When the Indianapolis Colts selected left guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft, it marked the first time since 1986 that an offensive lineman had been taken that high.
With such lofty expectations, the Colts are counting on Nelson to keep prized quarterback Andrew Luck upright—provided he’s on the field at the start of the season following a lengthy shoulder injury.
But what about off the field? Will Nelson resonate with fans the same way another offensive lineman, former center Jeff Saturday, did? Will they buy Nelson’s jersey?
For all their hard work, the guys in the trenches usually don’t get the notoriety when it comes to jersey sales, said Dave Moroknek, president and CEO of MainGate Inc., a locally based manufacturer and seller of licensed products in sports and other sectors.
The exception was Saturday, whose jersey sales typically placed him among his most popular teammates, Moroknek said.
“He captured this market,” he said. “Outside of that, you’d be hard-pressed to find many jerseys floating around of offensive or defensive linemen.”
Maybe Nelson can buck the trend, given his high selection and that he played college ball at an Indiana school, the University of Notre Dame.
“He’ll sell more jerseys than a typical lineman,” Moroknek asserted. “But when you look at jersey sales, it’s the skilled position players, that’s what sells.”
To be sure, Saquon Barkley, the Penn State running back selected second overall by the New York Giants, generated more jersey presales on NFL draft night than any other first-round pick, according to Fanatics. It operates the official NFL online shop and is the world’s largest online seller of licensed sports merchandise. Rookie jerseys usually aren’t available until two to four weeks after the draft, but Fanatics was taking orders.
After Barkley, the next best-selling jersey was first overall pick Baker Mayfield, a quarterback who went to the Cleveland Browns, followed by the No. 3 pick, quarterback Sam Darnold, who went to the New York Jets.
Regardless of how many jersey sales Nelson rings up, Colts Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward is confident he’ll be a hit with fans.
“He’s a great guy, a great teammate and very personable,” he said. “I think he’s tailor-made for our community. He’s hard-working, humble and with him it’s all about the team.”
Nelson won’t be hard to miss. He’s listed at 6-feet 5-inches and 330 pounds.