The basic rule of thumb with Sports Picks is this: If the figure does not match the image on the packaging, most likely it is a variant. However, there's usually one figure out of a series that will be pictured in the wrong uniform on the package.
There have been several figures to have this happen. The most recent is Gannon. He's pictured in the white Raiders jersey on the package, however the standard version ships in Raider black. The variant is actually a "Retro" version Gannon in a Kansas City Chiefs uniform. A white jerseyed Raiders Gannon is now showing up in stores in an NFL 2-pack with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Derrick Brooks.
Other notable figures that have not matched their packaged image include Joe Thornton of the Boston Bruins, and Dominic Hasek of the Detroit Red Wings.
So, the next rule of thumb is this: if you see multiples of a given figure and they don't match the package, most likely it's a case of "scalper baiting", as many have come to call it.
The new figures that are termed as "Retro's", and don't have an image of the figure on the package are the ones to keep your eyes out for as well. These will have the player's name and the team logo, and no image of the figure.
It's tough to keep up with everything that's going on with Sports Picks. If you're really interested in collecting them, be sure to frequent the boards at http://www.spawn.com