his family.

The case for Gronk: The only thing bigger than Gronkowski's personality might be his incredible production on the field. At 26 years old, he already has more touchdown receptions than any other tight end who's in the Hall of Fame (65 touchdowns in 69 starts). At 6'6, 265 pounds, he's probably the toughest person to cover in football.

But what should push Gronkowski over the top here is the brand he's been able to build for himself off the gridiron. He's arguably the most notorious party boy in professional sports, even going as far as to host a Gronk Party CruiseNaturally, the boat featured all-night parties, concerts from Flo Rida and Waka Flocka Flame, and yes -- Gronk twerking.

Perhaps most amazingly of all, Gronk has been able to have all of this fun while playing under Bill Belichick. That's maybe his greatest accomplish of all.

No. 2 J.J. Watt def. No. 1 Aaron Rodgers

The case for Rodgers: Rodgers is everything you want in a professional athlete. For one, he's uber talented. He's got Cam Newton's arm, Peyton Manning's brain and Russell Wilson's ability to create plays with his legs. The closest thing we've ever seen to him is Steve Young, and Rodgers is better all around. He also happens to play for one of the most iconic sports teams in the world. It lends to his aura.

But this Face of the NFL bracket isn't just about talent or raw on the-field-numbers, though Rodgers could match anyone in that area. It's about much more, and that's where Rodgers separates himself. He's funny and charming, and dates a funny and charming woman, and together they enjoy doing funny and charming things. Like posting pictures of themselves in Star Wars gear.

He's not afraid to use his platform and tackle non-sports issues, such as criticizing fans for using Muslim slurs during games. Rodgers is a fantastic player with a personality that most quarterbacks keep hidden from public view. He's everything you'd want a quarterback to be and deserves to be crowned Face of the NFL.

The case for Watt: Watt is the greatest defensive player to play in the NFL since Lawrence Taylor. The numbers are staggering to look at. He's been in the NFL for five years and recorded 74.5 sacks. For the math-challenged, that comes out to just about 15 sacks a season, and the advanced numbers are even more impressive.

He's the league's best pass rusher, interior run stopper and might be the most athletic defensive end ever. Oh, and he loves to dance.

In a sport where quarterbacks get all the commercials while everyone remains unrecognizable and anonymous, Watt has been able to transcend the culture. He's the rare defensive player to get commercials. His crush on Jennifer Aniston gets covered by gossip magazinesHe's boys with the Governator. Yeah, that whole tiny mischaracterization of his not-so-minimalistic cabin wasn't exactly the best look. But all in all, Watt seems to be a genuinely good dude, a relentless worker and, perhaps most importantly, a once-in-a-generation player.

Championship Round

No. 3 Rob Gronkowski vs. No. 2 J.J. Watt

These two guys might just be the two most dominant players at their position in the NFL. Despite missing more than a dozen games in his six-season career, Gronkowski still leads all tight ends in receiving yards and touchdowns since his debut in 2010. He's an athletic freak, who combines the pass-catching skills of a wide receiver with the body of a powerful blocker to create the most imposing offensive weapon in the league.

Watt has been just as impressive on the defensive side of the ball, leading the league in sacks in 2012 and 2015 (20.5 sacks in 2012, 17.5 sacks in 2015). He has more sacks in his first five seasons combined (74.5) than any other player in NFL history besides Reggie White. Now, he goes for his most challenging takedown -- beating Gronkowski in the championship round of our tournament, as difficult as that might be in real life on the football field.