Examining The Hobby Impact of Recent NFL Roster Cuts

Every year, we get a few rookies who are invited to the NFL Rookie Premiere and dont make the team. Happens like clockwork, much to the chagrin of all the collectors who will still be pulling their cards as the year goes on. Because the premiere is done ahead of cuts, and cards are produced long in advance, the companies cant just pull the cards out of the products – unfortunately. Thus, we are stuck with these guys for the whole year.

This time around, its a bit different, as we got two prominently featured rookies that were cut, although both will likely end up on a practice squad somewhere. Im going to start with Michael Sam, who is really more important than anyone could have guessed, following his jersey being a top seller so far. Sam was invited to the premiere, but declined the invite due to personal reasons. Even though this was the situation, Topps still recognized a need to complete the cards they had built for him. Its a good decision. He was even included on the 40 signature rookie premiere attendee card despite his not attending.

As you can see there are still people interested in his cards:

2014 Topps Inception Michael Sam Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Elite Michael Sam Auto Turn of the Century

2014 Topps Michael Sam 1985 Retro Auto

Sam is one of the more valuable rookies of all the guys at the premiere because of his open sexuality, which I find to be a story that should be told in cards this year, as well as on the field. When you see the general landscape of things to come, we know that 85% of the rookies at the premiere will end up being unimportant. Another 10 of the remaining 15% will never really amount to valuable guys, despite being contributors through their career. That means that Sam being a guy who will likely fall within the 85% is a good target to have on board, considering his story makes him worth buying for collectors. Agree or disagree with his lifestyle, you cannot deny that he will end up more valuable than the other 5th round guys who will end up being scrubs.

The other player that was left behind is Tajh Boyd, a guy who I thought was definitely going to be a top pick based on his early years at Clemson. After a few down years, though, he fell deep into the draft, and the Jets felt he wasnt worth a roster spot with Geno and Vick fighting for the starting job. He will likely be put on a practice squad as well, and I dont think his career has a period at the end of it quite yet. Everyone knew he would be a project coming out of school, and I think he has a few years before hanging up the cleats.

Like Sam, not all collectors are ready to be done with Boyd:

2014 Inception Tajh Boyd Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Elite Tajh Boyd On Card RC Auto

As with most QBs, Boyd had a few people who wanted his cards from the beginning, and not all of them were Jets and Tigers fans. After seeing what has happened with Brady, Romo, Warner, Russell Wilson, and company, all QBs have become a prospecting target. Lets see what happens with Boyd, but now it looks like he will be a longshot to ever see the field.

Speaking of long shots, Cleveland has also cut Connor Shaw, who attended the Rookie Premiere as an invitee of the NFLPA. Topps elected to leave Shaw out of their post premiere products, knowing that he would likely be on the outside looking in, but Panini has added him to their box hit list as they have with other true attendees. Obviously this was a horrible decision to start with, as it was clear that the companies were not part of the decision to bring him to the photo shoot. Panini didnt seem to think twice before using him in their products.

After getting cut, I mentioned above that the companies will continue to use them in products, but will curtail any additional usage of those players once the deals run out. Usually, they sign each player for autos plus an extended option to extend the deal if necessary. The original deal usually covers most of the products for the first part of the year, with the option covering the latter half. When a rookie gets cut like Tyler Wilson did last year, the option gives them an out. Sometimes they make a decision to walk away, other times not.

As more info becomes available, ill post it here, but for now, the casualties are three. Other rookies like AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray seem to be hanging onto a thread, but for now are safe.

No Starting QBs Does Not Mean No Potential for 2014 Football Cards

Its rare that a rookie QB isnt officially the starter by this point in the preseason. Remember back in 2012, we had a ton of guys that were ready for prime time before they were even drafted. Not the case this year. Even in 2013, EJ Manuel had the Bills starting job locked up, and that was the worst year in recent memory.

Although the Raiders job isnt locked up quite yet, its quite likely now that there wont be any of the top draft picks taking the field and taking snaps during week one. Unlike 2013, where the class was just awful all around, 2014 is thought as one of the better classes in a while. When you see that the hobby is QB driven, how much does this affect value? From what we have seen, not much. Here is a breakdown of how I expect this to shake out.

1. Johnny Manziel

Although its clear now, I never expected to see Johnny Football as Johnny Clipboard week one. Not in a million years. He is still the top guy in the class by a mile and a half, but he wont see real action as the starter until Hoyer falls on his face. I think that will likely come sooner rather than later, especially with Josh Gordon’s year long suspension recently upheld. Manziel WILL be the starter, and he will get his shot, but Im still not convinced he wont struggle mightily. After watching all his pre-season snaps, its amazing how bad he can look on one play and how good he can look on others. Collectors are pouring THOUSANDS of dollars into his cards despite this fact, and I dont think the comparative value says thats a good idea. Either way I see why people love him.

Here are some top cards of his to chase:

2014 Panini Elite Johnny Manziel On Card Auto Inscription Red Ink

2014 Topps Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto /20

2014 Topps Inception Johnny Manziel Nike Logo Auto 1/1

Likely start date: Week 3
Current Value: HIGH
Hobby Potential: More valuable Michael Vick circa 2005

2. Blake Bortles

Of all the rookie QBs during the preseason, I think Bortles made his case to be the starter better than any other player. However, Jacksonville had already committed to sitting him during his rookie year, which is not only against the grain, but likely a horrible idea. Bortles played quite well, and Chad Henne isnt exactly a franchise QB, which means that there is likely no reason not to see what Bortles has in the tank. His hobby value isnt even close to where Manziel is, despite the fact that he played better. The difference is that Bortles has no polarizing public persona, and played for a college with no hype behind it.

Here are Bortles’ top cards:

2014 Topps Inception Blake Bortles Draw Play Inscription Auto

2013 Exquisite Blake Bortles Auto XRC 1/1

2014 Topps Blake Bortles Jumbo Patch Auto

Likely start date: Week 6
Current Value: GOOD
Hobby Potential: More valuable Andy Dalton (Jacksonville is a black hole of hobby value)

3. Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy ended the Preseason with 5 TDs and no interceptions, but it was clear that the Vikings were not willing to take the restrictor plate off the offense during any of their games. All of Teddy’s TDs were short completions, and though he looked very good in his time on the field, I dont think we got a good representation of what he could do. That is both a good and bad thing, as with no real bite to the offense, it was safe enough to keep his confidence high. Lets not forget that this is an offense built around the running game and Adrian Peterson as well. If they had taken the reins off a bit more, I dont think it would have gone as well. Like Manziel, I think the Vikings will be bad enough that Teddy will get some starts this season, despite how well Cassel played. At that point we will see what he is all about.

Here are Teddy’s Top Cards:

2014 Topps Inception Teddy Bridgewater Inscription Auto 1/1

2014 Bowman Teddy Bridgewater NFL Uniform Auto

2014 Topps Teddy Bridgewater Photo Variation Auto SP

Likely start date: Week 7
Current Value: GOOD
Hobby Potential: More valuable Donovan McNabb

4. Derek Carr

I dont think we got a clear picture of Carr due to his not playing due to a concussion in a game where he would have likely taken most of the snaps. He did look pretty good when he was playing, but not necessarily good enough to supplant Matt Schaub, who has seemingly forgotten how to play football. As a second round pick, he wasnt expected to come in and start right away, even though he was only drafted a few spots below Bridgewater. Funny how that works – as the hobby functions in a very similar fashion. Either way, he will eventually get a shot when Schaub figures out that his best targets dont wear silver and black. The Raiders arent exactly confident enough in Carr at this point, but they will give him the captain’s hat.

Here are Derek Carr’s top cards:

2014 Inception Derek Carr Red Auto /10

2014 Upper Deck Derek Carr SP Authentics On Card

Likely start date: Week 4
Current Value: BARGAIN
Hobby Potential: Less valuable Phillip Rivers

I cant even put into words how excited I am for the NFL season to start next Thursday, and I think that guys like these QBs, combined with others like Sammy Watkins will make this a great hobby year even without a starting QB week one. Prime your wallets for overdrive now, because if any of these four break out, it will be all over. Just wait to see where Manziel’s prices go if he has even a mediocre first game.

Panini Previews More 2014 Certified Football

Unlike many of the recent sets we have seen from Panini, Certified has been around forever. Frankly, I am surprised, as it has literally been one of the most poorly designed products in card history. Year after year of horrid themes and looks to the cards, and that’s putting it lightly. Last year, with a down class, I believe that we had a better looking set, which included a pretty progressive design to the box hits.

Check out the checkered past of this product – you will see why I feel the way I do:

2005 Leaf Certified Materials Aaron Rodgers RC Auto /5

2006 Leaf Certified Materials Deangelo Williams Triple Relic Auto – this year is one of the worst card designs in modern history

2007 Leaf Certified Materials Marshawn Lynch Triple Relic Auto

2008 Leaf Certified Materials Chris Johnson Triple Relic Auto – Another awful year

2009 Leaf Certified Materials Lesean McCoy Dual Relic Auto

2010 Leaf Certified Materials Eric Decker Triple Relic Auto – would have been fine if not for the goofy pictures

2011 Certified Randall Cobb Triple Relic Auto – I think this is the best year of the run

2012 Certified Nick Foles Dual Relic Auto

2013 Certified Giovani Bernard Dual Relic Auto

This year, from what we have seen, the cards are about as boring as it gets. The freshman fabric cards, which have always been the staple of this product are basically diet versions of Spectra, which was both Chrome stock and on card. This is neither. Instead we get the signature rainbow foil and sticker autos, which everyone should be very familiar with. I swear to god, whomever the company is that makes this ugly ass stock is going to be fucking rich come 2016. Panini uses it like it is the key to happiness. Its ugly as shit.

On top of the spectra clone design work for the main box hits, the fabric of the game cards are triggering PTSD flashbacks to the train wreck we all experienced with 2013 Limited. The compartmentalized design with the tiny player picture stuffed into to the top right is a complete nightmare, and that doesnt even begin to describe how terrible it is that a fabled set like this has degraded to this point.

Im running out of adjectives for ugly as I move into the new generation cards, where the logo for the set is almost bigger than the picture of the player. I have no idea why this continues to be the case with Panini, but they cant seem to prevent themselves from tripping over their own stupidity. Considering they will also be coming out with one of the most needless sets of the year in TOTALLY Certified as well, these cards only get worse as the year goes on. Totally Certifed deserves its own paragraph of ridicule, but ill save that for when they eventually solicit it.

Overall, this type of crap is going to be bought up because collectors have grown up with this set. It hasnt deserved to win that type of brand loyalty, as I can only count a few times where I have actually wanted to buy singles from this product. Not a good showing, and gear up as we approach the time where there will be no other options at bay.

Here is the damage:

Go-Live Report: How Does 2014 Topps Chrome Baseball Stack Up?

As much as I love Chrome in Football, I have never been as big a fan of it on the baseball side. Last year was one of the first times that I really opened any of the packs, and I think they did a really nice job with it. As I am looking at this year’s Chrome, I havent quite made up my mind quite yet.

Here are some of the big hits already up:

2014 Topps Chrome Jose Abreu Gold Refractor Auto /50

2014 Topps Chrome George Springer Atomic Refractor Auto /10

2014 Topps Chrome Gregory Polanco Black Refractor Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Nick Castellanos Black Refractor Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Xander Bogaerts Gold Refractor Auto /50

After watching some initial breaks and looking at the listings, its hard not to see how much Abreu is poured into this product – much like the rest of Topps’ sets this year. Considering the year he is having, that isnt necessarily a bad thing. The checklist has most of the same guys that have been all over Topps sets as of late, which I think is one of the main drawbacks to the product lines in recent years. Because Bowman Chrome is the king of baseball rookie cards, I would actually like to see Topps Chrome focus more on veteran on card autos instead of pumping the hobby full of another rookie set.

I think the 2014 design lends itself very well to the Chrome set, and though there are added die cuts and subsets, I think that this product really does need a fresh approach. Obviously, the base design would stay, but Topps really needs to find a way to differentiate the other parts of the set from the majority of its product line. I know there are veteran autographs in the product, Im just looking for more. Despite my not liking a lot of what Finest did in terms of design, it did have some REALLY nice on card auto content from some top tier guys. That is what Chrome should shoot for.

Chrome used to be very special because it was one of the first sets alongside Topps Finest to have high end rookie cards. When the hobby shifted more towards prospecting, and Bowman became the flagship set, all that went away. People have rookie cards in Topps Chrome years after first appearing in Bowman, which is a huge issue in the valuation of this set.

I dont want Topps to give up on this set, and I know they wont, but I cant help but feel like its getting to a point of boredom. That is never a good thing.

On the Radar: 2014 Topps Supreme Brings New Elements to An Old Favorite

Back in 2010, Supreme was released with little fanfare around a product that was basically Triple Threads lite. Since that time, Topps has converted it into one of their biggest and most anticipated releases of the year, with a huge focus on creating a brand identity along side some pretty amazing content. Although there are still a lot of reasons why Supreme should be improved year over year, it always looks good. In fact, it has even been successful enough to be transferred over to baseball. This is a brand I will miss come 2016.

Here are some of the better cards:

2012 Topps Surpeme Nick Foles Booklet Drawn Play Auto /5

2013 Topps Surpeme Eli Manning Logo Patch Booklet Auto 1/1

2013 Topps Surpeme Eddie Lacy Nickname Inscription Auto /5

2013 Topps Surpeme Dan Marino Jumbo Logo Relic Auto

2012 Topps Surpeme Russell Wilson Dual Relic Auto

Because so many of Topps’ products are rookie focused, Supreme’s large amount of veteran content is a big deal. Added focus on booklets and nice relics brings the product to a level of attractiveness that many collectors will like. I think that each year, the design gets a bit better, and the checklist gets a bit better, and when the rookie class is great, Supreme is a winner. This year has all of those things, and I hope we get another good year.

We also see from the solicitation that there will be on card rookie autos (at minimum), for the first time in the history of the product. This has always been the biggest drawback of the product, as a late year release like this should have a lot more on card content. Im glad we are getting it for the first time this year. Another big issue is the configuration, which continues to be rough with so many dud relic boxes with the same price tag as every other pack. Those boxes alone should scare you away from busting this en masse.

I think this product has the potential to be a superior version of Limited, and in terms of singles, it does that and more. The difference is on the box break, which Limited’s configuration can be a bit more forgiving.

Bottom line, some of my favorite autographs of the year come out of Supreme, and I expect another big year again.