2017 NFL Playoffs: Is It Time to Buy Into Championship Weekend QBs?

The hobby runs on QBs. Period. Save a few examples of players in other positions, its the only time where extended career longevity is assured if you are a good player. For other examples, its hard to find a great running back that wouldnt be axed from the team roster just because his salary cap number exceeds that of a draft pick or free agent. Wide Receivers are similarly difficult to stake, and the collectors in the hobby know that it isnt a good indicator of HOF level potential if the player isnt a QB.

With that, outside of Tom Brady, there are three QBs playing that have a number of large questions marks floating over their careers right now. Blake Bortles hasnt exactly had oodles of success in Jacksonville, Case Keenum is on his third team, and despite a lot of success during the regular season, doesnt have a great resume prior. Nick Foles is not going to be the ongoing QB in Philly, even if he wins the Super Bowl. In fact, its more likely he doesnt stay on the roster if he wins than if he doesnt.

So, that begs the question, should you spend any reasonable amount of money chasing the QBs not named Tom Brady?

Blake Bortles

Of the three guys in the playoffs, Bortles is the most intriguing for a number of reasons. One, the team isnt built around him. Its built around their crazy fucking tazmanian devil of a defense. Although they drafted Fournette last year, he isnt the one piece that makes their offense elite. They need more. Allen Robinson is good not great, Allen Hurns is meh not good, and Keelan Cole is a rookie. Marcedes Lewis is the one remaining piece since their last playoff run, and that isnt a good sign for the TE position safety blanket in Jacksonville.

Here are some auction prices that are already creeping up:

2014 National Treasures Blake Bortles Rookie Auto Patch 1/1

2014 Topps Chrome Blake Bortles Rookie Pink Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2014 SP Authentic Blake Bortles Inscription Auto RC

What makes this interesting further, the Jaguars did pick up Bortles’ option and have him for next year. However, with a late first round pick on the horizon, they might still draft a QB. That means the timer has started and with it any real potential that Bortles will be a long term option for the future. The problem for collectors is that Contenders 2014 was a design train wreck, only to be outdone by Prizm, which was the worst it has ever been. Topps Chrome autos can be difficult to find in good condition, and even harder to find in boxes because of the sheer volume of print run that year. Not a good indicator of success.

If he wins the Super Bowl, that might change things. They might be forced to see how it plays out and hold off one more year on drafting someone else. That being said, Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl, as did Brad Johnson. Sometimes its not about the QB. Not necessarily the best news to hear for collectors looking to buy in.

Case Keenum

Another very intriguing story line leading into the playoffs. Here is this improbable situation that has arguably made Keenum a valuable commodity heading into the 2018 offseason. Although he hasnt been a star to this point, his performance during the regular season has been nothing short of remarkable. He was an afterthought for the Vikings and may end up being the reason they finally break their purple curse.

Here is where Keenum is sitting right now:

2012 SP Authentic Case Keenum Auto RC BGS 9.5 – UD autos are some of the only on card examples he has.

2012 Contenders Case Keenum Ticket Auto RC

2012 Topps Platinum Case Keenum Auto RC Refractor – Only pro hard signed card?

More importantly, Pat Shurmur loves Keenum, and is leaving the team. That could play out in a very weird way, especially if Shurmur wants Keenum as his guy wherever he finally lands. If that is New York? No idea what happens with the fan base so in love with Eli Manning. Personally I think Eli is a joke, but that’s just me.

Keenum’s history in the NFL doesnt bode well for collecting potential, but his involvement in this miracle play, does. Minnesota collectors will always have a soft spot in their heart for Case, and that means his cards will never be worthless. On the other hand, if he wins the Super Bowl, it will mean a few things.

First, the Vikings will sign or franchise him. Two, the cards will be much more valuable than they are currently. Three, he will have many more cards to come. Four, Minnesota collectors will want more of his cards. All of these things should bode well. Hell, some of these might be true with a Super Bowl appearance, let alone a Super Bowl win.

Lastly, he only has a very limited number of on card autos on the market. His Contenders and other tent pole rookie cards are all sticker due to his non-RPS status. For good reason, many sticker rookies just dont have the same pull as tent pole rookie sets that are hard signed.

Nick Foles

Let me start by saying that any investment in Nick Foles is one that will likely end up with him on another team. Carson Wentz isnt going to be dethroned as the man to carry the team, as there is just too many reasons the team’s investments need to be maintained.

Also worth mentioning that Nick Foles has had a great season like Keenum’s current run on his stat sheet. If he does pull it off, that could reignite a lot of collectability in him, knowing some QB needy team is going to want to give him another shot. When you have a QB needy team, it likely also means you are a bad team, which wont bode well for Foles’ career prospects.

Some of the examples for Foles, which are plentiful as an RPS participant:

2012 National Treasures Nick Foles Rookie Auto Patch BGS 9.5

2012 Topps Chrome Nick Foles Black Refractor Auto RC /25

2012 Topps Five Star Nick Foles Booklet Auto Patch RC

More of a factor will be how Philly collectors embrace him if he does win the big game on the back of a great defense like Bortles and Keenum both have as well. Winning a title means you are collectible, period, but its rare that a back up like this has ever won a championship under these circumstances in any sport.

Of the three, I think Foles is the least collectible. He just doesnt sit with me as a player that has any real future with the team he will win with. Bortles and Keenum both will. That doesnt mean he wont catch on somewhere, but its unlikely he will ever receive the accolades for the win, unless he pulls off a miracle.

Man, to think we are a few days away from figuring this all out and this is the situation we are facing. Im happy its like this, as it makes things much more fun. If the same guy won all the time, it would never be interesting. Brady is that guy, and its nice to see other teams bring some color to the discussion.

2017 NFL Playoffs – Will New Hobby Names Rise to the Top?

Now that the 2017 regular season is over, and the Jimmy Garoppolo love fest has begun, Im curious how the playoffs will now set a hobby trajectory for the remaining releases left in the season. Also goes without saying that the games will generate some major buzz, especially if guys like Nick Foles, Case Keenum, Matt Ryan and Marcus Mariota perform in the divisional round and make a deep run. This might also be the last hurrah for Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, which is a storyline all in its own right. Brady is the singular top name in the football hobby, and its going to be interesting to see what another Super Bowl run will do to his cards.

In the Wild Card games, we saw some crazy outcomes that I never really expected to be the case. We saw the Titans storm back from down 3 scores to win, and knock off a Chiefs team that had been world beaters during the first few weeks of the season. Being that Alex Smith has likely played his last game as a member of the team, its time for all those Patrick Mahomes collectors to come alive. We also saw Derrick Henry go off in the second half, including some impressive runs and a long TD. Considering that running backs RARELY make long term impacts in the hobby, Henry isnt one Im diving into head first. Demarco Murray is still on the roster, and Tennessee doesnt exactly have the largest collector base. However, he is Alabama made, so that helps.

Mariota is still a toss up with collectors, and his down season doesnt really sell that he needs a ton of new consideration he wasnt afforded before. Although collectors sure latched onto Jameis Winston during the 2017 offseason, im not sure if they will do the same for Mariota, despite a great win against a tough team on the road. You never know, and I really like Mariota as a long term prospect for some reason. He has the ability and talent to be great, and if he had anyone to throw to, he might be much more than mediocre. Collectors just need to find a reason, and things will go nuts. Prices have popped a bit with the recent win, but there is always more room. Corey Davis had an injury plagued season, so we will see what he does. Lets just hope the Titans dont give up that easily on both.

As for Kareem Hunt, he is still a top name in the class, despite being bottled up for most of the game. I would expect that will tail off next year, as I said that it takes a TON of momentum for RBs to keep up the value they build during their rookie season. Chief collectors will continue to buy in, but with Mahomes likely taking over, I could see a ton of focus shifting towards the new QB instead.

Speaking of dynamic running backs, Alvin Kamara is going to have the biggest test of his career next week. The Vikings will scheme to remove him from the game, and unlike Carolina, have the defense to hold Drew Brees accountable if the Saints continue to go back to their original plan prior to the new monster rushing attack they have cultivated. If he explodes against the league’s top defense, collectors should take notice. From all indications, Kamara is a game changing player, as we saw this year. Like Hunt, they both have the ability to break things wide open if not planned for accordingly. My only reservation is that Drew Brees is an elder statesman, and there is no real plan to pass the torch. That means Kamara will have a tougher time as the pass game becomes less effective, even though Michael Thomas looks like the real deal.

We also saw that Leonard Fournette and the Jags overcame a sloppy offensive game thanks to their defense, and it didnt exactly showcase how good Fournette could be. He had a great regular season, save injuries, and there is a lot to like. But like Kamara, QB futures may dictate how much potential success he could be capable of in the hobby. Blake “Bortle Kombat” Bortles looked like Tim Tebow last week, and that is not a compliment. He was unable to adjust to the wind or the defense, and was only effective at running the ball. Similar to Mariota, his receiver base needs MASSIVE improvement, but are you really staking your team on a guy who has shown he isnt capable for 4 years? Im not sure this past game was a good indicator.

Coming up next week, we will really get to see what Nick Foles and Case Keenum can do when inserted into the best possible situation for each QB. High powered offenses, great defenses, and all the reason to play a great game. If both or neither step up, expect major hobby implications. Foles has had his shot, but he could be aiming for a new job if he plays out of his mind. Carson Wentz is the future in Philly, even if they win the Super Bowl, but that doesnt mean that Foles wont get traded to a needy team. If he lays an egg, his hobby career is as done as it ever was.

Keenum has played well all year. Especially well considering they lost their starting RB and starting QB after the season began. He was thrown into the fire, and has performed well above expectations. Problem is, the defense needs to hold their own, and he just needs to be a game manager. If that happens, this is a championship team. Otherwise, im not confident Keenum might be able to overcome the massive hill without the lockdown on the other side of the ball. Keenum’s value has been creeping up for this reason, and there might be further life even if he does lead the Vikings out of the playoffs. Pat Shurmur wants to take him along for the ride as he begins a head coaching role with another team. That means there is potential for more starting time, and thus more hobby potential. If he wins the Super Bowl, the Vikings will franchise him before he signs somewhere else, and that will complicate a lot of different things in the hobby. Lastly, it hurts that he hasnt been with one team his whole career, as that means his rookie cards arent branded with the team he has had success with. It limits value, stupidly, but it is what it is.

The playoffs are an awesome time to be a collector, lets hope we get some hype around the names that we know drive product.

Should Contenders Really be the Bedrock of Panini’s NFL Calendar?

I dont think there is any doubt that Contenders functions as Panini’s most popular product. Every year, the release of the set is something that almost every football collector pays attention to, even if they dont plan on partaking in the break of any packs or boxes. Being that Topps is no longer around to divert attention, this should be a golden age for Panini to build on the loyalty they believe they have built since taking over in 2016. Instead, I dont feel like that hasnt happened in any concrete fashion, even though I think 2016 Contenders was one of the better versions of the set released in a long time.

The 2017 version doesnt even come close to that standard, bringing forward a very plain design with little to offer in terms of a rookie class riddled with injuries to top players.

2017 Panini Contenders Christian McCaffrey Super Bowl Ticket Auto 1/1

2017 Panini Contenders Mitchell Trubisky Cracked Ice Auto Ticket /25 – The horizontal 2017 design is horrendous.

2017 Panini Contenders Deshaun Watson Ticket Auto RC

2017 Panini Contenders Alvin Kamara FOTL Red Foil Auto Ticket

I have said this for years, and I will continue to bang this drum, Contenders doesnt deserve to be the bedrock of the Panini NFL calendar just because it exists. Back when it represented one of the only sources of autographs for rookies that were deep in the class, the set was important to have. Now that so many rookies have autographs in products through the entire year, its lost the one thing that made it special. That’s not saying it isnt worth continuing the tradition, but it does bring a very important fact when that unique benefit is no longer unique. With rookie autographs now the most important part of football cards, Panini actually needs to TRY when they build this set. They have lost the luxury of collector loyalty based on concept.

Yet, without competition, Panini hasnt really stepped up the game, especially so in 2017. Although the ticket design isnt bad, it isnt great either. I liken the effort to that of 2014, when it was clear Panini literally put zero thought into the look of the cards. This is a lot more successful than that dumpster fire of a set, but it isnt something that shows Panini is thinking outside the traditional confines of this set. The insert autos range from less than acceptable to absolute garbage, and that just cant happen in a set like this.

Topps has taken a very similar approach with Triple Threads baseball, opting to deliver year after year of shitty phrases die cut into relic windows, because they just dont want to mess with something that isnt broken in their eyes. Personally that is the opposite of progress, and should be frowned upon from every single collector.

Although Panini did add veteran ticket autos for the first time, building on the Coaches’ tickets from last year, I feel like that is taking a pen and putting a phone stylus on the back. You didnt really improve the pen, you just made it slightly more useful. That isnt a victory, and I might actually say detracts from the overall concept.

Contenders during the 2000s and 2010s doesnt exactly have the best track record either. Disastrous designs in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2014 have shown that this set fails on regular occasions to deliver consistently. That includes a 2012 design that was just a reprint from 1998. Additionally, the dilution of the brand with needless college themed draft pick products really doesnt help the cause much either.

At some point in all of this, its time to question the team behind this product, failing on a regular basis to improve upon the set that defines their business. It should also be mentioned that Panini’s team hasnt really had any success that outshines this product from the Playoff, Leaf and Donruss days, even though they want everyone to feel like they win consistently.

I will go as far as saying Contenders has started to feel like just another set, instead of the one product that all these collectors freak out over. That is a crazy proposition, especially when you see how important rookie cards are for football. With the sport in decline, its time for Collectors to expect more innovation and less maintenance. I dont feel like we have gotten it here.

2017 Panini Optic Football Will Never Be Worthy of Replacing Topps Chrome

When Topps lost their license to make NFL football cards in 2015, we all knew that Chrome Armageddon was upon us. Being that Topps Chrome was the set of the year in just about every sense, especially in creating the most super premium hits of the year. Believe it or not, the top rookie card of the top rookie each year did not come from Flawless at $1500 a box, NT at 600 a box, or even Contenders at 160 a box. Every year, the top card of the year was the superfractor auto of whomever the top player in the class was, out of a box that cost $70 bucks.

Without Chrome in the mix in Basketball, collectors immediately did two things. First, they started chasing down all the Chrome cards they wanted from previous years. Second, they were desperate to find a replacement. Because Panini has never really had an idea of their own, Prizm very much became that set. This is abundantly evident with the way Ben Simmons cards have performed as of late. In football, things were similarly approached, although Prizm in football never gained the following it did in Basketball. Years of absolutely fucking horrible designs curtailed the loyalty to the set, and the creation of Optic with on card autographs in 2016 hurt that even further. It wasnt because Optic had better looking cards, because that is definitely not the case. Its because the auto cards were not stickers, and that is the ONLY reason.

Panini made a choice for Optic to get hard signed cards instead of Prizm, and I have been bitter as fuck that they made such a stupid decision. Not that they created another chrome based set, or even one with hard signed autographs. Not in the slightest. The more chrome the better. In what I consider the WORST FUCKING DECISION OF THE YEAR – they chose goofy ass posed photographs for the main rookie cards of the set.

Check out this bullshit:

2017 Panini Optic JuJu Smith-Schuster Rated Rookie Auto /99

2017 Panini Optic Taywan Taylor Rated Rookie Auto /99 – His face is fucking priceless!

2017 Panini Optic Mitchell Trubisky Rated Rookie Auto /99

2017 Panini Optic Dalvin Cook Rated Rookie Auto Red Refractor /50

Not only did they choose pictures that are not action shots from the premiere, but they literally chose the worst type of posed photos that are about as cringey as you can get. These are posed photos without helmets, and in weirdly articulated positions that resemble robots who were shut down mid sequence.

Panini will argue that they want to offer a variety, which makes sense. Many people would say you cant use the same photo over and over and over again, even though Panini did just that in 2016 with this series (Donruss, Optic, Black Gold – three subsets, and one other). I would use this as an argument that there should be a focus on getting actual game photos into products more quickly, and maybe – just maybe – committing to less products in the deal than any normal sized team could create.

I would also venture a guess that people really dont care what Panini puts on a card. I mean, fuck, they put a picture of a player sitting on stairs on a card and called the set "Initial Steps." That isnt a joke, that actually happened. People still buy those god forsaken cards. Many people just dont care what the card looks like, unless its some crazy gimmick built for a specific reason. That being said, there is a reason why National Treasures and Flawless use very specific techniques in building a product that more align with my tastes. For those sets, Panini knows they have to cater to people with higher expectation. Its not going to be some clueless idiot who just wants something shiny.

I find that to be an insult, because none of their competitors ever treated it that way in Football. This lack of effort is so evident to me, that I would say Topps could produce Chrome without logos and literally decimate anything Panini has been able to accomplish. That’s how little brand loyalty Panini has built up over the last 3 years since Topps’ departure, or even since Upper Deck’s departure after 2009. Panini struggles in a hilarious state of failure, almost in such a constant fashion that I question how they could get it so wrong for so long.

Optic is a prime example of this lack of vision, as there is absolutely no reason it should be used the way it is being used. Panini should make every effort to solidify brands across sports, much like Topps did with Chrome since the mid 1990s. They made it easy for collectors to jump between sports and not miss a beat. Chrome was what it was in every sport, from Basketball, to Baseball, and to its ultimate success in football. The most crazy piece of this is that Optic could easily flip flop with Prizm and start that reconciliation process. It would still leave collectors to laugh at the awkward poses they stupidly choose for each card, but it wouldnt be as much of a detriment to their calendar or branding. Prizm could have hard signed autographs, and more would be right with the football world than it is now.

Instead we are left to languish in the barren wasteland of Panini’s vison-less hellscape, hoping that some day Topps or Upper Deck will be welcomed back to the fold. That is quite the sad existence for a sport that is facing diminished participation across the country, and major political pressure to change its ways. Panini is playing with fire in an environment that is leaking gas. They should be ashamed of themselves.

2017 Topps Dynasty: Are These Types of Products Sustainable?

Last week, Topps released another year of Dynasty, which might be one of the best singles buying products out there. It also extends the “one card box” format further, as we have seen become a trend with Topps baseball products. The difference here is that Dynasty is one of the only super-premium (borderline ultra premium) product that uses this format, and comes out to be more than Flawless when the configuration is extended to that size.

Even with the pricing, it sure does deliver when you hit it big, as we can see:

2017 Topps Dynasty Derek Jeter MLB Logo Auto 1/1

2017 Topps Dynasty Aaron Judge All Star Game Logo Auto /5

2017 Topps Dynasty Mike Trout Angels Logo Patch Auto 3/5

2017 Topps Dynasty Floyd Mayweather Logo Patch Auto 3/5

2017 Topps Dynasty Jose Altuve Astros Logo Auto 2/5

2017 Topps Dynasty Andrew Benentendi Ortiz Commemorative Logo Auto /5

Dynasty produces cards that are almost unavailable in any other product, much like a product of this sort should. It has the craziest patches, a great checklist, and collectors seem to have latched onto the secondary market potential. Problem is, with one card per box, and a checklist that has its share of duds, it is very tough for collectors to justify ripping in small batches. This product is built for the case buy, and that’s not even to support the group breakers. Without a lot of hits, this type of format doesnt even bode well there, other than generating eye candy to put on their instagram page.

This begs the question of whether or not this format is a sustainable experience for Topps’ loyal consumers, or if this is just another brick in the wall of why the industry is headed in the wrong direction. Can you build a super-premium product that doesnt lend itself to casual buyers, group breakers and 99% of the hobby who wont spend 275 bucks on a slot machine handle pull? I want to say no, but here we are with another year of the product.

Im not complaining that it exists in the slightest, as the youtube breaks provide amazing amounts of entertainment. I dont have to sit through the breakers slow slide 15 cards per case, and shout terrible fucking catchphrases for an hour, its literally 5 boxes and 5 cards that I can easily fast forward through. That is gold, people. GOLD!

The desire to better understand the direction of the hobby these days is growing by the moment, as its clear the industry is trying to land with nontraditional configurations to see what sticks. Adding in that baseball is over for the year, Judge and Bellinger have already gotten their ROY trophies, and pitchers dont report to Spring Training for 4 months, im curious how this stuff is going to work.

We also got word that Transcendent is back for another year too, which further complicates the direction Topps is trying to go with baseball. Do they continue down the super and ultra premium path in Baseball despite historic troubles with any high end product not named Triple Threads (ugh)? At some point, someone is going to have to answer that question, as its clear that some of their risks have paid off, especially when you note how many set collectors still exist in baseball.

Either way, I love me some Dynasty, but cant get these major questions out of my mind as I cant help but enjoy the card porn.