Joe Burrow, Nick Chubb top NFLPA's 2020 'Rising Stars' list

Vinciane Ngomsi
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb tops the NFLPA's "Rising Stars" list for this upcoming season. (Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has yet to call his first professional play, but the rookie is already poised to make a considerable impact in the NFL. The NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA), through its marketing and licensing arm NFL Players Inc., released their annual list Tuesday and the former LSU Tiger leads the rookies projected to finish among the Top 50 retail stars. Check out the full lineup of incoming first years below:

  1. Joe Burrow, QB Cincinnati Bengals

  2. Chase Young, DE, Washington Redskins

  3. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins

  4. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Dallas Cowboys

  5. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Denver Broncos

  6. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

  7. Isaiah Simmons, LB Arizona Cardinals

  8. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

  9. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

  10. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

“Every year, new players break out on the field and at retail, and we’re excited about an upcoming season full of players with diverse backgrounds and personalities, playing in front of passionate fan bases,” Steve Scebelo, Interim President, NFL Players Inc. said of this year’s rankings. “Rising Stars, which is predictive in nature and extends beyond our quarterly sales data, identifies those players we believe can help our partners achieve their business goals in the upcoming season.”

Jones, Hardman, Locke highlight veterans to watch

Sports retail thrives on the the influence of outstanding players, and the NFLPA predict current players who rose to popularity last year to continue driving that trend. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who topped the veterans list last season, went on to capture league MVP accolades, proving his influence in sports culture and driving the sales of licensed merchandise bearing his likeness. Take a look at who the NFLPA ranked as the veterans to watch when the 101st year kicks off this fall:

  1. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

  2. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

  3. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

  4. Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens

  5. Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers

  6. Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas Cowboys

  7. Raheem Mostert, RB, San Francisco 49ers

  8. Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

  9. Drew Lock, QB, Denver Broncos

  10. Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

“We do analysis of NFL players all the time to project who will be most impactful for fantasy managers,” ESPN Fantasy sports host and analyst Matthew Berry explained. “This analysis also lends itself to the composition of the Rising Stars list because adding fantasy football success to on-field performance for their NFL team helps identity players who haven’t cracked the top 50 yet for jersey sales but are poised to be very popular with those of us who play fantasy. Fantasy Football can sometimes be subjective, but analysis shows that these veterans have the potential to surge in overall popularity based on their expected (and in some cases, continued) fantasy success.”

How the rankings are built and utilized

Per the NFLPA, the category rankings come together after evaluating factors like on-field performance, fantasy football popularity, early demand from NFLPA partners for content and marketing, social media engagement, the strength of a player’s team market and the size of existing and future fan bases.

When it comes to apparel and merchandise, lists like these help retailers evaluate who could not only make for potential brand ambassadors, but also devise clever marketing and promotion campaigns for this upcoming season. Tagovailoa, who came in third on the rookie rankings, currently has the highest-selling jersey post-NFL draft. If that’s any indication of his long-term influence in South Beach, Fins supporters should certainly breathe a long-awaited sigh of relief.