By Barry Janoff
October 28, 2016: Throughout his pro career, wide receiver Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys has shown that he knows how to catch footballs and score touchdowns.
Which has translated into his becoming a top salesman for the NFL.
In Q2 alone, that would be more than 81,000 Bryant-related items, according to the NFL Players’ Assn. and its licensing arm, NFL Players Inc.
Since March 1, Bryant has been the No. 1 mover of officially licensed NFL merchandise.
From March 1-May 31, he was ranked higher than all other players on the NFLPA ’s Top 50 list.
Bryant has not relinquished his spot in Q2, ranking No. 1 from June 1-Aug. 31 as the player who has sold the most NFL goods.
The Q2 numbers come from the offseason and pre-season, and do not reflect the fact that Bryant had been out with a knee injury suffered in the third week of the regular season before returing Oct. 30 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The NFLPA did not release sales figures regarding merchandise. Sales of officially licensed NFL merchandise are expected to top $4 billion this year, according to industry analysts.
Led by the NFL and MLB, the global licensed sports merchandise market is expected to grow from $27.6 billion in 2015 to $48.2 billion by 2024, according to a new report from Transparency Market Research, Albany NY.
From a geographical perspective, North America "dominated the global licensed sports merchandise market" in 2015, accounting for a nearly 54% of the global licensed sports merchandise market's revenues. The demand for licensed sports merchandise is "chiefly driven by the rising popularity of sporting leagues and their increasing fan bases."
The NFL and MLB together account for nearly 50% of the North America licensed sports merchandise market in terms of revenue, followed by the NBA, according to Transparency Market.
The Top 50 Player list is released quarterly by the NFLPA, via 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.
Although still among the league leaders in merchandise sales, three of Bryant’s teammates did not fare as well as they did in Q1.
Quarterback Tony Romo dropped from No. 2 in Q1 to No. 6; TE Jason Witten dropped from No. 5 to No. 10; and rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had been No. 3 in Q1, fell out of the Top 10 to No. 11, according to the NFLPA.
As with Bryant, the sales figures were gathered before the season began were not influenced by the Cowboys sitting atop the NFC East (6-1 to date), or Elliott’s show on the field as one of the top rushers in the league with almost 800 yards through seven games (or that he currently is involved in a situation regarding a potential case of domestic violence).
Nor do they reflect the fact that Dak Prescott, the fourth round pick of the Cowboys (No. 135 overall), had not yet come in as starting quarterback in place of the injured Romo. Prescott was not among the Top 50 but is expected to have an impact in Q3.
Despite falling out of the Top 10, Elliott, out of THE Ohio State, jumped to No. 1 in collegiate co-branded sales, replacing Brady (Michigan).
Former Ohio State teammates Braxton Miller (WR Houston Texans) and (No. 2) and Cardale Jones (QB Buffalo Bills) were No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in collegiate co-branded sales, although neither rookie placed among the Top 50 in overall NFL sales, according to NFLPA.
There was more movement among the Top 10 from Q1 to Q2, especially among quarterbacks.
Including Romo, there were five quarterbacks among the Top 10: New England Patriots Tom Brady moved up from No. 7 to No. 2 despite, or maybe because, he was at the time of these numbers about to start his four-game suspension; Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers went from No. 4 to No. 3, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks moved from No. 6 to No. 4 and the Carolina Panthers Cam Newton moved up from No. 12 in Q1 sales to No. 8 in Q2.
Overall, there were 17 quarterbacks and 15 wide receivers among the Top 50. Defensive players ranked next with nine among the Top 50.
The Seahawks placed five players in the Top 50 list for the second straight quarter. Green Bay had four players, the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers three each. Nine other teams were represented by two players on the list.
Teams with no players in the Top 50 were the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions.
Also not on the list was Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, whose situation regarding the playing of the National Anthem led to a spike in sales of his jersey (proceeds from which he said he would donated to community agencies). He currently has the No. 2 best-selling jersey at the NFL’s online store (behind the New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr.) and, like Prescott, his impact likely will be felt in Q3 numbers.
In specific categories, Brady, Rodgers and DE JJ Watt of the Houston Texans were the top sellers of Nike jerseys.
Wilson, Watt, Brady and teammate TE Rob Gronkowski were the Top 5 in sales across the apparel category, including licensees Nike, VF, FBF Originals, Fanatics, FanPrint, 500 Level and Dallas Cowboys Merchandising.
Denver Broncos OLB and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller topped sales in player-identified caps from New Era and Lids.
Brady was No. 1 in sales of OYO Sportstoys’ construction toy figures as well as No. 1 in sales of Funko’s Pop Vinyl figures.
Rodgers and teammate Clay Matthews, Wilson, Watt and Brady were the Top 5 in sales of VF Imagewear’s Majestic brand apparel sales.
Brady, Rodgers and Beckham led in sales of FBF Originals socks, with Beckham placing No. 5 in Q2 overall sales, moving up from No. 5 in Q1.
In other categories, Brady, Gronkowski, Rodgers, Wilson, and Newton were the top five best-selling players in toys; Rodgers had the most sales off bobbleheads, followed by Von Miller; Wilson was No. 1 in puzzles from Masterpieces; Watt led in drinkware product sales by licensees Boelter Brands, Tervis and Williams Industries; and Watt led in tailgate tables and cornhole toss boards, based on sales by Victory Tailgate and Wild Sports.
Licensees include Fanatics, Nike, VF Imagewear, Outerstuff, Fathead, McFarlane Toys, OYO Sports, Bleacher Creatures, FBF Originals, Forever Collectibles and 500 Level.
Licensed product categories include men’s, women’s and youth game jerseys and T-shirts; wall decals, figurines, vinyl collectibles, matted and framed photos, bobbleheads, plush key rings, drinkware, socks, holiday ornaments and memorabilia.
Top 50 Player Sales (YTD June 1 – Aug, 31, 2016)
1. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
3. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
4. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
5. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
6. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys
7. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
8. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
9. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
10. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
11. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
12. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
13. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos
14. Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
15. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
16. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
17. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders
18. Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland Raiders
19. Richard Sherman, DB, Seattle Seahawks
20. Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay Packers
21. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
22. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
23. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings
24. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans
25. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
26. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
27. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
28. Navorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco 49ers
29. Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
30. Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
31. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
32. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
33. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
34. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
35. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
36. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
37. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
38. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
39. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks
40. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
41. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers
42. Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
43. Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins
44. Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
45. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins
46. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
47. Joe Haden, DB, Cleveland Browns
48. Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks
49. Kam Chancellor, SS, Seattle Seahawks
50. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins