Diddy just got a huge endorsement from one of the most powerful men in the NFL -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft ... who says he's a huge fan of the rap mogul.
It's high praise -- and the timing couldn't be better ... with Diddy publicly declaring his intentions to become the next owner of the Carolina Panthers.
So, when we saw Kraft in Bev Hills with his GF, Ricki Noel Lander, we asked if he thinks Diddy has the chops to crush in the NFL.
"I'm a big fan of Diddy," Kraft tells TMZ Sports ..."He's a good businessman. He's a very good businessman and I have a lot of respect for Diddy."
Unclear how they know each other, but this is a pretty big deal for Diddy.