We have all been talking forever about the quality of products, as well as the quality of the class the inhabits them. For the longest the speculation has been rampant about whether or not this is one of the worst rookie classes of the modern era, mainly in the performance we have seen across the first few weeks of the season. Now that EJ Manuel has been sidelined with another knee injury, and Geno Smith has had so many problems, can we all say the coffin has been sealed?
Check out what has happened:
So far,the class has barely lived up to its minimum potential. We have had a few nice weeks here and there, but that’s about it. No impact performers have truly broken away from the pack, and though EJ Manuel has won a few games, he will not be on the field for weeks as he recovers. Geno Smith has basically been the laughing stock of New York since his stronger games to start the year. Sure, we have had some nice games from Giovani Bernard, and Deandre Hopkins, but nothing spectacular. Their values reflect that. Believe it or not, arguably the best player so far, Kenbrell Thompkins has had no cards because of draft status. He was unveiled as the mystery auto from 2013 Finest, but has had little to nothing outside of that.
Here are those cards:
In fact, injuries have been a big part of the underperformance all around. Eddie Lacy, the de facto top running back in the class, has been sidelined due to his leg problems and concussions, which are only made worse by the Packers’ rough start overall. He still gets some love in the final prices of his cards, but nothing like previous years’ guys. Jonathan Franklin has picked up some of the slack with a nice game before the bye, but it wasnt an explosion. His cards still sell for next to nothing.
Bottom line, the 2012 Rookie Class was so good, we are spoiled to the point of being bored with 2013. Values for 2013 cards have been at an all time low, and that’s even when people open the products to begin with. The collectors who are stepping out on those skinny branches and opening boxes/cases, are quick to experience that many of said branches cant support the weight of the price they paid. The prices we paid last year may have been for a highly proficient class of rookies, but we are getting that same price this year with very little added to the pot in top valued cards. There just arent enough top guys to go around this year.
That brings about a question – how do we fix this situation? Do we fix this situation, or just wait it out? 2014 has a tremendous crop of rookies that should be impressive to say the least. Does that mean we should just bide our time and hope there arent many collectors who fall off the wagon? We know that its likely many will come back once Johnny Manziel and company come to the table, right?
Regardless of the plan for the future, its pretty obvious that we need to focus on two specific parts of the hobby that werent a big deal last year. The first is DESIGN. When the rookie class sells itself, it almost doesnt matter what the cards look like. We found that out first hand with some of the hideous examples from 2012. Its sad like that, and it PISSES me off that we can let it slip. It happens. Now that the rookies are shit, design needs to be a focus again. We need to get back on the ball across the board. Without a well designed set, collectors will look to the strength of the content. Obviously, content will suck based on rookie quality, so its going to present a bad return. Topps has performed pretty steady at the top of the mountain since 2009, and Panini has relatively gone the opposite direction. Although they have had some victories, the track record is less than stellar as a whole. On the flip side of that, Topps has had a horrible fucking problem with Customer Service, to the point of driving collectors away. Both have contributed to disaster.
The second piece of it has to do with veteran signatures. I know this seems like its a tiny thing, but it can be a huge expense and logistical nightmare. Its amazing how much can be forgiven when poor rookie content is supplanted by HOF and non-rookie autographs. Topps did a great job bringing Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III back into their products for 2013, and Panini has done a few things of their own. If the rookie class continues to slump, more content of this type needs to be figured into the bottom line. Even though people like Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice may charge more per card than they are worth, its an investment that needs to be made. We need more Manning, Brady, Peterson, and Rodgers, and that’s only the half of it. There are not many 100 dollar autographs available in the league any more, but without a rookie that can even bring 50 by themselves, its time to revamp the business plan.
Whether or not the companies all decide that they are going to take a breather until 2014, it honestly doesnt matter. Collectors arent happy with the 2013 class’ potential, and its causing a ton of problems. I sincerely hope there are conference calls and meetings set up through the next few months to determine what is going to be done. As it is right now, it wont work.