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.