In the NFLPA’s seventh annual Rising Stars list, quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Mac Jones make up five of the top 10 names for first-year players expected to make a splash in official merchandise sales. The remaining rookies are receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Devonta Smith, halfbacks Najee Harris and Travis Etienne, and the sole tight end, the Falcons’ Kyle Pitts.
The NFLPA also creates a second list, highlighting 10 veterans who did not appear on the previous quarterly or year-end NFLPA top 50 players’ merchandise sales list but could break through this year. These rankings have just one quarterback, the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts. The former Alabama and Oklahoma signal caller is followed by four receivers, three running backs and two tight ends.
At No. 9 on the veterans list is second-year Pittsburgh receiver Chase Claypool, who added more than 540,000 followers since last year and has the most engaged social media audience (11.85%), according to Opendorse data. Vikings’ wideout Justin Jefferson, another receiver entering his sophomore season, gained 430,000 followers across Twitter and Instagram after breaking the rookie receiving yards record last season. Both players have YouTube channels with sizable subscriber bases—Claypool has 236,000, while Jefferson has 90,800.
In the interest of helping first-year players build their individual brands, the NFLPA also hosts a “Rookie Premiere” event. Its goal is to introduce first-year players to companies in hopes of assisting both sides in forming mutually beneficial relationships. Even before the gathering, the No. 1 rookie on his year’s list, Lawrence, had already cashed in on deal with Adidas and Gatorade.
The Rising Stars list, released by the NFLPA’s marketing and licensing arm, NFL Players Inc, spots players who are primed to join the top sellers of officially licensed player products next year. There are no defensive players on either list.
Fifty-six players have climbed from rising stars spots to the broader NFLPA top 50 players sales list—including eight from last season. Rookies Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in overall merchandise sales, with Chase Young, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Herbert, Nick Chubb and DK Metcalf following behind.