Social & Influencers

The most influential players in the NFL, ranked

Quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes made the top 10.
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

· 4 min read

Women in Cincinnati are drowning their sorrows over the rumored engagement of Bengals QB Joe Burrow with 9-cent “Sad Girl Shots” at a local bar. Marketers might follow suit if they can’t score a different kind of partnership with the NFL star.

In addition to being No. 1 in our hearts, Burrow landed on top of the NFL Players Association’s Influencer Hot List this year. The association worked with partnership measurement company Zoomph to rank players’ social performance based on their number of organic posts, followers, engagement rates, impressions, and follower interaction rates across Instagram and X from September 2022 to July 2023.

Burrow has worked with brands including BodyArmor, Bose, and Kroger. While he’s certainly desirable, marketers might want to consider players further down the list depending on their goals, Gina Scott, VP of partner services at the NFLPA, told Marketing Brew.

Leading the league

Burrow’s stats are off the charts, and not just his record-breaking completion percentage (despite a less-than-ideal Week 1). On social, he has an engagement rate of over 13%, higher than any other player in the league, according to the list.

“Joe’s got that swag, he’s got that style,” Scott said. “Joe’s taken control of his entire story. He’s not relying on anybody else to give you that peek behind the curtain, or to tell you who Joe is. He’s actually doing it himself.”

It also likely doesn’t hurt his social stats that he already had a following from his LSU days, Scott said.

Coming in second was Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest earlier this year during a prime-time game against the Bengals, prompting an outpouring of support and renewed conversations about the sport’s safety.

Rounding out the top five were Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, and San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey, who was traded early last season from the Carolina Panthers, then got engaged to model and actress Olivia Culpo earlier this year, jumped from No. 31 on last year’s list.

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“He moved from ‘football player,’ where your sport fans really knew Christian on the field, and went over into this world of pop culture that I think really elevated his status and probably boosted his social media profile,” Scott said.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce clocked in at No. 6, but his star could similarly rise soon if rumors that he’s “quietly hanging out” with Taylor Swift are true.

The rookie(s)

Another notable climber on the list was Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, a fourth-round draft pick in 2019, who went from No. 43 to No. 15. Scott said Crosby does a particularly good job of using social to give fans a look at his life off the field, which is perhaps why his stats are higher than some might expect.

Crosby isn’t the only player who could prove to be a catch for brands despite not cracking the top 10. Kyle Juszczyk, fullback for the 49ers and No. 33 on the list, has an engagement rate of about 12%, almost as high as Burrow’s. Maybe it’s because his Instagram heavily features his dogs, Mozzarella and Pierogi, and who doesn’t love a petfluencer?

The list also includes a few rookies: Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (No. 36), Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers (No. 41), and Panthers QB Bryce Young (No. 50). NIL deals could have helped boost their online popularity early on in their careers, and Scott pointed out that all three come from powerhouse football colleges. Brands shouldn’t discount players like them on the bottom half of the list, she said.

“It’s all about that bespoke opportunity,” Scott said. “It really just depends on what a brand is looking for.”

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