The results are in for the NFL Players Inc. Top 50 Players Sales List for 2013-14, and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson ranked No. 1. That put him ahead of his Super Bowl XLVIII counterpart in Denver Broncos superstar Peyton Manning, who was the previous top-ranked player.
NFLPlayers.com reported the news Monday in an official release, which contained everyone in the top 50 and revealed how Wilson jumped from No. 19 to the first spot.
Here is a complete list of the 50 players who are helping drive the NFL's impassioned bandwagon:
|1||Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks||26||Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2||Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos||27||Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers|
|3||Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers||28||Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens|
|4||Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins||29||DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys|
|5||Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers||30||Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys|
|6||Tom Brady, New England Patriots||31||Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears|
|7||Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks||32||Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers|
|8||Eli Manning, New York Giants||33||Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders|
|9||Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts||34||Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys|
|10||Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints||35||Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens|
|11||J.J. Watt, Houston Texans||36||Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears|
|12||Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks||37||Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts|
|13||Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings||38||Andre Johnson, Houston Texans|
|14||Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers||39||A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals|
|15||Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys||40||Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs|
|16||Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers||41||Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints|
|17||Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers||42||Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers|
|18||Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots||43||Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers|
|19||Arian Foster, Houston Texans||44||Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons|
|20||Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions||45||Von Miller, Denver Broncos|
|21||Victor Cruz, New York Giants||46||Eric Decker, Denver Broncos|
|22||Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys||47||Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers|
|23||Wes Welker, Denver Broncos||48||Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons|
|24||Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins||49||Matt Forte, Chicago Bears|
|25||LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles||50||Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers|
Numbers for the rankings were calculated using 70 different licensees and exceeded $1 billion in sales in the year. The release provided a further explanation of what the rankings take into account:
The list, released quarterly by NFLPI, the marketing and licensing arm of the NFL Players Association, is based on total overall sales of all licensed products from online and traditional retail outlets as reported by more than 70 NFLPI licensees such as Nike, VF Imagewear, Fanatics, Outerstuff, Fathead, McFarlane Toys, Oyo Sportstoys, Bleacher Creatures, Forever Collectibles and Photo File. Licensed product categories include men’s, women’s and youth game jerseys and t-shirts, player murals, figurines, matted and framed photos, bobbleheads, drinkware, jewelry, electronic device accessories, among others.
It's amazing what winning can do for retail, because two of Wilson's most notable teammates in running back Marshawn Lynch and stalwart cornerback Richard Sherman were on the list at Nos. 7 and 12 respectively.
But the NFL is a quarterback-driven league as much as it's ever been, so it comes as little surprise that Lynch is the only player in the top 10 who doesn't play the game's most vital position.
Despite leading the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in his second season after being a third-round draft pick, Wilson recently tweeted that further greatness should be expected:
The best is yet to come!!!!— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) April 13, 2014
Perhaps he was right in referencing what's to come on the field, but away from it, there's no question he's developed into one of the league's most marketable stars. As a true underdog story due to his draft status and height, there's never any shortage of excitement when Wilson has the ball in his hands.
One of the premier rivalries in the league is between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. Almost by default and because of his rare athletic ability and arm talent, Niners QB Colin Kaepernick vaulted his way into the third slot behind only Wilson and Manning in the top 50 list.
Kaepernick had been 15th the last time around, but now finds himself ahead of the likes of Washington's Robert Griffin III, Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers and even New England Patriots legend Tom Brady.
All of those signal-callers live in big football markets with loyal fans, so Kaepernick has done well to pass them with his strong and growing brand. Despite a big bounce-back season in 2013, another Golden State quarterback in Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers finds himself all the way in 47th.
Pro Football Focus alluded to Rivers' passing prowess on third down, where he was better than Wilson and Manning in that order:
Highest PFF Passing Grade on 3rd Downs: Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler, Andrew Luck, Matthew Stafford— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 26, 2014
Success on the gridiron doesn't always translate to big retail value away from it, as is the evident case with Rivers.
But every player in the top 50—save for perhaps Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson at 37th—has had immense success in the NFL. One notable mainstay is Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who has slid from second and fifth in the previous two years but still remains in the top 20 at No. 17.
Which QB would you make a retail purchase for first?
There is a good amount of balance between venerated veterans such as Manning, Rodgers and Brady along with the newer, fresher stars such as Wilson, Kaepernick and Griffin atop the rankings. All of those players have dynamic personalities. Whether it's being composed, passionate or outspoken or any combination, they all exude the characteristics capable of franchise quarterbacks.
The fact that these retail sales exceed $1 billion shows just how much interest the NFL generates and how it should continue to thrive. Player safety concerns will be prominent moving forward, but if the nonprofit league can keep generating this kind of revenue off merchandise, perhaps more funds can be allocated to benefit the players who wear the jerseys and hit the field on Sundays.
This news is just confirmation that being on a winning NFL team is a pinnacle in North American Sports popularity, and that should remain the case for the foreseeable future. In the case of Wilson, he doesn't seem fazed by his meteoric rise and should maintain his high level of play as the Seahawks seek to build a dynasty—even in the parity-ridden modern league climate.
If Wilson manages to pull that off, bet on him to be first in these rankings in the years to come, especially with such a formidable retail presence in Manning nearing the conclusion of his epic career.