Ten rookies and 10 veteran players have been named to the 2021 NFLPA Rising Stars.
The NFLPA’s seventh annual list via its marketing and licensing arm, NFL Players Inc., identifies players who are projected to rank among the top sellers of officially licensed player products in the new season.
“We aim to provide our partners with a depth of player knowledge they can’t get anywhere else,” says Terése Whitehead, vice president, consumer products and strategy, NFL Players Inc. “And, through resources like Rising Stars, we’re able to help them plan for a new season and encourage creation of more licensed products that represent an even wider variety of players who have so many unique aspects."
Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, leads the rookies projected to have major impact at retail. The list also includes Justin Fields (Chicago Bears), Zach Wilson (New York Jets), Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers), Kyle Pitts (Atlanta Falcons), Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals), Devonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles), Najee Harris (Pittsburgh Steelers) Travis Etienne (Jaguars) and Mac Jones (New England Patriots).
According to Opendorse, the social media activation partner of the NFLPA, Pitts has the highest social media engagement (17.76 percent) among the listed rookies. Lance experienced 1396 percent follower growth within the past year.
Jalen Hurts (Eagles), Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings), Aaron Jones (Green Bay Packers), and Terry McLaurin (Washington Football Team) top the veterans to watch list.
To be considered for the Rising Stars list, veteran players must not have appeared on any previous quarterly or year-end NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales List, the only verified rankings of all officially licensed product from retailers.
Based on Opendorse data, Chase Claypool (Pittsburgh Steelers,) heading into his second season as wide receiver, leads Rising Star veterans in both social media growth, adding more than 540,000 followers in the past year, and most engaged social media audience (11.85 percent). Jefferson, another second-year wide receiver, gained more than 430,000 followers across Twitter and Instagram this past year.
Since the first list in 2015, 56 players have climbed from Rising Stars to spots on the NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales List, including eight this past year. Among them were Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Benals, who finished No. 4 and No. 6, respectively, at the year-end. Others included Chase Young of the Washington Football Team, CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys, Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers, Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns and DK Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks.
Each of the rankings evaluates factors for sales popularity, including on-field performance, early demand from NFLPA partners for content and marketing, fantasy league status, social media engagement, product submissions from more than 75 NFLPA licensees, team fanbases and new faces in strong markets.
The complete 2021 NFLPA Rising Stars List is as follows:
1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears
3. Zach Wilson, QB, New York Jets
4. Trey Lance, QB San Francisco 49ers
5. Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Facons
6. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
7. Devonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
8. Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
9. Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
10. Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
2. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
3. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
4. Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Team
5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
6. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
7. Hunter Henry, TE, New England Patriots
8. A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans
9. Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders