Predicting which 10 SEC players will have most lucrative third-party ad deals when new NIL rules start in 2021
In case you haven’t heard, college athletics as we know them are changing in 2021.
The NCAA’s support of a proposal to allow student-athletes to profit of their name, image and likeness (NIL) means that starting in the 2021-22 school year, we will see them doing third-party advertisements. That could also include autograph signings, meet-and-greets and more.
For guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Trevor Lawrence, this is a bummer. The assumption is that the 2020-21 season will be their last and they won’t get to profit off their name, image and likeness while they’re in school. Both obviously would have stood to make some pretty decent coin off ad deals (a Yahoo Sports article outlined how Lawrence could make between $500,000-$1,000,000 off third-party revenue sources if he stuck around in 2021-22).
But for guys like Derek Stingley and Bo Nix who won’t be draft-eligible until 2022, there are definitely dollars to be made.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at which SEC players could make the most third-party money. Keep in mind that offensive skill-players from high-profile programs are the most likely choices — that’s how it is in pro sports — but there are a few exceptions. To make this list, one needs to have at least 2 years of eligibility left. It also helps if a player is going to be the starter going into 2020 so they can be a household name already by 2021, though there are also some exceptions to that, as well.
In other words, don’t be mad if this list is quarterback-heavy. Spoiler alert — it is.
So, here are the 10 SEC players who I expect to report the most third-party income on their 2022 tax returns:
Bo Nix, Auburn QB
In-state kid? Legacy? Former 5-star recruit? Potentially heading into his 3rd year as a starter? Yeah, Nix checks a lot of the boxes for a top third-party earner. Nix would be great as a pitchman for local restaurants (Gene Chizik does have his chicken finger restaurants “Louie’s”). Gus Malzahn had Nix address the media before he ever played a college down as a true freshman. If he takes the next step in 2020, he’ll be a national household name and unquestionably the most popular athlete in town.
Bryce Young, Alabama QB
Will Young be the starter in 2020? Alabama fans believe he will be. The only question is when the 5-star true freshman will get his opportunity. If he takes off with Steve Sarkisian in 2020, you can bet that Young will be well-known by all college football fans by 2021 (if he isn’t already). Think about how much money Tua Tagovailoa would have made as a junior this past year. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Easy. Can Young’s popularity mirror Tagovailoa’s? It won’t be easy, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Trey Sanders, Alabama RB
Has he played a college game? No. Is he expected to become the next great Bama back? Absolutely. Sanders has a big personality that would make him a popular pitchman. I could see him on a commercial saying, “Come to Tuscaloosa Chevy, where we steamroll the competition.” Not good? OK, you get it. The title of “Alabama running back” carries major monetary value, and Sanders could definitely be the guy to capitalize on that.
(Ignore the fact that this is from a Florida State recruiting video and tell me you can’t see Sanders’ infectious smile selling you that 2020 Tahoe.)
— Warchant.com (@Warchant) June 27, 2018
Derek Stingley Jr., LSU CB
Stingley is the non-offensive skill player who would roll in the dough. He wouldn’t get Chase money signing autographs, but the extraordinarily popular cornerback is already considered perhaps the best defensive player in college football heading into his sophomore season. The All-American will surely be in all the way-too-early mock drafts as a top-3 pick by then. If he doesn’t have places like Walk-On’s lining up to work with him, I’d be stunned.
George Pickens, Georgia WR
A dynamic, play-making receiver still has to improve on consistently getting separation from SEC secondaries, but Pickens has the potential to have a huge sophomore season. Why? He’s surrounded with better circumstances. He has an offense that’s now more conducive to receivers, a quarterback better fitting the ball into tight windows and a coordinator who isn’t afraid to attack downfield. His popularity stands to grow with more production and more viral moments in 2020.
Brock Vandagriff, Georgia QB
Yeah, let’s throw a 2021 recruit on here. Why? A few reasons. As we know, Jamie Newman is a 1-year deal at Georgia. That job will be open in 2021, and between Carson Beck, Dwan Mathis and Vandagriff, it could be totally up for grabs. Even if Vandagriff doesn’t win the job out of camp, he’s still a 5-star quarterback from Georgia who is already a household name in the Peach State. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to earn some money on the side the second he gets to Athens.
Harrison Bailey, Tennessee QB
Bailey is to Vol Twitter what Kylie Jenner is to the internet. He doesn’t have to do much of anything to go viral.
I’m not kidding:
Tennessee fans love them some Harrison Bailey.
This 4-second clip has been viewed over 77,000 times in 14 hours. pic.twitter.com/MDsN0lslIf
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) March 19, 2020
Yes, Bailey is already up there for the title of “most popular Tennessee player” and he’s been on campus for a few months. You better believe that kid could sell some BBQ in Knoxville. If he becomes the starter as a true freshman in 2020, he could have a case as the SEC’s highest projected third-party earner when 2021 kicks off.
Emory Jones, Florida QB
Will Jones be the starter by 2021? My guess is yes. Some Florida fans are waiting on him to take over the gig in 2020, but even if he doesn’t supplant Kyle Trask, Jones has 3 years worth of buildup. Gator fans have been waiting to see him run the offense since the moment he got on campus. He’ll have the billing as the first true Dan Mullen quarterback product in Gainesville, and even if he doesn’t have a start until 2021, he’ll be the most popular player on the team.
John Rhys Plumlee, Ole Miss QB
Yes, I believe Lane Kiffin will adjust his offense to fit Plumlee’s skill set. Yes, I’ll be super bummed if we don’t get at least 1 commercial of him playing the piano:
Ole Miss QB @PlumleeJohn sang Drops of Jupiter here in Jackson at the CSpire Conerly Award event.
Yes, I feel like the mom from Mean Girls. pic.twitter.com/a7RNzukndO
— Mackenzie Salmon (@mackenziesalmon) December 4, 2019
Oh, and did you know he plays baseball, too?!? Of course you did because you’re reminded of how perfect he is every time he touches the ball. Jokes aside, Plumlee is a superbly talented obvious choice to sell some stuff in Oxford, especially if he’s entering Year 3 as a starter in 2021.
If every Oxford business on The Square doesn’t try to sign that kid to some sort of pitchman deal, well, that’s just a wasted opportunity.
Jerrion Ealy, Ole Miss RB
Hey, speaking of 2-sport stars in Oxford, Ealy is all sorts of marketable. If you were a local sporting goods store, some sort of a play on Nike’s legendary “Bo Knows” campaign would make a lot of sense considering Ealy basically already did that:
Bat and pads
— Jerrion Ealy (@ealy_1k) January 28, 2019
Ealy and Plumlee could even tag-team some sort of do-it-all ad for a local sporting goods store. By 2021, he and Plumlee could potentially be one of the country’s top 1-2 punches. Ealy might be sold on becoming a professional baseball player instead of an NFL running back, but there’s no reason the former 5-star recruit can’t covet a nice chunk of change as a personable pitchman.