In the short time since its integration into college football, Name, Image, and Likeness has proven divisive. Rightly or wrongly, NIL has — and continues to — change the landscape of the sport.
As NIL deals range from small change to sensational sums of cash, we take a look at the most valuable players and lucrative endorsements ahead of the 2023 college football season.
Top 10 NIL Deals in 2023
Compiling a list of the top NIL deals for 2023 is not without its complications. Despite the many months since the regulation came in allowing college athletes to finally — legally — make money for themselves at the same time as pouring profits into college programs, the lack of a central regulatory body means many of the sport’s biggest, most lucrative, deals carry undisclosed sums.
As a result, the list of Top 10 NIL deals below reflects the 10 players whose NIL value is projected to be worth the most according to On3.com’s NIL Valuation. Where possible, we’ve included the value of specific endorsements for each player.
As you can see, the financial game — much like the game of college football itself — is dominated by the quarterback position.
10) Quinn Ewers, QB, Texas
In many respects, Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers is the poster boy for NIL deals. Graduating a year early from Southlake Carroll in order to commit to Ohio State in the 2021 recruiting class, the former Buckeye reportedly pocketed $1.4 million from sports marketing company GTSM while in Columbus.
Ewers immediately penned deals for Aston Martin Dallas and Epic Games upon his arrival at Texas in 2022. The Longhorns QB recently signed deals with Ryl Tea and Panini America. Meanwhile, he receives income from the Texas One Fund collective.
According to On3, the Texas standout has an annual NIL valuation of $1.2 million.
9) Jordan Travis, QB, FSU
There’s a sense of expectation surrounding the Florida State Seminoles for the 2023 college football season, and it’s led by the return of quarterback Jordan Travis. Considered a potential Heisman Trophy winner on an FSU team tipped to return to national relevancy, the expectation has fueled a financial boost for the Florida native, jumping into the Top 10 NIL value in 2023.
Travis has inked NIL deals since 2021, with DIRECTV and Cameo amongst his first forays into the field. Recent deals include Leaf Trading Cards, Tallahassee Ford, and Hotel Indigo, while he’s used his partnership with NextGenCamps to hold youth football camps in Tallahassee.
Travis matches Texas QB Ewers with a current NIL valuation of $1.2 million, as per On3.
8) Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
A wide receiver rarity among a sea of QBs in our list of the Top NIL deals for 2023, Marvin Harrison Jr.’s NIL valuation of $1.3 million speaks to the rarity of his talent. Considered the best wide receiver in the nation and a potential early first-round NFL Draft pick, Harrison has weaponized his talent, popularity, and famous surname to be an earnings machine in the NIL era.
While figures haven’t been released, it’s likely that Harrison’s biggest deal is with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s ZOA Energy, where the Ohio State WR appeared in national promotion alongside some of college sports’ biggest names. The potential Biletnikoff Award winner also recently signed a deal with Mark Wahlberg Chevrolet of Columbus, contributing to a $1.3 million value.
7) J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan
After leading Michigan to the College Football Playoff last fall, J.J. McCarthy is their leading figure in the NIL space with an estimated NIL value of $1.3 million, according to On3. That’s $48,148 for every touchdown that he’s thrown during his two seasons playing quarterback for the Wolverines or $401.85 for every passing yard.
In addition to his NIL earnings with the Champions Circle Collective, McCarthy has individual NIL deals with Bose, AloYoga, Topps, and Essentia Water. Additionally, he was part of a team deal with Wolverine Boots that celebrates “shared values around hard work, dedication, and grit.” No word if McCarthy received one of Jim Harbaugh’s famous cheeseburgers, however.
6) Shedeur Sanders, QB, Colorado
When you’re the son of Deion ‘Prime’ Sanders, you can expect an equal dose of attention and scrutiny. Arriving in Colorado this offseason, Shedeur Sanders has certainly attracted both. The former Jackson State QB followed his father to Boulder, immediately becoming one of the most valuable commodities in FBS college football with an NIL valuation of $1.3 million.
Sanders has signed NIL deals with some of the biggest names and companies in the nation. His first deal came while at Jackson State, pairing up with Beats by Dre. He’s one of the 10 faces of Tom Brady’s apparel brand, become the first HBCU athlete to have a deal with Gatorade, and his most recent deals include Under Armour, Mercedes-Benz, and Oikos.
5) Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
Heading into his third season at the college football level and second as the North Carolina starting QB, Drake Maye could be the number one overall pick of the 2024 NFL Draft and a Heisman Trophy winner by the time we write the Top 10 NIL deals of 2024. As a result, his earning potential is skyrocketing, with On3 placing a $1.5 million valuation on his profile.
Maye inked his first NIL deal with Corcoran HM Properties while he was still a true freshman. Since then, he’s joined Ohio State WR Harrison as the face of ZOA Energy, while also penning deals with Bose, Campus Mogul, Table, and Jimmy’s Famous Seafood. He also recently joined forces with Heels4Life to boost his earning potential via the North Carolina Tar Heels Collective.
4) Travis Hunter, WR/CB, Colorado
On Dec. 15, 2021, Travis Hunter shocked the world. A five-star recruit in the 2022 class, he opted to join Jackson State, making the highest-ranked player to commit to an HBCU program in the history of the sport. Unsurprisingly, Hunter became a global sensation and marketable entity, penning his first NIL deal with the digital banking platform Greenwood ahead of the 2022 campaign.
Since then, Hunter has penned multiple undisclosed deals with some of the biggest names in the industry. Alongside the Sanders brothers, he joined forces with Actively Black in 2022, following a deal with Michael Strahan’s lifestyle brand. Recent deals with Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, KastKing, and NXTRND all contribute towards an estimated NIL value of $1.5 million.
3) Bo Nix, QB, Oregon
Bo Nix was one of the first college football players to sign an NIL endorsement when regulations changed in July 2021. The then-Auburn QB signed a deal with Milo’s Sweet Tea at a time when his football career carried considerable question marks. Now considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy and a potential first-round draft pick, Nix carries an NIL value of $1.7 million.
The Oregon QB has previously signed multiple deals with trading card companies, Bojangles, and Bose. This year alone, he has inked NIL deals with FlexWork Sports Management and Division Street—the Oregon NIL Collective created by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and several Oregon alumni to help Ducks’ athletes monetize their NIL brand.
2) Caleb Williams, QB, USC
For the second straight season, Caleb Williams appears in the top three NIL deals by estimated total value. After coming in behind NFL-departed C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young last season, he misses out on the top spot once more despite increasing his On3 NIL valuation from $2.4 million to $2.6 million ahead of the 2023 college football campaign.
The former Oklahoma QB was reportedly offered $1 million by one school before transferring to USC and has probably comfortably outstripped that since arriving in Southern California. His most recent deals include becoming the face of United Airlines, linking up with PlayStation’s Playmaker program, and promoting the cosmetic brand Neutrogena at the Coachella festival.
1) Arch Manning, QB, Texas
The complications of understanding NIL deals and NIL values are perhaps best summarized by Arch Manning and his status as the most valuable player in college football. The 6’3″, 220-pound true freshman is yet to play a minute, play a single down, attempt a single pass, but On3 gives the new Texas quarterback a valuation of $2.9 million, $300,000 clear of USC QB Williams.
Of course, Manning has been able to weaponize his considerable high school talent and family name to contribute to his college football-leading value. His first of what will surely be many NIL deals was signed in July, a multi-year deal with the trading card company Panini America. His first unique autographed card fetched over $100,000 and could be a sign of things to come.