Our Face of the NFL tournament featured several close contests, but the championship round wasn't one of them. With 14,465 fan votes cast, J.J. Watt crushed Rob Gronkowski with a whopping 93.6 percent of the vote. Though the NFL is now largely an offensive game, Watt's dominant showing indicates that the people still love a beast who can get after the passer.
As it turns out, both Watt and Gronkowski were underestimated forces heading into this tournament. Neither player was a No. 1 seed, as that honor went to four quarterbacks -- Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Given how quarterbacks are the focal point of the NFL, it seemed to be a safe bet that at least one of those four passers would advance to the championship round. But surprisingly, Watt and Gronkowski took down Newton and Brady in the Elite Eight.
The relatively early exits from Brady and Newton were surprising, but perhaps their polarizing reputations worked against them in this bracket. Watt and Gronkowski have a few detractors, but they're much more universally loved.
Ultimately, that might be what this came down to. Sports are supposed to be entertaining, and few players appear to have more fun on the field than Watt and Gronk. Their massive personalities nearly match their production, which is quite a feat.
The SB Nation NFL staff wanted the readers to decide the winner, and from start to finish, voters overwhelmingly backed Watt. Maybe we would have gone in a different direction, but we agree that Watt is a deserving winner.
No. 2 J.J. Watt def No. 3 Rob Gronkowski
One would be hard-pressed to find two players who've enjoyed better starts to their careers than Watt and Gronkowski. Watt is the best defensive player of his generation, with as many Defensive Player of the Year awards in his first five seasons as Lawrence Taylor had in his entire career. Gronkowski, meanwhile, has more touchdown catches than any tight end in the Hall of Fame even though he's missed more than a dozen games in his six-year career.
But Watt routed Gronkowski here, showing that he was just as hard to stop in this tournament as he is at the line of scrimmage.
As dominant as Watt is on the gridiron, though, his ubiquitous presence off the field may have been what sealed the deal for him. According to Forbes, he rakes in $7 million annually in endorsements, which is more than any non-quarterback in the NFL.
Though Watt may present himself as just a football-loving bro -- much like Gronk -- it's clear there's far more to him than that. He has a dynamic social media presence, accumulating more than 1.8 million followers on Twitter. Watt has successfully built himself into a major brand, which is remarkable considering the position he plays.
His opinions may not be alienating, but that's part of what makes him such a popular figure.
I'm just gonna be honest, if you don't like french toast, waffles, bacon & eggs, pancakes, etc. We're gonna have a tough time being friends.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 17, 2016
Watt is also beloved for the way he carries himself on the field. His flamboyant celebrations may garner most of the attention, but he's also shown a penchant for performing random acts of kindness. Prior to January's playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs, for example, he spotted a 99-year-old fan who was wearing his No. 99 jersey and promptly made her day.
Fans of all ages love Watt, especially children. Throughout the entirety of his career, whether it's visiting sick kids in the hospital on Christmas or giving a young fan his glove after a game of catch, Watt has always tried to put a smile on their faces.
Even Watt's so-called controversial moments are fun. This past season, for example, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton took issue with Watt calling him the "Red Ryder BB Gun." Yes, for real:
The following day, Dalton claimed he overreacted and promised he harbored no ill will toward Watt.
Perhaps that moment illustrates Watt's charm more than anything else. Even when he ticks off his opponents, it's fleeting and difficult not to laugh. The NFL would be better off if there were a lot more players like him.