One thing that kinda bothers me with the current champs is that when I see a champ I see them as a possible fighter (attack rating), or a resource (+2 spell points per turn, etc.), not as 'individuals' (ie -- a guy who is wandering the land, dedicated to bringing back life to the land -- a Johnny Appleseed or the like, etc.).
Perhaps the skill tree idea that SavageBananaMan34 and others have mentioned (in the "how much do you like the current champion system? thread in the Elemental Beta Forum) which is a good idea on its own, would also help with this. Perhaps it could go like this with Mr. Appleseed:
We see a champ but no stats listed (no '10% bonus to orchard production' or no '+2 to spell research per turn'). We only see a description like "Johnny Appleseed is descended from a long line of forest nurserymen, and wanders the land trying to preserve this knowledge". This presents him as a person and gives a clue to his innate skills without making him seem a walking stat machine.
If Mr. Appleseed levels up we'd have skill tree options, weighted towards his innate skills/knowledge (in Mr. Appleseed's case it's orchard production, for Paul Bunyon it'd be lumberyard production, etc.). Let's assume a normal skill-up is 10% bonus to a resource and +2 per turn to a skill like spell research. Mr. Appleseed would get the normal bonus to orchard production (10%) but only half normal skill-up to non-orchard choices (so only +1 per turn to spell research).
This variable skill-up gives us a choice -- get normal skill-up from their innate abilities, but if we want to direct their development in other ways we can but at a penalty.
This would also address the problem that as time goes on, the current "+2 spell points per turn" becomes increasingly insignificant. Allowing that to increase with each levelup lets it remain more useful as the game progresses.
This tech tree skill-up could be in addition to the current '+stats at level-up' choice, or could be in lieu of it.