Lets face it, we were spoiled by 2011 and 2012.
Two of the best hobby draft classes of the last ten years, and they come back to back. In 2011, you had 5 QBs drafted in the first 40 picks, including a heisman and national title winner at number 1. In 2012 you had arguably 2 of the best QB prospects of the last 20 years in the first two picks. This year, the first QB taken was as much of a reach as I can remember in EJ Manuel, and the next QB doesnt even go until round 2. There are a few WRs taken, but no Running Backs, but both groups are not generating any type of value close to the last few years.
Products like Elite and Inception are predicated on pre-season hype. Until the games actually start, all the hype coming into the season dictates value. However, what happens if the hype is more negative than positive? That spells trouble, even though the rookies may eventually perform above expectations on the field. The issue is that when this performance happens, products like Elite and Inception will have already fallen out of the spotlight, replaced by later season releases. Its a lose/lose to start 2013.
Even worse, its not like the box price or configuration changed to reflect the significant drop in value. There is still 2 rookie autos and 2 relics per box in both Prestige and Elite, and Inception is the same as 2012 as well. Basically, the card companies are asking collectors to pay exactly what they did over the last few years, regardless that 95% of the hits in the product wont cover the cost of what they paid.
Here is the scariest part – I understand why boxes were expensive during the last few years. The rookies wanted a lot to sign each card, because their agents knew the autographs were valuable. This year, that isnt the case, and I doubt that any signature contract the companies secured cost even half of what Luck or Griffin charged. Have the box prices changed? No. Has the content changed? No. Actually, in 2011 and 2012 Elite, there was a checklist of veteran autographs that accompanied the rookie autos as box hits. Those are gone this year, so content has actually DECREASED.
The answer is pretty simple: We keep buying.
Maybe not in the same way we used to over 2011 and 2012, but enough to keep things afloat. Next year is going to be a big year again, so a down year isnt as terrible now with so much in the pipeline. Johnny Manziel may be an ass hat off the field, but he is one of the most popular college football players since Tim Tebow. Leaf already previewed the potential in his cards, and that is a very good thing. Maybe the companies have taken the same wait and see approach that collectors are taking.
I like a lot of the rookies in terms of their potential to be impact contributors. Although I dont think any of the guys will end up being Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, or Calvin Johnson, there will be pro bowl players in this class. Tavon Austin looks to be a dynamic playmaker, but his cards are a complete DEAL and a half right now. Montee Ball should do well in Denver if he stays healthy, but there are significant problems with his potential due to injury and talent. Thanks to these questions, you can pick up his stuff at pretty nice prices as well.
Because of the aforementioned challenges, a lot of people that do open are holding tight on cards, waiting for the on field performance to come through. Then, they hope, their 20 dollar card might become a 40 dollar card. I guess holding is better than listing for absurd prices because the sellers are pissed that they got hosed on their boxes.
Personally, I buy because its fun. I like opening packs and I like what Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson brings to the table as a complement to the rest of the offense. I dont make a living out of cards, and it doesnt matter to me as much that I get killed on just about every box I open. However, I am in the minority there, because there are more people like I described in the paragraph above.
I hope things change as rookies break out and dominate on the gridiron. If they dont, and we have another 2006 on our hands, the companies will need a contingency plan. This is essential to the eventual success of products in 2013.