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Volume 22 No. 35
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Nike makes key signings ahead of NFL draft

Nike has signed some top NFL rookies in preparation for the April 27 draft, including Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

An obvious first-round selection, some scouts have pegged dual-threat Watson as the top QB prospect in the draft. Insiders said Nike had the 21-year-old Georgia native tabbed as a “must-have” endorser, based on a combination of his athletic ability and personality.

Deshaun Watson has joined the Nike ranks.
Other rookies new to the Nike roster are Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, vying with LSU’s Leonard Fournette as the top running back available in this year’s draft. Also signed to a Nike endorsement deal was Christian McCaffrey of Stanford, another highly rated running back. All those rookies were added to the preponderance of NFL players under contract to Nike (more than of 70 percent), which has also held NFL jersey rights since 2012.

In a twist of fate, Nike signed John Ross, the Washington Huskies wide receiver who set an NFL record 40-yard dash time of 4.22 seconds at this year’s NFL combine. As a marketing ploy, before the combine, Adidas promised to give an island or $1 million to anyone breaking the record of 4.24 seconds, set by Chris Johnson at the combine in 2008. Since Ross wore Nike cleats while setting the record, Adidas backed out.

Last year, Nike signed more than 15 top rookies, including the first two players selected: California’s Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams) and North Dakota State University’s Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles).

The NFL draft is set for April 27 in Philadelphia, where it’s being held for the first time since 1960.