This is certainly going to get a few folks cracking up. The NFLPA releases merchandise numbers each quarter, but earlier this month they came up with a different kind of list. The union released their 2016 Rising 50 list, "identifying players best positioned to rank among top-sellers of all officially licensed merchandise and become future retail stars." Player on this list cannot have appeared in a Top 50 quarterly sales list. The NFLPA describes the list as follows:
The NFLPA Rising 50 rankings take into account on-field performances during the 2015 season, fantasy-league popularity, early demand from current sponsors and licensees, and new faces in strong markets as factors determining potential future sales popularity.
This year, the list includes San Francisco 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert. You can view the full list here. Carlos Hyde is not on the list in part because he made an appearance on last year's March-to-May quarterly sales list.
I would assume the NFLPA is figuring Gabbert will be the 49ers starting quarterback, and working with Chip Kelly opens the door for the potential of a decent 2016 season. Starting quarterbacks are generally going to be more high profile, and while the 49ers are coming off an abysmal 2015 season, there is likely still some marketing and merchandising cache for the starting QB position.
In looking at the 49ers incoming rookies, DeForest Buckner could easily prove to be the best of the team's class, but defensive linemen don't exactly get the same love as skill positions. The highest defensive lineman on the Rising 50 is Aaron Donald at No. 20. Buckner destroyed quarterbacks last season at Oregon, and he'll get a big opportunity to do that this year alongside Arik Armstead. If he can do some damage inside, we'll see what it means for his defensive profile.
If I were to pick a sleeper to become high profile, why not Kelvin Taylor? He could end up as just a reserve option, but he's got some serious confidence in his ability. Carlos Hyde isn't going anywhere right now, but there will be a lot of opportunities for running backs in Chip Kelly's offense. So why not Kelvin?