NFL Draft 2012: The 10 Most Marketable and Media-Ready Rookies
The ingredients for marketing and media stardom in the NFL are usually a combination of a high-profile position (like QB or, er, QB), winning championships (see Manning, Eli or Peyton) or some kind of charismatic hook (like a great mane of hair—see Troy Polamalu—or a crazy intensity—see Ray Lewis).
It's a tried-and-true formula that has worked for the league.
With that, here are my bold predictions for the 10 most marketable and media-ready rookies from this year's draft.
10. Nick Perry, Green Bay Packers
Former USC defensive end Nick Perry is joining a Packers team filled with stars, especially on defense with Clay Matthews Jr. and Charles Woodson, for example.
The Packers will have five national telecasts, so Perry will have the exposure to break out of the pack from most of the other rookies. He can rush the passer from OLB or DE positions, and sacking the QB is a glamor job that the media and marketers love to embrace.
9. Quinton Coples, New York Jets
Jets defensive end Quinton Coples has been roundly questioned by media pundits for being drafted too high. Nonetheless, coach Rex Ryan coaxes the most out of his defense, so if Coples can be the menacing pass-rusher the Jets expect, he will get plenty of attention and opportunities in the biggest media market in the country.
8. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Former Michigan State standout Kirk Cousins was the fourth-round pick (and second quarterback drafted) of the Washington Redskins. Cousins dazzled with a great speech at last year's Big Ten media day.
Given that he will be playing behind Robert Griffin III, he seems to have a better chance of being the next Kirk Herbstreit (as a broadcaster) than the first Kirk Cousins (the QB).
The way that RGIII plays (in addition to the porous Redskins offensive line) makes him a candidate for an injury, which would give Cousins the opportunity to play and shine. He will certainly be the master of the postgame press conference.
7. LaMichael James, San Francisco 49ers
LaMichael James, the 5'8" former Oregon tailback, is heading to a 49er team that lost only three regular-season games last year. Adding him, as well as A.J. Jenkins, to an already potentially explosive offense gives James the chance to be one of the biggest impact rookies in 2012.
He can be Ray Rice (with a little more explosiveness) and will have an opportunity to shine in a Week 1 matchup vs. the Packers in the big Fox game.
6. A.J. Jenkins, San Francisco 49ers
Former Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins is an undersized receiver who should thrive in Jim Harbaugh's system in San Francisco.
The 49ers were just a fumbled punt return (or two) from playing in the Super Bowl a year ago, and with Jenkins giving Alex Smith a speedy weapon to take the pressure off Vernon Davis, he should get plenty of attention and the marketing dollars that follow.
5. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns
Trick question: Who is older—former Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden or nine-year NBA veteran and former favorite son of Cleveland LeBron James?
Yes, Weeden is more than a year older than King James, and he's a "rookie" for the Browns. He has a city and a franchise on his shoulders now in a town that hasn't won ANY major sports championship since 1964 and is the best hope at quarterback since Brian Sipe was slinging the pigskin for the team now known as the Baltimore Ravens.
Plus, he was a minor league pitcher for several years before returning to football, and he's sure to wow the Progressive Field crowd in Cleveland for the surprising Indians when he throws a 90 mph strike during a first-pitch ceremony in the fall. That will endear him to the Rust Belt city.
4. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson's fortunes are tied together with those of fellow rookie and teammate Brandon Weeden.
The former Alabama running back steps into a starting role on a team that played some very close games last year on the strength of a very stingy defense. With a decent offense, the Browns will contend in the AFC North, and the football-mad fans in the Dawg Pound who have been starving for a winner will embrace Richardson.
This will be the NFL feel-good story for the "new" Browns to finally get back to the playoffs and will catapult Richardson to some good off-field opportunities. Richardson is media savvy, having played in college football's equivalent of the English Premier League.
If he brings respectability back to the Dawg Pound, he may find them nearly as fanatical as the Alabama faithful in Tuscaloosa.
3. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Eight of the top 10 most marketable players in the NFL are quarterbacks. Thus, this slot goes to Ryan Tannehill—he of the hot Maxim model wife and the hungry-for-a-winner, football-crazy Miami Dolphins.
Tannehill is poised for stardom and needs to make the Dolphins respectable to have a chance at becoming a marketing powerhouse—first in South Florida and then the country.
He's also a handsome fellow (did you think she married him for his strong arm?), and that will appeal to the 42 percent of NFL fans of the fairer sex and all those marketers trying to reach women.
2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Stepping into the big shoes and shadow of Peyton Manning will be a bit easier given that the Dan Orlovsky era of 2-14 football has made Indy anxiously welcome the former Stanford star QB.
Luck, who turned the Pac-10/12 upside down in just a few years, has a good pedigree (like Manning, he is the son of an NFL quarterback, Oliver Luck), and if scouts are right, he has the makeup and the intelligence to be a top-flight NFL quarterback for the next decade and beyond.
1. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
Heisman Trophy winner—check. Cool funky green collegiate uniforms—check. Plays the game like Michael Vick and Cam Newton—check. Great personality...the list goes on, as it seems RGIII has it all.
Griffin is headed to a big-market franchise that hasn't been relevant since Joe Gibbs was just a coach and not a NASCAR owner.
RGIII has the look, the city and the nickname, which has him destined for success. All he needs is a Super Bowl or two and he will be doing commercials for Visa, McDonald's and big marketers.
Editor's note: Steve Herz is the President of IF Management (a full-service sports and media talent agency) and has represented and marketed various pro athletes, sports figures and high-profile media personalities.