Top jersey list shows some faded glory

Adrian Peterson (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY)

Quarterbacks dominated the top-10 NFL jersey sellers, but the top-50 list shows just how much free agency and fading success can make the jersey investment a risky proposition. Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson is a mainstay on the list, this time at No. 13.

Every year, certain organizations make headlines for a day and then go back into relative obscurity. There's Forbes, which annually list the values of sports franchises and creates a momentary buzz. There's also that group that lists the worst jobs in the free world, with newspaper reporter checking it at No. 199, vaulting ahead of lumberjack – a sad state of affairs for those in the business of using paper in an increasingly paperless world.

NFL Players Inc. is one of those groups. On Monday, it released the year-end numbers for jersey sales in the NFL. There was a time when Adrian Peterson was at or near the top of that list. What isn't noted is that, if a player spends a decade with a franchise, most hard-core fans have already bought their jerseys and wouldn't necessarily feel to need to buy another one. The fact a player can be on a roster for so many years and continue to sell jerseys is saying something.

It should come as no surprise that Seattle QB Russell Wilson, who led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title, led the 2013-14 official list of jersey sales. So you can get a taste for it, NFLPI lists the top 50 jersey sales. Here is that list:

1. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks; 2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos; 3. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers; 4. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins; 5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers; 6. Tom Brady, New England Patriots; 7. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks; 8. Eli Manning, New York Giants; 9. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts; 10. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints.

11. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans; 12. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks; 13. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings; 14. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers; 15. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys; 16. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers; 17. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers; 18. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots; 19. Arian Foster, Houston Texans; 20. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions.

21. Victor Cruz, New York Giants; 22. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys; 23. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos; 24. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins; 25. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles; 26.Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers; 27. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers; 28. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens; 29. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys; 30. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys.

31. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears; 32. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers; 33. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders; 34. Austin Miles, Dallas Cowboys; 35. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens; 36. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears; 37. Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts; 38. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans; 39. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals; 40. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs.

41. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints; 42. Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers; 43. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers; 44. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons; 45. Von Miller, Denver Broncos; 46. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos; 47. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers; 48. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons; 49. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears; 50. Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers

It comes as no surprise that quarterbacks take up nine of the top 10 slots. They dominate fan loyalty because, as the story goes, you don't get rid of a franchise QB. Wilson, Kaepernick, RG3 and Luck are still early in their careers, so jerseys haven't been must-haves for borderline fans. Now they are. Peyton Manning checked in at No. 2, which also is no surprise.

Perhaps the most impressive are the other four QBs in the group. Aaron Rodgers (No. 5), Tom Brady (No. 6), Eli Manning (really? After that season? No. 8) and Drew Brees (No. 10). Why? Because they have been cemented with their respective franchises for years. If you're a fan of the Packers, Patriots, Giants or Saints, chances are you already have one jersey of your QB. Either they're wearing them out or they're buying the new model. To have that kind of staying power is a tribute.

Peterson fell to No. 13 on the list, but, as a running back who has been selling mammoth amounts of jerseys for the same team since 2007, it's a testament that he remains that high. Lynch (No. 7) and Sherman (No. 12) are products of recent success.

The fact that Witten (No. 15) and Polamalu (No. 17) remain in the top 20 as long as they've been around bears witness to why both should be (and likely will be) first-ballot Hall of Famers when their time comes.

Good jerseys run you about $150. For a lot of people that isn't much. But when it comes to showing your public allegiance to your team, shelling out a hundie-n-a-half can be an extravagance a lot of families can't afford. There are few things sadder than seeing a 6-year-old in an obvious hand-me-down Vikings T-Jack jersey.

There are some obvious questionable entries in the top 50. Cruz (No. 21) can be written off as salsa dancers celebrating birthdays. Ryan Tannehill at No. 24? Really? Those who helped make Ware No. 28 aren't at all happy with his free-agent move. It should be noted that most McFadden (No. 33) jerseys were sold for about $20 or less. Miles Austin at No. 34? Discount bin alert! One can only imagine what Colts fans are doing with their Richardson (No. 37) jerseys. Perhaps using it as a wipe-off rag while checking the oil level on vehicles? How many of those who bought Decker (No. 46) jerseys are rethinking the choice now that he's with the Jets?

It's a fun list to look at. By Thursday, it will be fading in the rearview mirror of the sports subconscious. But, for now, take a look at it and give due deference to a list that once had Tim Tebow riding high atop it.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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