Ezekiel Elliott became the first rookie to finish the year atop the NFL Players Association’s Top 50 Player Sales List at the end of the 2016-17 season. The list is based on total sales of officially licensed NFL player merchandise, tracking year-end results from March 1, 2016 through February 28, 2017.
The Dallas Cowboys running back made the leap from the No. 6 spot on the NFLPA’s predictive 2016 Rising 50 list – which seeks to identify the next crop of NFL marketing stars – to the top spot on the year-end Top 50 sales chart.
Elliott wasn’t alone in his quick rise to the top of the year-end player sales list. His quarterback, Dak Prescott, finished the year-end list in the No. 2 spot, moving up six spots at the end of the third fiscal quarter.
Tom Brady of the New England Patriots checked in at No. 3 on the list, after holding the top spot through the end of the third quarter, with another Cowboy – Dez Bryant – ranking fourth, and the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. rounding out the top five.
Quarterbacks again were well-represented on the year-end NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales List, with a total of 19 represented – including six in the top 10. Following Prescott and Brady, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (No. 6), Philadelphia Eagles rookie Carson Wentz (No. 7), Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers (No. 8), and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers (No. 10).
Wide receivers were the next most represented position, with 17 players. Defensive players (9), running backs (3), and tight ends (2) rounded out the list of the fiscal year’s best-selling players.
The Top 50 Player Sales List is released quarterly by the NFLPA, via its licensing and marketing arm NFL Players Inc., and is based on overall sales of all NFL player licensed products via online and traditional retail outlets as reported by more than 80 NFLPA licensees, including Fanatics, Nike, VF Imagewear, Outerstuff, Forever Collectibles, Funko, Fathead, Hallmark, McFarlane Toys, OYO Sports, FBF Originals, Wincraft and more. Licensed product categories include men’s, women’s and youth game jerseys and T-shirts, wall decals, figurines, toys, matted and framed photos, vinyl collectibles, bobbleheads, ugly sweaters, plush dolls, drinkware, socks, mobile gaming, virtual goods, holiday ornaments and novelties, among others.
Powered by officially licensed player-identified products sold through online and traditional retail outlets, NFLPA licensees generated retail sales exceeding $1.6 billion during the year.
Highlights from the NFLPA’s fourth quarter (December 1, 2016-February 28, 2017):
- Elliott led sales of McFarlane Toys figurines with more than 10,000 units sold.
- Brady sold the most Funko Pop! vinyl figures, as well as the most Bleacher Creatures plush dolls; Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan trailed only Brady in plush doll sales.
- Wentz generated the most bobblehead sales by Forever Collectibles
- Aaron Rodgers topped sales of Hardlines category, followed by Elliott, Brady, Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Bryant. Rodgers was also No. 4 in MacFarlane Toys/Madden Ultimate Team figures.
- Jameis Winston led sales in collegiate sports photo collectibles from Photo File.
The NFLPA has also unveiled its 2017 Rising 50. The annual list identifies players poised to break out and rank among next season’s top-sellers of all officially licensed merchandise – and ultimately become the NFLPA’s next retail kings. The Arizona Cardinals’ David Johnson succeeds last year’s top prospect, Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams, and leads the field of players best positioned to influence overall sales.
The ranking was developed by evaluating on-field performances during the 2016 season, fantasy football popularity, early demand from NFLPA sponsors and licensees, as well as new faces in strong markets. To be considered for inclusion, players must not have appeared in any previous quarterly or year-end list of the NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales.
Behind Johnson are Devonta Freeman (Atlanta Falcons), Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins), Jordan Howard (Chicago Bears) and Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers). This year’s No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, Myles Garrett joins Brandin Cooks (New England Patriots), Melvin Gordon (Los Angeles Chargers), Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) and Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers) to round out the top 10.
By assembling this list of Rising 50 players, the NFLPA provides current and prospective business partners – including sponsors, licensees, and retailers – with sales and marketing insights to plan product lines and marketing campaigns for the upcoming season.