Ah, the mighty jersey sales. The metric we use to determine which players are garnering the most attention locally from their fan bases. Which players are the face of their franchises? To whom do fans look for some kind of hope for a better future to come?
Let’s take a look around the league.
Australia Blue Heelers — Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR/DET
When the Blue Heelers first inked Jonathan Taylor to a league-high $31 million contract, suffice it to say, his jersey flew off the racks and Australians were geeked out about the all-world running back. Unfortunately for them, and the Blue Heelers, Taylor suffered an ankle injury and was in and out of the lineup all season. He was less than dominant when he did play and far underperformed his lofty contract. Fans turned to the streets to burn his jersey and a leadership void opened up for someone else to fill. Enter St. Brown, who in his second season led all non-quarterbacks in scoring for the Blue Heelers. His rise has been impressive, especially considering he might not even be the most decorated receiver at the position in what is a deep, young corps for the organization.
Bolivia Llamas — Jalen Hurts, QB/PHI
When you consider that the Llamas spent a whopping $14.1 million on Justin Herbert, who far underperformed his contract, it makes you wonder how much further they could have gone this year had they spent that money on a FLEX player or two. This, of course, is only in question due to the breakout season by Jalen Hurts. His dominant performance allowed the Llamas to bench Herbert as they competed for the South Division crown. What’s more, Herbert’s expensive deal comes off the books next year and Hurts’ $5.2 million in each of the next two seasons looks like a bargain and an opportunity to spend big at other positions to make another run at a title.
Colombia Capybaras — Tyreek Hill, WR/MIA
It goes without saying that Colombia’s merchandise sales led the league in the midst of the team’s near-perfect run to a championship. Due to the team’s balanced spending, there wasn’t one star who garnered the bulk of attention from the fan base. It was a close battle between Saquon Barkley, who finished as a Top 5 running back after battling injuries the previous two seasons, and Tyreek Hill, whom many teams shunned due to his change in circumstances, but who finished as the No. 2 wide receiver in the league. In the end, the slight edge in jersey sales went to Hill, who’s explosive playmaking ability gives jollies to fans of high-powered offenses.
Greece Trojans — Lamar Jackson, QB/BAL
Trojans fans had a bit of disappointment watching their beloved No. 1 running back, Najee Harris, far underperform his $25 million contract. The fan base soured on him quickly as the league’s third-highest paid running back finished a disappointing 14th among all backs. The fans had to turn their attention elsewhere, and even though he wasn’t able to finish the season due to injury, Lamar Jackson still became their reason for tuning into games this year. Jackson is one of only six players under contract for 2023, and his familiar face combined with his playmaking ability will be what fans are rallying around as the Trojans look to rebound from missing the playoffs this season.
Ireland Shamrocks — Joe Burrow, QB/CIN
The Shamrocks were one of the highest-scoring teams in the league in 2022 and there were many players responsible for that explosion. One of the most obvious ones was tight end Travis Kelce, who gave the Shamrocks a clear mismatch and advantage each and every week of the season. But despite Kelce once again leading the position in scoring — by more than 100 points — the fans still loved the steady hand, and often explosive playmaking, of quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow finished fourth among quarterbacks in scoring and has another year under contract to try to run this thing back again next year.
Italy Emperors — Breece Hall, RB/NYJ
The Emperors excited their fan base with some of the names they acquired via free agency to start the season. But the organization quickly took a fire hose to any flicker of hope when it started unloading players and preparing for the 2023 season. When a rebuild happens, it’s difficult for fans to tune in to games, let alone purchase any jerseys or know who will even be on the team beyond the current season. With Kyle Pitts performing poorly, the only other big-named player worth glomming on to was rookie running back Breece Hall. Hall looked quite explosive mid season before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He has his work cut out for him to return to form but fans are encouraged.
Kazakhstan’s Very Nice Team — Austin Ekeler, RB/LAC
Kazakhstan finished 10-4 and won the East Division championship and Ekeler was a big reason why. He signed the biggest contract on the team and also led all DFL running backs in scoring. Ekeler clearly drummed up a lot of excitement in Kazakhstan this season. How — and if — he factors into the team’s future remains to be seen. He only signed a one-year deal and a franchise tag seems unlikely given his price tag. But at least for one year, fans loaded up on Ekeler merchandise and enjoyed the ride.
Papua New Guinea Pigs — Josh Allen, QB/BUF
Josh Allen was the league’s highest-paid quarterback this season with a whopping $17 million salary. He was one of the primary reasons why the Pigs were among the highest-scoring teams in the league. However, his bloated contract might have also hindered the Pigs from acquiring more help at other positions. (That, plus D’Andre Swift’s expensive deal certainly didn’t help). Still, Allen gave the fan base a lot of thrills this season and instantly gave the team a chance to win every time they stepped onto the field. Placing a franchise tag on Allen is a cost-prohibitive move, so his future remains in the balance.
Peru Gurus — Christian McCaffrey, RB/SF
Peru made a bold offseason move offering a $25.1 million contract to a player who had only appeared in 10 games the previous two years, and that gamble paid off. McCaffrey rewarded the Gurus with a stellar, McCaffrey-esque season, finishing second among running backs in scoring and helped lead the team to the playoffs. McCaffrey is likely to hit the free agent market this offseason, and whether or not the Gurus extend another lucrative offer to the fan favorite remains to be seen.
Saint Kitts & Nevis Shockers — Justin Jefferson, WR/MIN
Saint Kitts “shocked” the DFL world last offseason when they splurged on four players — Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Mark Andrews and Kyler Murray — which took up 81% of their budget. They wound up having to round out their roster with quite a few homeless veterans and out-of-work carnies. As such, the fan base didn’t have much of a problem coalescing around their favorite players. The leader of the pack had to be Jefferson, who took the league by storm and finished as the No. 1 overall receiver. Jefferson’s crazy speed and agility with his big-play ability had fans flocking to the Pro Shop to buy his gear. Jefferson is a clear Top 5 receiver, thus the Shockers will likely place the NFT tag on him and see if any owners want to bite and give up a second-round pick to woo him away from Saint Kitts.
Sint Maarten Savages — Patrick Mahomes, QB/KC
The Savages had a bit of a rough year, going 4-10 and squeezing into the postseason based on some high scores in the first half of the season. The team signed Cooper Kupp to a 2-year deal worth $26 million per season. Unfortunately for them, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury that severely hampered the Savages’ 2022 campaign. There was some buzz in the air about rookie Dameon Pierce and Brandon Aiyuk had a great bounce-back season. But the face of the organization is clearly Patrick Mahomes, whom the organization wanted so badly that they initially floated a monster contract offer to him, which they eventually rescinded and settled on a still-expensive but more reasonable $14 million deal. Mahomes led the DFL in scoring this year and was one of the bright spots that fans gravitated toward.
South Africa Ballstrikers — Ja’Marr Chase, WR/CIN
The Ballstrikers had a solid 2022 campaign, winning the South Division title and making the playoffs. They had a strong running back room and they certainly needed it to pick up the slack for the expensive underperformers in the receiving room in Courtland Sutton and Mike Williams. Josh Jacobs was one of the biggest surprises in the league this year and he generated a big buzz from the fan base. Jacobs finished as the RB3 and helped propel an offense that had quarterback issues and a lack of depth at receiver. Despite Jacobs’ popularity, however, the real face of the franchise is Ja’Marr Chase. The second-year receiver missed five games, but when he played, he dominated per usual. He’s under contract for the 2023 season.