Predicting which 10 B1G players could have the most lucrative third-party ad deals when new NIL rules start in 2021
It’s all the rage these days. 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 Justin Fields 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 Graham Mertz and Garrett Wilson 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 B1G players could make the most third-party money. Keep in mind that offensive skill-players from high-profile programs are the most likely choices. 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.
In other words, don’t be mad if this list is quarterback-heavy. Spoiler alert — it is.
So, here are the 10 B1G players who I expect to report the most third-party income on their 2022 tax returns:
Sean Clifford, Penn State QB
Clifford has 2 years of eligibility left, which means he’d likely have to take a significant step in 2020 in order to not qualify for this list because of an early NFL departure. Tanner Morgan fits that description a little better, in my opinion. Clifford, after a solid Year 1 as a starter, figures to be the big man on campus by the start of the 2021-22 school year. Shoot, he’s already at that level. He couldn’t advertise for someone like Penn State Berkey Creamery because that’s officially associated with the university, but a household name QB for a preseason Playoff contender should have plenty of opportunities available.
Noah Cain, Penn State RB
I’ll keep banging the drum that Cain is going to be awesome in 2020 even though Journey Brown really emerged down the stretch. I’m assuming that Brown will be off to the NFL after 2020, which would mean Cain’s potential would be through the roof. He’s by nature a quieter kid, and he’s not a big social media user, so I’m not sure if he’d covet a lot of those opportunities. But if and when he becomes a household name across college football in 2020, he’ll have a growing following that’ll warrant some sponsorship deals.
Zach Charbonnet, Michigan RB
As a true freshman, we saw why Charbonnet was a borderline 5-star recruit. Michigan relied on him and Hassan Haskins plenty in 2020. If Charbonnet makes another step in Josh Gattis’ system and becomes a first-team All-B1G back, he’ll become even more popular in Ann Arbor. Even if Hassan Haskins dips into his workload, Michigan has a good enough offensive line to rely heavily on the ground attack in 2020. Being a prolific skill player at Michigan has its benefits, Come 2021, those benefits will impact the bank account directly.
Dylan McCaffrey, Michigan QB
Do you think McCaffrey will be one-and-done as the Michigan starter? I suppose it’s possible, but someone with a totally unproven track record as a Power 5 passer will have to show a ton in order for that to happen. Also, Michigan has never had a quarterback leave school early for the NFL Draft. That’s wild. What’s less wild? The thought of McCaffrey becoming a star and doing national commercials with his brother, Christian. Speaking of the McCaffrey brothers …
Luke McCaffrey, Nebraska QB
Can’t you picture all of the McCaffrey brothers doing an Old Spice commercial? I can. I’m not sure if McCaffrey will be the starter at all in 2020, but I’d be stunned if he didn’t get significant snaps and continue to intrigue Nebraska fans as much as any player on the roster. That’s worth a whole lot in Lincoln.
Adrian Martinez, Nebraska QB
No, I don’t. I assumed you asked me if I thought Martinez would leave Nebraska early for the NFL at season’s end. I don’t. The decision-making just isn’t there yet, and while he has a good arm by college standards, the Nebraska junior would look noticeably weaker throwing alongside Trevor Lawrence at the combine. If Martinez does return and he’s entering Year 4 as a starter, he’ll be the most popular guy not named “Scott Frost” in the state of Nebraska. For better or worse. At the very least, Martinez could make a pretty penny doing some sponsored posts for restaurants in the Haymarket. Shoot, Runza could use a spokesperson with his popularity.
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin QB
Wisconsin fans want this kid starting yesterday. The Badgers having a blue-chip quarterback recruit is like, well, the NCAA opening up the NIL rules. Ya never thought you’d see it. I’ll be shocked if he’s not starting by 2021. And if he is, Lord knows Madison isn’t lacking with local businesses. Mertz might not win the starting job out of camp in 2020, but in a way, that might make his popularity even higher by the fall of 2021.
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State QB
The next great Ohio State quarterback carries a whole lot of value in Columbus. If he’s the replacement to Justin Fields if and when he leaves for the NFL after 2020, Stroud will have Heisman Trophy odds before he ever starts the game. Thus is life as the Ohio State quarterback. Picture how much money guys like Fields, Dwayne Haskins, J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller could’ve made. Stroud can be in the 5-figure range for a day spent signing autographs. It’s only a matter of time before Ohio State fans are all aboard the hype train for the 2020 signee.
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State WR
Pick your poison here. I didn’t go with Chris Olave because I think he’ll leave for the NFL after a big 2020 season, and I didn’t choose Julian Fleming because it’s a bit tougher to project a non-quarterback to become a household name before playing a down. Wilson is, by any stretch, the next man up in Ohio State’s long line of All-B1G receivers. Wilson is a viral highlight waiting to happen. Those receivers — think Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones — tend to be pretty marketable. Put those hops in a commercial.
GARRETT WILSON GOT WAY UP 😱 @GarrettWilson_V
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 29, 2019
David Bell, Purdue WR
Speaking of receivers who balled out as freshmen, Bell has at least 2 more years in Lafayette. If Rondale Moore makes the surprising decision not to leave for the NFL Draft after the 2020 season, this spot belongs to him. But Bell, an Indianapolis native, is already a household name in the B1G. If he and Moore can stay healthy in 2020, they can become as good as any receiver duo in America. Bell, like Moore, should be someone known by all college football fans by the time his junior year rolls around.