When Does 28 Equal 6?

Adrian Peterson's No. 28 Vikings jersey was the sixth best-selling jersey in 2007, according to a list of the top 20 sellers released by the NFL. The list gives some insight into the buying habits of fans, who apparently love the Cowboys and, for some unexplained reason, Cleveland's Brady Quinn.

The NFL released its list of top-selling player jerseys for 2007 and the Vikings' Adrian Peterson ended up sixth on the list – by far the highest-selling rookie jersey. If nothing else, the list of top-selling jerseys proves that there are bandwagon jumpers even for the most established players.

Tony Romo of the Cowboys had the top-selling jersey, which, to those of at VU, came as no big surprise. Why? It was Romo's first full season as a starter and fans looking to get on the bandwagon had to strike while the iron was hot. The logic would seem to make sense – if you've been a fan of a team for any length of time, odds are that if you own a jersey, it's of the team's top star. Like who? Guys like Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. Hundreds of thousands of jerseys for those players have been purchased or given as gifts to fans of the Patriots, Packers and Colts for years, so it would stand to reason that a newcomer like Romo, who hasn't had fans showing up to home games wearing his No. 9 for years, would top the list.

However, our theory, while making sense, got shot down hard by bandwagon jumpers. Brady, Favre and Manning took the next three spots on the jersey sales list at Nos. 2-4. Although, as long as Favre has been in the league, hard-core Packers fans have probably gone through three of four No. 4 green and gold jerseys. As for Manning and Brady, their numbers stink of bandwagoneers.

Checking in at No. 5 was Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who had the added bonus of having three jerseys for fans to choose from, including the always-popular but seldom-worn powder blue jersey. Peterson clocked in at No. 6 – the highest ranking a Vikings player has had since Daunte Culpepper in 2001 and by far the best-selling jersey for 2007's crop of rookies.

Even before winning the Super Bowl earlier this month, Giants QB Eli Manning was No. 7 on the jersey sales list. Former Viking Randy Moss finished No. 8, making the Patriots the third team in which he has finished in the top 10 in a given season.

According to the numbers, a case can be made that the Cowboys are still America's Team, even though they haven't officially worn that label for some time. Aside from Romo, three other Cowboys jerseys finished in the top 16 – Marion Barber at No. 12, Terrell Owens at No. 15 and, to some surprise, tight end Jason Witten at No. 16.

The top defensive player in terms of jersey sales was Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who finished ninth in 2007. He was followed by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who finished 10th and beat out teammate Ben Roethlisberger (No. 14) as the object of Steelers' fan affection. Showing a special teams player can capture the imagination of bandwagon jumping fans, Chicago's Devin Hester finished 11th overall, beating out Saints RB Reggie Bush (No. 13) as the top-selling jersey of the rookie class of 2006 after Bush blew away the competition the previous year.

But the biggest shocker on the list came at No. 17. Who was it? Backup rookie QB Brady Quinn, which serves as a testament to the rabid loyalty of Browns fans – and the potential that, like his fiancée's wedding ring that got downsized with each subsequent pick that wasn't Quinn on Draft Weekend 2007, his jersey may have been discounted in the Greater Ohio area as Derek Anderson solidified his position as the team starter.

While there wasn't any tracking device on when jerseys were sold during the course of 2007 – we know that A.D. and Quinn obviously didn't have their jerseys moving until May – the late Sean Taylor finished 18th overall, with the likelihood that many of his jerseys were purchased as a tribute following his tragic shooting death Nov. 27. Rounding out the top 20 were Brian Westbrook of the Eagles at No. 19 and Colts safety Bob Sanders at No. 20.

Heading into the 2007 draft, VU speculated publicly that the Vikings needed to draft an impact player that could, among other things, sell jerseys. The top sellers of 2006 were offensive linemen Matt Birk and Steve Hutchinson. When offensive linemen are your top jersey sellers, you clearly have a problem marketing your team, which was evidenced by numerous corporate buyouts of tickets to assure sellouts last season. But, with Peterson putting the Vikings back up on the top of the jersey charts, it's likely that fan interest in buying season tickets will increase next year. That's what having a superstar player does for a franchise.

SATURDAY NOTES
* For those who may have missed it, USA Today published a list of coaches that they believe are on the hot seat for 2008 – effectively a list of put-up-or-get-out coaches. Topping the list is the Vikings' own Brad Childress, followed by Wade Phillips (who is going to get run as soon as Jason Garrett has lunch with Jerry Jones and says he wants to be the head coach), Jon Gruden of the Bucs (division titles apparently aren't worth what they used to be), Mike Nolan of the 49ers and Marvin Lewis, head coach and chief bail bondsman of the Bengals.
* In the blood purge of veteran players from the Dolphins, Kevin Seifert of the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune – who is also a close, dear personal friend of VU – made an interesting observation concerning the release of wide receiver Marty Booker. Once a player is released, teams can negotiate with them prior to full-blown free agency beginning. Booker's teammate, Zach Thomas, has already been contacted by a pair of teams looking to get in before the market starts flooding. While Booker wouldn't be a huge impact player, Seifert points out that Booker was drafted by the Bears in 1999 when Rick Spielman was a key cog in the Bears war room. In 2004, Booker was traded to the Dolphins in a deal for disgruntled holdout DE Adewale Ogunleye. Who was the Dolphins G.M. at the time of the deal? Spielman. While Booker wouldn't be an impact-type player that would eliminate the need for pursuing a wide receiver early in the draft or in free agency, the impression that Booker has made on Spielman is readily apparent.
* Believe this or not, but less than two weeks removed from the Super Bowl and six days removed from the "official" end of the 2007 season with the Pro Bowl, there are already fantasy football mock drafts for 2008 being conducted to give the fantasy players with a meth addiction an early peek at whose stock is rising and falling. VU checked out one such mock – we won't give the website to protect the innocent, the insane, the addicted and the hard core nerd quotient – but two separate drafts were conducted and, in both instances, Adrian Peterson was the No. 1 overall pick ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson. Not too shabby, but admittedly a bit pre-emptive.

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