NIL Draft: NFL Prospects with the Most Earning Potential on Social Media

name image likeness rights monetization nfl draft

Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rights and monetization is the most hotly debated topic in college athletics today. While current student-athletes have to wait until their collegiate careers end to earn income from their NIL, now is the time to get ready and increase their future earning potential. By using their time on campus to connect with their program’s fanbase and build an engaged audience, athletes can establish personal brands that provide immense value to sponsors the moment they are eligible to monetize. 

The 2020 NFL Draft class is a picture-perfect example — In pre-draft negotiations, Opendorse has learned that top 2020 prospects are seeking up to six-figure compensation for single-post social media activations scheduled to take place during the Draft. 

Top prospects are seeking six-figure compensation for social media activations.

These prospects have proven the value of pre-professional career brand building. They have established real earning potential and are now ready to cash in. To understand the true NIL earning potential for this year’s draft class, we assessed individual social performance over the past year for over 250 NFL Draft prospects. 

joe burrow nil earning potential social media

These are eye-popping dollar figures for athletes who have yet to play a professional down, but the numbers don’t lie. These prospects are creating real value for sponsors and advertisers in their social feeds.

But they didn’t get there by accident — many of these prospects have attacked social brand building with intention and often assistance from their programs. So, what indicators lead to increased name, image, and likeness value on social media? 

Success Leads to Value

There’s still no replacement for performing on the biggest stage. Each of the top-five prospects with the highest value per post has competed in the College Football Playoff, with three having won national championships. 

The best-represented colleges resemble recent AP polls. The list includes: LSU (6), Alabama (4), Ohio State (4), Oklahoma (3), Georgia (3), Clemson (2), and Michigan (2). 

Similarly, the SEC reigns supreme with 17 of the top 32 prospects coming from the conference. The Big Ten is second with eight, while the ACC has four prospects listed. The Big Twelve is represented only by Oklahoma with the conference’s only three prospects. 

While winning big is key, it’s what athletes do when the lights are brightest that attracts and retains a valuable social media audience. There are just as many prospects from blue blood programs who didn’t make this ranking due to a lack of performance on social when attention was readily available.

Activity Attracts an Audience

Just two of the top-ten prospects average fewer than one post per week. Consistent activity is key to engaging and growing a social media audience that sponsors find valuable. 

In addition to adding followers, frequent posting ensures that branded posts won’t dilute an athlete’s feed and annoy their audience. It also allows athletes to “prove” their engagement is real, rather than a one-post flash in the pan.

Programs are Partners

While a winning program promises to attract attention, a social media plan and partner is key to building a great strategy. Most college athletes just aren’t great marketers (yet) — It’s trying enough to perform as a student-athlete. But every great college football program employs a host of great marketers. 

These marketers can supply great content, help athletes build intentional social media programs, and provide the tools necessary to improve and track performance. 

Predictably, the majority of athletes on this list come from athletic departments with renowned athlete marketing programs. Ohio State’s “Brand U,” Oklahoma Football’s athlete-driven excellence, and Clemson and LSU’s next-level content production place these programs at the precipice of athlete brand building.

The schools are actively preparing players with a playbook to win with personal brands and NIL earning power that will last long beyond their time on campus.

Value Per Post Calculation:

Estimated Value per Post is calculated using the cost per thousand followers (CPR), cost per engagement (CPE), and cost per thousand impressions (CPM) from thousands of paid posts published via Opendorse since 2012. 

The calculation factors in the athlete’s sport, status, current follower count, average engagement rate per post, and impressions per post to provide an estimate of the dollar amount the athlete could command from sponsors in exchange for publishing one branded content post on their own social media channels.

NIL Draft First Rounders

Top NFL Draft prospects ranked by estimated value per post on Twitter and Instagram.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $11.4 thousand

Instagram: $38.2 thousand

Joe Burrow has parlayed a championship season at LSU into the highest NIL value per social post in 2020 Draft. Burrow leads all prospects in total social media followers and has the highest engagement on both Twitter (45.06%) and Instagram (32.99%) of the top 10 prospects. 

The presumed top selection in Thursday’s Draft has wasted no time in monetizing his name, image, and likeness rights with social media, sharing branded Instagram posts in partnership with Bose and Nerf. With Draft class-leading engagement and a national championship in tow, we expect these opportunities to only grow for Burrow in the leadup to and following the Draft. 

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $5.3 thousand

Instagram: $19.6 thousand

While Hurts doesn’t have the top-pick projection of many of his peers on this list, the former Sooner signal-caller became one of college football’s most prolific players on social media throughout his career.

Spending time at two of college football’s preeminent programs — both in on-field success and student-athlete brand building — Hurts is the third most-followed prospect with nearly 800 thousand total followers. Hurts has maximized the value of his NIL on social as intentionally as any prospect, committing to consistently sharing production-quality content in his personal video series titled “#UNTAMED #RAREBREED.” 

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $4.8 thousand

Instagram: $17.5 thousand

Tua comes in at third in terms of total value per post and second overall in total followers. The Crimson Tide legend exploded into the national consciousness at the 2017 national championship game and hasn’t looked back. 

The second quarterback with time spent at Alabama to make the ranking, Tua has shared his college football journey through a series of high-quality videos on Twitter and Instagram. More recently, he has even used video on social to offer NFL franchises proof of his health, as teams couldn’t physically attend an evaluation or pro day performance due to Covid-19.

Like Burrow, Tua has “flipped” the monetization switch, earning value from his name, image, and likeness rights in brand partnerships with Adidas, Wingstop, MuscleMilk, and Bose.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $2.6 thousand

Instagram: $12.9 thousand

The former Georgia star is the fourth consecutive quarterback with SEC experience to make the ranking, but is the first to not win a national title. Following a prolific college career, most projections have Fromm being selected in the second or third round of the Draft.

While the top-three players relied heavily on highly produced content, Fromm’s social presence leans more personal and humorous, sharing off-field photos of friends and family behind the legendary Twitter name “JakeFrommStateFarm.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $1.7 thousand

Instagram: $12 thousand

The first non-signal-caller to make the ranking, Chase Young enjoyed a dominant career at another brand-building powerhouse, Ohio State. While Burrow is considered the likely top pick, many project Young as the most sure-fire prospect in the Draft. 

On social media, Young trails the top-four in total audience size, but is one of the Draft’s most prolific prospects. The defensive end leads all players in total social media engagements and is among the most active with 230 posts published in the past year. Young has agreed to a partnership with Under Armour and we look for more bluechip sponsors to lineup for the premiere defender in the 2020 Draft. 

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2 days... Gods Plan...🙏🏾

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Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $1.4 thousand

Instagram: $11.7 thousand

The second Sooner to make the list, CeeDee Lamb projects as one of the first receivers to be off the board on Thursday night. While in Norman, Lamb capitalized on Oklahoma’s best-in-class athlete-driven social media program to build one of the most valuable personal brands in college football. 

Similar to Chase Young, Lamb was very active, publishing nearly 200 posts in the past year, frequently sharing photos and highlights immediately following Sooner wins.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $1.5 thousand

Instagram: $10.4 thousand

As Jeudy marks the third player with Alabama ties on the list, it’s clear the Crimson Tide’s run of success has played a role in helping athletes build NIL value beyond the field. 

Widely considered the best route runner in the Draft, Jeudy translates that attention to detail to social media where he has curated a feed filled with high-quality visual content. Jeudy recently participated in Panini America’s #RoadToTheRatedRookie campaign — the first of what is sure to be many brand campaigns for the incoming rookie.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $584

Instagram: $9.3 thousand

Justin Jefferson exploded onto the scene, reeling in 18 touchdown receptions for the National Champion LSU Tigers in 2019-20. His ascendance was nearly as impressive on social as the only prospect with a growth rate of over 100% on both Twitter and Instagram in the past year. 

The standout receiver has announced an agreement with Under Armour and even launched his own clothing merchandise line following the national title game. He’s not a businessman; he’s a business, man.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $1.3 thousand

Instagram: $6.3 thousand

The lockdown DB becomes the second Buckeye and defender to make the list. On social, Okudah trails only Joe Burrow in engagement rate among the top-ten prospects. 

At number nine overall, Okudah has already established himself as a prolific brand partner, activating partnerships on Instagram with Bose and Oikos leading up to the Draft.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $931

Instagram: $5.8 thousand

Rounding out the top-ten most valuable prospects per post on social media is former LSU Tiger Grant Delpit. Delpit continues the bayou trend of finding success on social, where he has over 200 thousand total followers and engages fans at nearly a 30% clip.

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $1.7 thousand

Instagram: $4.8 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $612

Instagram: $4.9 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $995

Instagram: $4.6 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $1.9 thousand

Instagram: $2.5 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $559

Instagram: $3.7 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $369

Instagram: $3.7 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $426

Instagram: $3.3 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $414

Instagram: $2.7 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $355

Instagram: $2.7 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $637

Instagram: $2.5 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $628

Instagram: $2.4 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $408

Instagram: $2.4 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $298

Instagram: $2.3 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $558

Instagram: $2 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $624

Instagram: $2 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $227

Instagram: $2 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $222

Instagram: $2 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $433

Instagram: $2 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $444

Instagram: $1.9 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $248

Instagram: $1.8 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $403

Instagram: $1.6 thousand

Estimated Value Per Post

Twitter: $253

Instagram: $1.6 thousand

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