Your Guide to the 2016 NFLPA Rookie Premiere

This is the event that everyone has been waiting for since the 2016 NFL Draft at the end of April. The one time that trading cards are the focus of the NFL world, and this event is the epicenter of that push. Over this week, the top NFL rookies will travel to LA and engage with the press, the trading card companies, and spend a day in their new uniforms for publicity photos. Here is a list of some important things to be on the lookout for, as this event feeds some of the most important pieces of the industry.

Panini Takes Over

For the first time ever, only one company will have the license to create physical trading cards. Panini paid through their nose to get this opportunity, and the rookie premiere is the first time that they will be on stage as the primary vendor for the event. You can expect a publicity blitz, both from the NFLPA and Panini about how much this partnership means to everyone, and its very likely the players will be involved as well. Panini’s adverblog will be on tilt with premiere coverage, and they will want to make sure that you see them at every turn during this week. They pay A LOT of money to throw this massive get together, and they want that money to count.

2016 Product Content

During this week, Panini will likely be putting out tons of content around their 2016 product lines, including previews of what some of the content looks like. We know that last year, Panini only had one hard signed set that was signed at the premiere, and the rest were sticker replacements like acetate scraps, manu-patch scraps, and other junk that isnt trading cards. Im VERY curious to find out if they pull their head out of their ass and get some real work done on hard signed material for the rookies. Im not holding my breath though.

Here are some of the cards that have been signed at the premiere from previous years:

2012 Prestige Draft Ticket Andrew Luck Auto

2014 Elite Blake Bortles Inscriptions Auto RC

2014 Prestige Odell Beckham Road to the NFL Auto

Unfortunately, the company who made the best use of the premiere will no longer be there to get cards signed:

2015 Inception Jameis Winston Inscription Auto

2015 Inception Amari Cooper Laundry Tag Booklet Auto

Topps Digital’s Presence

Much to Panini’s chagrin, Topps will not be completely shut out of this event, and I could not be more happy. If last year was any indication, Topps will have representatives from their digital team in attendance, and they will be gathering content for use in their Huddle app. Huddle recently signed a new long term deal with the NFL, so expect that this will continue to be a big deal for them long term. Topps has already made a fool of Panini’s digital team with some incredible draft based content, and I would expect that to be the case here as well.

The draft content should foreshadow some incredible stuff:

2016 Huddle Jared Goff Gold Draft Variant /10

Event Used Relics

If you think all those swatches used for rookies during the 2016 year are game used, you are sadly mistaken. In reality, these swatches are created by the thousands when players are asked to slip a XXXXXL jersey over their head for 3 seconds. Those jerseys are cut up and put into cards through the whole year. This is the event where all of that gets done, so keep an eye out for funny things that happen as a result.

Action Photos in Uniform

Despite the fact that Panini seems to be hopelessly obsessed with goofy ass posed shots taken indoors, the event was originally conceived as a way to get publicity and card photos for many different companies. This should continue to be the case, as long as Panini just does away with action shots all together. I wouldnt put it past them given their history of asinine photo choices on their cards. Either way, there will be a lot of organizations in attendance and its likely that we will get some nice looks of the top guys in uniform for the first time on the field.

Overall Perception of the Event

In the end, Im still bitter at the fact that Panini has taken over. This event is the first of many big reminders that a world of poorly designed cards in worthless box formats is on the way for the foreseeable future. Im excited that Topps Huddle will have a place at the table, as they could easily change the game in the long run. If they can outshine Panini on both the digital and physical front with some great content, nothing would make me happier.

Even with all the bitterness, im still excited to see what happens over the course of the week.

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2016 NFLPA Rookie Premiere Attendee List Released

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Finally, after a number of weeks to speculate, we finally have a list of all the players who will be attending the rookie premiere in LA this week. The rookie premiere is the most important event of the card year, as it is where photos will be taken of every major rookie to be used in trading cards for the whole year.

In case you are unaware of what this list is all about, the players below will dominate autographs and relics for the next football year. Its obvious there are some major surprises on the list, and from what it looks like, everyone who is supposed to be on the list is on the list.

My biggest issue is Moritz Bohringer, who was a fun international story from the draft. He is a German player who wowed with speed at a pro day, and the Vikings took a flyer on him in the 6th round. The issue is that the Vikings really have no reason to keep him on the roster, and basically wasted a draft pick on the off chance he can play. From the reports I have seen, his chances of making the team are slim to none, and in fact, he is a long shot to even make the practice squad. This was likely something forced by the league, and here we are holding the bag. He will have international appeal, but its still yet to be seen if he can gain residual value enough to necessitate his inclusion on this list.

Joey Bosa of the Chargers is the only defensive player attending, which is a bit shocking with the story around Jaylon Smith and his new position among America’s team. Sure, Bosa was the third pick, but he will definitely be a box killer just like any Defensive player not named Polamalu or Watt.

Noticeably absent is Jacoby Brissett, drafted by the Patriots in what looks to be insurance against Brady’s suspension. Obviously Garoppolo is going to take the snaps, but with this pick, its seems like they could be aiming for some redundancy in the lineup. Considering the Patriots are a popular team, this surprises me.

Other than that, everyone who should be on the list is on the list. Goff, Wentz, Elliott and company are all there, as are every other QB taken per the unofficial “Tom Brady/Tony Romo Memorial QB Invite Rule.” This “rule” exists so that Panini will not miss any┬ácards of anyone who could possibly play at the most valuable position. Obviously Brissett is the only exception.

Here is the list – more to come as the week progresses.

Moritz Bohringer, Vikings
Devontae Booker, Broncos
Joey Bosa, Chargers
Tyler Boyd, Bengals
Leonte Caroo, Dolphins
Corey Coleman, Browns
Alex Collins, Seahawks
Connor Cook, Raiders
Pharoah Cooper, Rams
Trevor Davis, Packers
Kenneth Dixon, Ravens
Josh Doctson, Redskins
Kenyan Drake, Dolphins
Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
Tyler Ervin, Texans
Will Fuller, Texans
Jared Goff, Rams
Christian Hackenberg, Jets
Derrick Henry, Titans
Hunter Henry, Chargers
Kevin Hogan, Chiefs
Jordan Howard, Bears
Cardale Jones, Bills
Cody Kessler, Browns
Ricardo Louis, Browns
Paxton Lynch, Broncos
Braxton Miller, Texans
Malcom Mitchell, Patriots
Chris Moore, Ravens
Paul Perkins, Giants
Dak Prescott, Cowboys
CJ Prosise, Seahawks
Keenan Reynolds, Ravens
Demarcus Robinson, Chiefs
Sterling Sheppard, Giants
Wendell Smallwood, Eagles
Michael Thomas, Saints
Laquon Treadwell, Vikings
DeAndre Washington, Raiders
Carson Wentz, Eagles
Jonathan Williams, Bills

On the Radar: 2016 Leaf Trinity Football Product Preview

With the departure of Topps, there is one company that is really looking to blow things out of the water, and as we have seen Panini is not that company. Leaf has really raised the bar this year, and delivered compelling product after compelling product, and now that we are getting a good look at Trinity, I must say, Im quite impressed. Where Panini is showing that they are more focused in churning out overproduced ugly products with stickers, Leaf is delivering on card like they always do.

Trinity has been a staple for years, and with each new edition, I always look forward to seeing their amazing dedication to awesome inscription cards. The whole set really has been great as a complete package.

Here are some from the last few years:

2015 Leaf Trinity Jameis Winston Inscription Auto

2015 Leaf Trinity Marcus Mariota Auto Patch

2014 Leaf Trinity Odell Beckham Inscription Auto Plate 1/1

2014 Leaf Trinity Teddy Bridgewater Plexiglass Auto

This year they are choosing to go with a horizontal design, and I must say, I am in LOVE. This will end up being the product that everyone should expect out of a bigger company like Panini, but it seems like Leaf is the only ones holding themselves to a higher standard of quality.

Logos or no logos, the look of these cards is stunning, with the silhouetted player and the simplified approach to keeping things clean on the design. Giving the player all that room to write works to the benefit of the set, as the inscriptions continue to be something that makes this set worth buying in bulk.

Im still upset that these sets are cut down online because of the logos being absent, but I feel it almost doesnt matter when the cards look as good as these do. Inscriptions make autograph content unique, and in an era where each rookie signs 25k cards per year, this makes the set special. With Leaf boxes also delivering top signers at a great rate as well, this product is a winner all around.

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Prime Signatures Football Product Review

I was not expecting them to bring back Prime Signatures as a pre-premiere product, mainly because the previous versions of the product basically tanked at release. I actually thought that as a gambler’s product, a cheap box with a relatively simple design wasnt bad, especially when on card autos were used for the main rookies. This year, all of the cards are stickers, and the on card autos have been replaced with a manufactured patch auto that looks so fucking terrible, it is sad. Yes, we have reached the point of pity. I actually pity Panini for being dumb enough to flood the market with ANOTHER college product that doesnt have on card autos.

Here are some of the early hits already up:

2016 Prime Signatures Carson Wentz Manupatch Auto /49

2016 Prime Signatures Josh Doctson Manupatch Auto /199

2016 Prime Signatures Tyler Lockett Patch Auto /49

2016 Prime Signatures Donald Driver / Bubba Franks Dual Auto /49

2016 Prime Signatures Emmanuel Sanders Auto /10

In fact, Panini has had players sign everything BUT the card in recent years. I mean, when you look at last year’s product calendar, they didnt have a product with predominantly hard signed autographs until Immaculate was released! You are probably thinking that I am not telling the truth, but go look! Stickers, stickers, acetate, stickers, stickers, stickers, stickers. Its nuts. They must be fucking allergic to quality hard signed content.

Just for fun, here is a list of things that they have had players sign instead of the card:

Most of these asinine gimmicks are sticker replacements, used in place of hard signed autographs. The reason being is that they can take a stack of them to the premiere or a workout, and get them signed without the card being done. We know that on card is available because Leaf and Topps have both offered 100% hard signed sets leading up to the premiere in late May. To think that with some planning and effort, Panini could actually do that. Of course with no competition, what is the incentive?

I havent even started discussing the product, mainly because its so boring it is borderline sleep inducing. It also looks like its an enormous run, with rookies numbered quite high. On top of that, when they do try to jazz it up late 1990s style,the cards just look overly busy and the patterns hurt your eyes. This whole product is a snooze-fest, and it has no reason to be on the calendar other than to contribute a small amount to the massive check Panini will have to write to the NFL for their exclusive. I say a small amount, because this product will be below 50% of where it is now come a few months from now. If the run is even close to what I think it is, it could take a tumble VERY fast.

This shit has black friday packs written all over it. I hope the shops enjoy selling it, because they are going to get stuck with a multitude of cases when the promotions roll around. No other way Panini is going to be able to move this garbage.

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Have Event Used / Player Worn Swatches Ruined Relic Cards?

Im sure some of you read the title of this post and not really understood what I am talking about. Because of this unfortunate fact , I think its worth bringing up some additional thoughts on event used material again, especially with the rookie premiere coming up in a few weeks. Im not totally against using them as a rule, but in a lot of ways, the advent of the practice has changed the hobby DRASTICALLY over the last decade and a half.

Background

Have you ever wondered why relic cards exist of the NFL rookie class before they get on the field? I think that should be a clue. For reference, it can take months to create a card from scratch, which means that any card you see in packs started being produced well before it was packed out for you to rip. They have to print the cards, obtain the relics, insert the relics, build the card, and then, in many cases have them signed.

The way that ALL card companies have handled this situation, is to have players “wear” jerseys at the NFL rookie premiere each May in Los Angeles, sometimes in upwards of 50 at a time. These “event used” jerseys, which are also now called “player worn,” are then cut up and inserted into trading cards through the whole year.

You might expect that the “player worn” relics are the ones pictured in the photographs taken at the rookie premiere for use, but that is also a common misconception. The jerseys in all trading card pictures are provided by the league and players association, and are not used in trading card production.

In reality, the companies set up stations and players are handed one jersey at a time to slip their arms into, and take off immediately. The jerseys dont even have to be the same person trying them on. Some jerseys just have number 88 with “Player” as the nameplate. I have heard Panini using blank jerseys with no patch material to increase yield of relics they can get. Its an assembly line of relics that I would say are even a stretch to be called relics, let alone player worn. That is the reason the issue exist.

Even worse, players who have game used material available are now being sent through the same process in some cases, as relic content is so expensive to obtain, but thanks to this process are now diminished significantly in value.

Back in 1995 and 1996, relic cards were the new hot thing, and some sold for hundreds of dollars. Now that every product released has relic content, and every rookie has insane patches in just about every card, the base relic game has slowed considerably.

Impact of Event Used / Player Worn Material

Bottom line, what is done at the NFL and NBA rookie premiere impacts all sports. Because relic content obtained through player worn means is exponentially cheaper and easier to get, companies can offer better quality patches in their cards. Seeing a one color patch in any premium product is so rare these days, that collectors have devalued lower “quality” patches to the point of worthlessness almost.

Non-patch cards without signatures in football almost dont exist outside of Panini products these days, and that is not by accident. Some products have hype lines in the sell sheet that talk about the quality of every patch card. Its not because the content has changed, its that people’s perception has changed. Because cards that feature player worn relics are so readily available from the rookie premiere, no one wants the game used stuff unless it is of the same quality. The problem is, that is a much taller task than people expect.

I would guess that the card companies noticed quite quickly that logos and multi colored patch cards had a premium, and that usage of the valuable parts of the jerseys was more consciously approached during 2008, 2009, and 2010. Before that, it was less deliberate outside of the league logo patches, which in their own right didnt find official recognition in 1/1 cards until the mid-2000s.

To give you an example, Panini used so many logos per rookie player in products like Black Gold and other premium products that the cards no longer sell for a huge amount more than the other versions might sell. That would never have been the case in 2003 or even 2007.

You can find logos pretty cheap just about everywhere too:

2015 National Treasures Stephon Diggs Logo Auto /25

2015 Spectra Karlos Williams Logo Patch Auto /10

2015 National Treasures Melvin Gordon Booklet Logo Auto /2

The flood of top quality patches has driven down prices so much that wax as a whole has been hurt as well. Product shelf life is shorter than ever, as mentioned many times before, and this is a contributing factor. The ancillary relic hits in any box have so little value that Topps has almost stopped using them in premium products, instead opting for other types of “value added” inserts.

Panini even tested a product last year that didnt offer anything more than parallels and a relic for 8 out of 9 boxes within the case. Within months, it was at half of MSRP. Of course, that didnt stop them from bringing it back again for another run, but this time, more autograph content was added.

My argument is that the increasing number of crazy logo patches from player worn sets is the reason this has happened.

Education

Adding fuel to the fire is easy, especially when you see how few people understand what player worn relics really are. They are not game worn, they are not practice worn, and they are barely touched at all. Event used footballs have more contact with a player in most cases than the jerseys.

With a lack of education comes a valuation that might be mistakenly influenced. If there are people out there who still think these relics have any real connection to the player, they will assign value differently than those who might be educated as to their source.

Its worth speaking about the aesthetic of a logo patch card versus a plain relic card, and how some value the look of a patch against the plainer versions, but I just dont see that being as big of a deal. If Panini is going to have rookies put on 50 jerseys at the premiere, plus another 50 as the season progresses, are those logo patches that much more rare anymore? Not really.

I also want to worn people that the solution to the problem isnt as clear cut, because without the rookie premiere, there are no more rookie relics to be had. First off, not every rookie gets on the field, or even on the sidelines. If they do get on the field, many times there are a lot of interested parties who want the jersey, including the player. As the season moves on, card production timing just doesnt fit well with including game used swatches, and that means products are much less intriguing for many collectors.

As invaluable as relics have become, a lack of relics could be more disastrous to a calendar of products that is 30 strong. Eventually autographs just dont do it as much, and without player worn relics in play, that means more expense has to be dedicated to filling the checklist through other means.

Clearly, the number of people buying products is on the decline, so fewer and fewer risks can be taken without someone losing their job. Im curious how long it will be before relics arent even player worn, as it almost doesnt matter in the first place. If people just want a patch because it looks cool, just give them a patch, right? Things are not looking good in that respect.

Sure, some relics still have value, especially older players. We can all understand within reason how that well is not deep enough to be sustainable forever, and how much history could be damaged through the cutting up of these pieces.

Where do we go from here?

At some point the industry will reach a crossroads, as mentioned previously. At some point, a change will be forced. We have all been curious as to the next big thing, but it might never come in physical form. Over the last 20 years, relics have gone from real , rare and valuable to “kind of” real, common and worthless.

As the digital medium ramps up, this could change – especially as the apps use relics in the aesthetics of the designs for their cards.

That being said, im not holding my breath. The toothpaste is out of the tube, and its going to be hard to get it back in.