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How Name, Image, & Likeness Legislation Impacts Devy Fantasy Football (2021)

by Christian Williams | @CWilliamsNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 27, 2021

Name, image, and likeness (NIL) legislation has been discussed for years now. The story of Ed O’Bannon is one that most know by now, but the true impact is often misinterpreted. O’Bannon vs. NCAA was a landmark case that exposed the collegiate governance as operating an unconstitutional system. Or, it was supposed to be. The payout from the case was marginal compared to the revenue the players generated for the NCAA, and the perception was that the verdict simply got rid of our favorite video games and swept the rights of collegiate athletes under the rug.

Fast forward to 2021, when the true landmark hearing took place and players were granted the ability to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. Gone are the Terrelle Pryor-Ohio State scandals and Heisman Trophies being taken away. It is a fair system in which players can obtain sponsorships, sell autographed memorabilia, and profit in any possible way they can manage. NIL deals were immediate. D’Eriq King had 4 within the first 24 hours. Nick Saban has stated that one of his quarterbacks (it’s Bryce Young) is already almost to $1,000,000 in deals. The impact was ultimately groundbreaking. But how does it impact devy fantasy football?

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The Landscape

This section can be compared to the final episode of Loki (no spoilers) if expounded upon, but the summary is that the landscape of college football is about to change drastically. We’ve already seen reports of moves from the Big 12 to the SEC and B1G, and the motivation is clear: how can schools generate more television and advertising revenue in order to best compensate their student-athletes, which in turn will set the coaching staffs up for an easier recruitment trail. This is the first step in a vast reform of the college football landscape. The days of Power Five and Group of 5 separation are dwindling. Soon, college football will be similar to European soccer: some major conferences and the lesser conferences, with the major ones being the B1G and the SEC.

For devy fantasy football, this actually makes things easier. When drafting developmental players, a commonly used strategy is to go for Power Five players; they are the highest-recruited players, and recruitment matters when it comes to draft capital (and draft capital matters when it comes to opportunity in the NFL). When the Power Five is condensed to the Power Two, identifying talent will be easier. The level of competition during the regular season will be at an all-time high, and identifying sticky production will be less complex. When good players perform against other good players, it’s easier to see translatable traits.

Follow the Money

As aforementioned, Bryce Young is already on the verge of $1 million, and that’s not insignificant. Bryce Young has yet to make a true impact at the college football level. Companies and brands are taking a massive, massive swing on an unproven college football player. And you should take note. Certainly, players are going to be tied to brands based on singular performances. A junior who makes a game-winning catch in a playoff game will probably enter his senior year with a couple of more deals. But when brands are willing to dish out hundreds of thousands of dollars on a player, the NFL is going to notice. Both the NCAA and the NFL have a singular priority: generate revenue. Players with built-in brands are going to be highly coveted by NFL teams because they know that players’ fanbase will follow. Now, this isn’t dissimilar from days of the past. Some players have more marketability than others; but now, there’s a tangible way to measure just what the opportunity is. Will brands miss? Absolutely. Players who made a million dollars in college aren’t always going to be studs at the next level. But devy managers should be ultra-aware of recruitment and NIL deals because they’re going to be a good indicator of future success.

The Impact of Video Games

It’s understood how silly this sounds at face value, but hear the argument out. The popularity of college football does not rely on video games; it’s already the second-most popular sport in the United States. However, awareness of the sport can only be heightened when video games are in play. When real-life football players are depicted in said video games, an entirely new fanbase is going to be created. 13-year-olds are going to play as Caleb Williams or Drake Maye in the next NCAA Football game (which is set to release in 2023) and have a new favorite player. What you will likely see is an influx of devy fantasy football leagues and managers as those kids get older and into fantasy football. It’s only going to be good for devy truthers, as the amount of players will increase in popularity, and that specific format of fantasy football will be vastly more popular. In this sense, the NIL legislation is absolutely good for devy fantasy football.

Factors Still To Be Determined

Writing an article and having a fancy way of saying “I honestly don’t know” is a choice, but here we are. There are so many tests of mental fortitude that will arise, and the way players react will be so individualistic that it’s impossible to make a generalization. What this means is that money can make players act differently. We’ve seen it with rookies in the NFL; so much so that the NFLPA instituted financial advisement for incoming rookies. The NCAA is in uncharted territory. They don’t have anything like this in place. What happens when a stud quarterback prospect makes $500,000 as an 18-year-old kid? We don’t know, and that is going to present a new type of challenge for devy managers. Gathering information about the mental toughness of players is already incredibly difficult. Adding another element into that information gathering will make it virtually impossible.


Devy managers need to have an understanding that talent identification will come with plenty of misses. Overall, the NIL legislation will make things easier for devy managers. The talent will play talent, and the money trail dating back to a collegiate athlete’s freshman year will likely correlate to draft capital and future NFL success. The way those players handle wealth will present a challenge, though, and the uncharted nature of this territory the NCAA has entered ensures that the landscape of devy fantasy football will be changed forever.

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Christian Williams is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @CWilliamsNFL

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