Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott is good for business.
Even though he hasn’t played a down in a regular-season or preseason NFL game, Elliott’s marketability is clear.
His No. 21 jersey was the top-seller on NFLShop.com from April 1-June 30.
His trading card has created a major buzz.
Elliott was also third in the National Football League Players Association’s top 50 player sales list for the first quarter (March 1-May 31).
The NFLPA list, which began in 2013, is based on total sales of all officially-licensed NFL player merchandise. That means Elliott’s likeness or name can sell a lot of merchandise from socks to key rings to jerseys.
But it’s been the trading card business that has perhaps been rejuvenated the most by Elliott’s NFL presence.
“There are a number of appealing factors helping drive strong fan and collector interest in Ezekiel Elliott,” said Jason Howarth, Panini America vice president of marketing. “He delivered a tremendous college career with a high-profile Ohio State team, won a national championship and was seemingly always in the spotlight. He would’ve been one of the most collectible rookies of the 2016 season no matter where he went.”
When you’re a first-round pick, there are big expectations.
When you’re the fourth overall pick, by the Cowboys, those qualifications create must-get attire and collectibles for fans.
“He’s already made an impact in terms of how his early-season trading cards have been received and consumed. He’s been a top-five staple among rookies on the first two NFLPA Panini Trading Card Index rankings this year,” Howarth said. “If he delivers the kind of season many experts think he’s capable of, he will only climb higher on that list.”
There’s a hefty range that collectors are paying for Elliott’s trading cards. It ranges from 99 cents for standard cards to as high as $900 for some premium cards. Many are easily going for $100 or more.
It also doesn’t hurt to play a skill position for America’s Team.
“The trading card industry tends to mirror what’s happening on the field in terms of results, speculation, hype and headlines. High-profile Dallas Cowboys players — especially those playing offensive skill positions — always command interest,” Howarth said. “But rookies drive the category so last year there was increased collectability for teams like the Buccaneers [Jameis Winston], Titans [Marcus Mariota] and Rams [Todd Gurley] because of the impact their rookies had.
“It’s been a while since the Cowboys have had a compelling rookie at an offensive skill position — so it’s refreshing to have someone like Elliott in the mix. If the Cowboys perform this season the way many pundits expect them to, and if Elliott is a big a part of that success, you could be looking at a historic kind of year for Elliott and his most desirable rookie cards — similar to the impact Todd Gurley had last year on the trading card category.”
Then there’s the case of Elliott’s jersey sales.
Based on sales by state, the former Ohio State standout has presidential reach.
He has the top-selling jersey in 13 states, according to NFLShop.com. They are Arkansas, Mississippi, Kansas, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, Kentucky, Idaho and Texas.
“I’m grateful to be part of an organization, the best team in sports,” Elliott said, when asked about his jersey sales. “It’s a great attribute to them.”
Also in the top 10 during that same time period, in order, were Tom Brady, Odell Beckham Jr., Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski, Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers, Khalil Mack, Antonio Brown and Von Miller.
“Elliott has definitely been a big sale. People aren’t sure how he’s going to do, but people have a lot of faith in him and that Cowboys line. So they’re thinking that a good back like him, strong, can do a lot for the offense,” said Julian Gonzalez, a sales associate at the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop in downtown Fort Worth.
Worth noting, Miller, a linebacker, was the Super Bowl 50 Most Valuable Player for the champion Denver Broncos. Wentz is a rookie quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles and was the second overall pick.
Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was 13th and tight end Jason Witten was 17th on the list.
Training camp began last week in Oxnard, Calif. Elliott, who is also facing domestic abuse allegations, has a tight hamstring, but has been working with the first unit. The first preseason game is Aug. 13 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Fans are eager to see how he does. So are the Cowboys.
“As the season progresses, we’ll get more people. It’s going to start getting busy. We’re going to start getting a line out there for people to come in,” said Gonzalez, whose Pro Shop in Fort Worth is one of more than 20 the Cowboys have around the state. “This is a good location. If you’re taking a stroll downtown, this is a good place to stop by and check out America’s Team and what all we have to offer.”