Be Careful When Evaluating Pre-Season Play

Im excited that football is back. It was a practical barren wasteland of summer for me without it, and I must admit that I even watched part of the Hall of Fame game to get myself hyped up for the season. Fantasy is getting going too, and the SCU league is back with many of the same people who played last year. The one thing I see, is that with the start of the preseason, comes unnecessary hype for players who shouldn’t even be on the radar. Of course, there are collectors who cant tell the difference, so let this serve as your warning.

Every year, there is a player or rookie that plays well in the preseason. Whether it’s a few TDs here and there, or even an explosion of production, someone always makes these first four weeks their bitch. Inexperienced football prospectors jump on the cards of these guys, without the realization that doing well in the preseason rarely translates to more than a spot on the team for most guys. There is always an exception to the rule, but for just about every other player, its not worth your time to think about buying in.

A great example is David Clowney. Clowney was a rookie in 2007 and exploded for three or four TDs in one preseason campaign for the Jets or some high profile team like that. I remember there were two or three of his cards that sold in upwards of 15 dollars per auto at that point, even though Clowney was never going to be more than a special teams or utility player. Even though he did extremely well in that preseason, he has only caught 1 regular season TD pass.

Josh Morgan is another example, even though he has had more of a role for his team. In 2008, Morgan was a sixth rounder for the Niners who had a tremendous 2008 preseason. Because of a lack of options at receiver, people thought he would be getting on the field quite a bit as a result of his performance. Since 2008, he has only caught 6 TD passes and has less than 1000 yards in two seasons for San Fransisco. Not the worst case scenario, but for a guy who’s autos sold at over 20 bucks at one point, its not a good showing.

The moral of the story is that Preseason is a terrible judge of talent. Just because a player can excel against the scrubs of the scrubs, doesn’t mean he is going to have a great career worth you spending money on. Before going nuts on spending because a player scores a TD in week one, maybe its better to look at who he is playing against. If a guy only puts up reasonable numbers against the third team, what is he going to do against the starters playing at full speed? Its like using the Pro Bowl as a true measure of a game. The preseason is used as a way to fill out the rosters and to test the game plans, not as a way to adjust the depth chart at the top. Someone may win a job here and there, but those jobs are usually backups and special teams. For a guy like David Clowney, it was probably the time of his life, but for collectors, its not something you should view as the end all and be all of worth in the league.

Handicapping the 2010 ROY Possibilities

With each new rookie class, a new opportunity arises for them to become NFL superstars. They could end up like Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson, widely considered to be the best at their position in the league, or they could end up washed out like failure Jamarcus Russel. Although there is definitely a middle ground, the rookie year production for most of the 2010 class will boost or destroy their card values. The biggest value indicator at the beginning of the year is draft position, college, and team, but later on, its production and potential. So, for 2010, who has the best shot of ending up as 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Sam Bradford

I have said before that Bradford has practically no shot of winning unless he ends up falling into a vat of toxic waste and gaining super powers. The Rams are SO terrible that he may end up having a rookie season worse than any other number one pick in history. If you thought the 0-16 Lions were bad, this year’s Rams are on that level. Bradford has a good skill set, but he wont have the Ravens to surround him like Flacco did in 2008. The reason Flacco and Ryan had so much success was because of the pieces those teams had in place. The Rams do not have any of that, and there will be no way for Bradford to learn when he is getting knocked around the way he will.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

CJ Spiller

Spiller showed that he has chops while he was rumbling through at Clemson, but Im not sure he was drafted to a team that has a good enough foundation for him to be initially impactful. He will play with Lynch, who has had his share of problems, and the carries he will get are not going to be the quality ones off the bat. He is going to have to create his own production, and I am not sure the offensive line of Buffalo can help him live up to potential at this point. Spiller will end up well short of where McCoy and Moreno ended last year, and a lot of collectors are going to be mad that they invested in him.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

Ryan Mathews

If I had one person to throw all my support behind, it would be Ryan Mathews. The Chargers are a great team and they have the pieces that a middle round drafting team doesn’t usually possess. Because they traded up to get Mathews, he is going to be put in a situation where he will be given a lot more opportunities to shine. Plus, with Vincent Jackson angry, the running game is going to be very important, and I will guarantee you that Mathews is the one to benefit from that. I met Spiller, McCluster, and Best, but Mathews was the guy who dwarfed them in size. He is going to be a beast in San Diego, and he is the one I would buy.

Likelihood of ROY: Strong

Tim Tebow

I cheer against Tim Tebow every chance I get. Everything about him makes me want to see him lose. His skill set was not worthy of a first round selection, and when Denver traded away Brandon Marshall, it put him at even more of a disadvantage. People seem to think character wins you football games, but really its your ability to avoid Dwight Freeney coming off the end at 100 mph. Tebow doesn’t have the accuracy, the arm, or the experience in a pro-style offense to do well in this league. Tebow will be a bust, and I wouldn’t spend a dollar on him unless you were a gator fan in the days he was there.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

Demaryius Thomas

I thought Thomas was a huge reach at where he was drafted, especially over some of the receivers that were still on the board. Dez Bryant should have been the pick, but the Broncos decided that for 2010, their future was not important thanks to the people they drafted. Thomas will be the next Darrius Heyward Bey in his rookie season, and the Broncos should end up being a team that drafts very low in the first round next year. When you add in the injury bug that has been floating around Denver, they could be drafting lower still.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

Dez Bryant

I think that Bryant is going to have a pretty big impact in the hobby, mainly because of who he plays for. However, because of an injury, he probably isnt going to be at 100% for opening day. Bryant is probably going to have a season very much like Michael Crabtree did when he came back, and I expect him to have a pretty productive career in general. He should be a contender for ROY with Mathews, and is maybe even a front runner if he comes back strong.

Likelihood of ROY: Strong

Jimmy Clausen

In Carolina, Moore is not the answer, and never really was. Clausen is the future of the team, but needs Moore to fall on his face to get on the field. That possibility is pretty limited at this point, so Clausen may end up riding the bench for the first year or two. If Moore goes down or has problems, I would think Jimmy is going to do pretty well in his absence because of how good of a team the Panthers can be. Otherwise, any money collectors invest in Clausen will have to be for the long term.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

Golden Tate

This guy has an interesting situation in Seattle because of the Quarterback that throws to him. We never really know which Hasselbeck is going to show up, and that will drastically effect Tate’s production. Because Seattle STILL has no running game to speak of, the Passing game becomes it. However, with Housh underperforming and there not being a definite rock at QB, Seattle is a terrible place to be for an offensive rookie. Tate looks good enough to be a factor either way, just not one that is probably going to make headlines. Think Mohammed Massaquoi from last year.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

Arrelious Benn

A lot of people had Benn going higher than he did in the draft, and much like the other WRs in the 2010 class, his production is going to depend completely on how Josh Freeman adjusts to the NFL game. If Freeman struggles like he did at points in 2009, Benn is going to have a nightmarish rookie campaign. If Freeman plays like he did against the Packers, you can bet that Benn is going to do great due to lack of other options. Benn is a REALLY tall and big guy when I met him in person, and it looks like he is going to be pretty tough to cover in the red zone. That alone could get him some face time in the hobby. There has been a lot of talk about him performing well so far in camp, so maybe it’s a sign from the gods to look his direction.

Likelihood of ROY: Possible

Ben Tate

The latter Tate in the draft is in a pretty good situation in Houston. Slaton has problems as of last year and confidence in him is slipping. That leaves the door wide open for Tate to shine, but it is still unclear how well he will be able to work in the NFL. Houston has become a playoff caliber team in the last few years, and because of that fact, the tools at Tate’s disposal will be better than Spiller and company in Buffalo. He should have a year with some production, but nothing like what is needed for ROY. As with any running back on a good team, the potential is there, so it will be up to him to make it work.

Likelihood of ROY: Possible

Jahvid Best

I thought Best would be drafted higher than he was, and I think he is a pretty good player from what I saw living in California the last few years. The problem is that the Lions are horrible, again, and that doesn’t bode well for him. With Kevin Smith coming off a debilitating injury, Best is going to get reps, and reps usually do wonders for rookie stock. I would think he has potential to put up a season as good as Spiller, but will get more attention in Detroit because it isnt Buffalo.

Likelihood of ROY: Possible

Montario Hardesty

I like what Hardesty brings to the table, but like Buffalo and Detroit, Cleveland is a black hole for offensive players. Delhomme is the QB right now and he has terrible rates of success over the last few years. Whe
n that happens on any team, its the running game that gets effected too, because defenses never have to worry about the pass. With Edwards gone and the best options being receivers with very little ability to make things happen, it could be a dire situation very quickly in Ohio. Hardesty is good, just not THAT good.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

Jermaine Gresham

Gresham was billed as a prototypical Tight End, which is a lot to live up to. However, Tight End rookies have rarely performed at a high level over the last few years. The focus on the tight ends in the league has dropped, unless you are playing with a guy like Peyton Manning. He should do much better than the terrible season Pettigrew had last year, but its not going to be anything special.

Likelihood of ROY: Limited

Im sure there are other rookies from the later rounds that will shine, a la Julian Edelman from last year, but none are worth discussing at this point. Regardless, its these guys who are the front runners in my mind. They also have the higher values of the class, and that means that they have the most to lose in terms of hobby value. Argue all you want about my ratings for these guys, but I think that more of them are probably going to drop drastically in value than climb.

My Pick for the 2010 Rookie of the Year: Ryan Mathews

Examining the Good With the Bad

In the past, I have done a five on five about the hobby, or a discussion of a few good things and a few bad things that I believe are relevant observations about what is currently going on. Since things have changed so much, even in the last few months, I think it bears a redux and re-evaluation.

Five Things That Are Great

1. Community

Since 2007, the online card community has become a staple of the industry to a point that it is taken into consideration when news is released. Not only do collectors participate in the discussion through message boards, facebook, twitter and blogs, but the companies have joined on as well. As of right now, all of the big three companies have facebook pages and twitter accounts, and two of the big three have a blog that covers relevant topics. As great as it is, those things are just the tip of the iceberg. Back in the early part of 2008, when SCU was founded, the amount of online participation was minimal compared to now. Card blogs were few and far between, and widely read card blogs were even fewer. Message boards were heavily policed and rarely produced anything but flame wars and mail day posts. Twitter was barely going, and facebook was for connecting with old friends. Since that timeframe, card blogs have become increasingly popular, message boards have gone so far as creating their own card sets, and twitter and facebook have become a staple of the community. As we saw with the turnout for the recent National show, many people from the community made it a point to meet up in Baltimore to put a face to the keyboard. It’s a great time to be a part of the hobby when it comes to online collecting.

2. Communication

When it comes to communication between the companies and their end users, less is more had always been the policy du jour. In a time where community is a key part of the process, communication has gotten to a point where collectors now have more of a voice in what is going on. If a company does something right, they hear about it from all sorts of different places. If a company does something wrong, they definitely hear about it, and in some cases they fix it. A great example of this was with the prevalence of the fake Rookie Premiere Autos from Topps, and their commitment to serially numbering the future cards to prevent fakes. On that same note, news on upcoming products, as well as announcements on new directions have become practical holidays on the net, and all is thanks to the way that the companies have started to communicate with the collectors. Is it all that it could be? No, but it’s a great thing that is going on in our hobby. As I said yesterday, the Topps panel at the national was an event that had good intentions at heart, but further improvement is needed. Regardless, a panel like that never would have happened a few years ago, and that is where we can see the progress.

3. Collectors Are Starting to Open Their Eyes

In terms of the soft underbelly of an industry known for defrauding its fans, the general collecting populace is starting to catch on that not everything is as peachy keen as Beckett makes it out to be. I remember a few system questioning topics being discussed on message boards when I first got back into collecting, and how much of a fight it turned into. None of the people who commented on the topics could fathom that Beckett or the manufacturers could manipulate them the way they were. Now, if you go on a message board and start talking about it, board members are quickly going to ask you if you have been hiding under a rock for the last three years. No longer do the companies have free reign to churn out questionable items or videos, as skepticism has become much more of a welcome feeling. Many of you may say this has contributed to a lot of negative aspects, but I disagree. I have never been one to want the wool pulled over my eyes, and I think its great that people are finally starting to see that all is not what it seems. Also, from a purchasing standpoint, a lot of collectors are starting to recognize the fakes that have been such a problem in the past. Whether its fake autos, fake patches or fake anything, someone is always there to jump on it. I cant tell you how happy that makes me feel, and I think its great that people are getting the point. They are surely a long way from where they need to be, but it is a million times better than it was.

4. The Hobby Is Receiving National Media Attention

For an industry profit marging that has deteriorated as greatly as it has over the last few years, national media attention is like a breath of fresh air. Whether it’s the sale of the Strasburg superfractor, or any number of other stories, news outlets are realizing how many people still care about sports cards. Hell, I have even seen the Million Card giveaway come up on MLB game broadcasts and morning news shows. When I attended the rookie premiere, an event usually reserved for card companies, the news stations from the LA area and even a few national services were there at the party. Because Topps, Panini and UD were the ones who had set up the event with the NFLPA, they were front and center when coverage of the event was broadcast. Although the hobby will never die, the industry does have a shelf life, and it is extended every time a story is covered nationally. That is definitely a good thing.

5. Things are Rebounding From the Recession

For a long time, the industry looked to be on its last legs because of crippling blows from the recession. Because of the way the manufacturers produce their products, card collecting success is in direct correlation to the amount of disposable income that is available to the nation. When the nation is in dire straits, so is the ability to buy cards, even more so than some of the other industries that were hit by the recession. Now that the nation is starting to recover, there was a looming cloud of doubt that surrounded whether or not the industry would be able to recover. As we have seen with the success of recent releases, as well as the completed auction tab on ebay, things are slowly getting back to the way they were. It may never reach full speed again, but its great to see that collectors are not giving up on the things they love.

Five Things That Are Bad

1. The Money

Baseball cards and money will always be interconnected, but its become ridiculous lately. I frequently blame entities like Beckett and their grading service and price guide for furthering the notion that cards are an investment rather than a fun way to pass the time, and I definitely think that is a good part of it. However, its not the entire story. So many people are solely in this for the money, and that’s a terrible thing. When looking at the reason they are in this for the money, I think some of it hinges on the ways cards are presented in a national perception of collecting. When new people come into things, the first thing they are usually exposed to is the question I see way too much of. “HOW MUCH IS THIS WORTH?” Instead of trying to collect things that make them happy, they start to collect things that will make them the most money. Then when Beckett presents such an unrealistic representation of value, it creates disappointment when the truth is realized. I will be the first to admit that I fall victim to this vicious circle as well, and I guess that comes with the territory. However, I think its time for cards to be presented in a way that doesn’t paint this hobby as a money pit. However, when the Strasburg super does what it does, that becomes practically impossible.

2. Creativity is DEAD

I have commented a number of times that there is no more creativity in this world of cards we love so much. Don’t believe me? Look at every product released under Panini since the take over. They might as well have been one continuous product. Topps isnt much better. Then when you see that a company like Upper Deck kicks themselves in the nuts and l
oses everything, the ability to foster new ideas dissapates. As much as I hate what Upper Deck did in terms of their business ethics and practices, their products were always the summer blockbusters of the card world. That is undeniable, especially when you see how a product like SPA or Exquisite compares to anything else in the same category of products. The boredom has become so disheartening, that many people are giving up based on the sheer number of emails I have received. Personally, I think it has more to do with companies focusing on packing as many relics onto a card as possible, rather than focusing on the simple beauty that cards had in the past. Design and composition has become an afterthought, instead of being the primary focus, and as a result, we have products like Topps Triple Threads and Panini National Treasures Basketball.

3. Scams and Fakes are Becoming Harder to Detect

It used to be blatantly obvious when something wasn’t right. The patch was perfectly centered, or the auto was ridiculously terrible. It was cut and dry, and the informed people never had to worry about getting taken. However, because of the way companies are trying to wow the collectors (a good thing), fakers have had an opportunity to exploit it (a bad thing). It’s a huge problem, and many of the manufacturers refuse to address that it is even happening, mainly because some of them don’t even have a clue as to the extent of how far it reaches. Although some of them take small steps into combatting fakes, none of them go the whole nine yards, either due to cost or due to time needed. They have gotten BETTER, but they are so far from GOOD that is fucking frustrating.

4. The Cost of Maintaining a Respectable Collection Is Getting Crazy

Part of it is due to the amount of money companies have to spend to get their products done, part of it is the nature of the business. The bad thing is that the cost of having a wow collection is getting unmanagable. Box price average is slowly creeping higher, and the content inside those boxes is not following suit. This leads to much higher prices all around, and much of it has to do with things out of the control of the companies who produce the cards. When the top players like Albert Pujols charge as much as they do for an autograph, it drives up the cost to produce a product that is filled with enough content to buy. Pujols doesn’t need the money, and neither do many of the players who sign, but yet they still feel that their signature is valuable enough to commit highway robbery. Then again, when they expect tens of millions of dollars to play a game we all think is nothing more than fun, I guess its expected.

5. Everyone is Using The Wrong Arguments For Why The Hobby Isnt Growing

Kids not collecting cards is not the problem. That’s pretty much it. That argument holds as much water as a generic brand baloon on a cold day. Kids are not the future of this hobby, casual sports fans are. When the collecting base is populated by as many twenty somethings as it is, the manufacturers should not be wasting their time trying to compete with XBOX and DVR. Kids are gone, and they are not coming back – at least until they start cheering for a sports team and buying their own stuff. Because that usually happens around age 16-20, that is where the focus needs to be. Kids spending 2 bucks on a base Topps pack at wal-mart is not going to drive the hobby to a point where it needs to be. Getting the billions of casual sports fans interested in buying AUTHENTIC autographs and memorabilia from their favorite sports players will.

As blogging is always about opinion rather than anything else, these are obviously mine. Im sure all of you have your own opinions, and I encourage you to voice them. However, when considering the things that you like and the things that you hate, remember that there is more to this hobby than bitching about redemptions. These highs and lows are more of a representation of intangible concepts that play into tangible products. When the intangible is corrected or improved, the tangible end results will improve. Bottom line.

2010 Elite Auto Leaderboard

Now that Elite has been out for about a week, I always find it interesting to find out who has the top autos and what they are going for. I have a feeling that this is the way things will shake out until the season starts, which says a lot about who the collectors think will have the most success. As I have commented on before, a player’s college may still have residual effects on value until they become more engrained with their current team, however, at this point, NFL team makes just as much difference.

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1. Tim Tebow /199 – $120-$125: No matter how much I shout from the mountain tops that Tebow’s college career means nothing in the NFL, people will still bank on him. I have never seen a middle of the first round QB outsell the QB picked number one before the season starts, but then again, “with Tebow anything is possible.” Saw that on a bumper sticker today, in TEXAS, next to a jesus fish. NOT KIDDING.
2. Sam Bradford /199 – $90-$95: Bradford is the #1 pick and really has every right to command a top value of the class. However, once he gets behind the Rams TERRIBLE offensive line that is in complete shambles, value will drop considerably.
3. Dez Bryant /249 – $70-$75: Bryant has Cowboys on his side, and also a ridiculous amount of talent. He is in a place where there hasnt been a good receiver not named Austin or Owens, and that will help tremendously. Value should stay right where it is.
4. (Tie) CJ Spiller /199 – $65-$70: Spiller was drafted as the top RB and he is getting that value wise too. However, in Buffalo, he isnt playing for as good of a team as Mathews, and Mathews seems to be primed for a ROY season behind a good line. However, RBs are always a wild card when it comes to production.
4. (Tie) Ryan Mathews /199 – $65 – $70: Ryan Mathews is a target of mine because I think San Diego is a great place for a rookie running back to thrive. Right now, he is my prediction for ROY, unless Spiller or Bryant finds a way to be as awesome as they can be.
6. Jimmy Clausen /249 – $60-65: I think Clausen will turn out to be the best QB of the class because he plays on the best team. Matt Moore is not the answer, and Clausen looked to be most pro-ready heading into the draft.
7. Ndamukong Suh /399 – $45-$50: Suh is one of the best Defensive prospects of the last decade, and could possibly be a perennial powerhouse in Detroit. However, its still Detroit, and that is a problem until the team gets a lot better.
8. Jahvid Best /249 – $35 – $40: With Kevin Smith out and recovering from a debilitating knee injury, Best will be the starter. However, as with his previously mentioned teammate, the Lions are terrible enough to bring down his prospects of gain.
9. Golden Tate /249 – $30-$35: Tate was a great player in college, and he is looking to take over the number 2 spot in a barren wasteland of offense in Seattle. He is a great looking talent, but receivers can easily go the Harvin way or they can go the Limas Sweed way.
10. Toby Gerhart /299<
img src="http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=4&pub=5574773276&toolid=10001&campid=5336520001&customid=&mpt=[CACHEBUSTER]" /> – $25-$30: Gerhart is a Viking RB, and when you put those two words together, you get value attached to the player. He is going to be taking Chester Taylor’s vacated 3rd Down role, and hopefully he excels for us. However, with the addition of Ryan Moats to the backfield, its a good chance he may get reduced carries and touches off the bat. That’s bad for business.
Honorable mentions: Dexter McCluster, Armanti Edwards, Arrelious Benn, Gerald McCoy
With this class being more of a defense focused bunch, there is a good chance this is not a good year for buying a lot of wax, but with people like Tebow and Bradford, who knows. Tebow isnt going to play possibly at all the first season, and Bradford should have a terrible beginning to his career. That will be left up to players like Bryant, Spiller and Mathews to pick up the slack. I am hoping that at the very least, there will be good products to match the need for wax buyers, but with a lack of Ultimate, SPA, and Exquisite, there is definitely going to be issues on that front. Maybe Chrome and Limited will perform well enough that it wont matter.

Value Analysis – 2009 SP Authentic Rookie Patch Autos

Now that SP Authentic has been out for awhile, I think its time to do an update from my breakdown of value on the Limited patch autos. Although these cards are much different in popularity, and a lot has changed in the league since week 12 or 13, its still interesting to see which value is the highest of the year.

A note is necessary, however, as with some being redemptions in an unstable time for UD, value is probably affected. Either way, people are still paying for the top rookies regardless, which is something I find very interesting. Also, another interesting thing is that many of the player’s cards are numbered higher than last year’s, and yet they still maintain a similar value.

Here is the list of the top 10 rookie patch autos:

Mark Sanchez (4 color max) – 320 dollars

Matthew Stafford (4 color max) – 240 dollars
Michael Crabtree (4 color max) – 110 dollars
Percy Harvin (redemption) – 105 dollars
Beanie Wells (redemption) – 105 dollars
Knowshon Moreno (3 color max) – 95 dollars
Shonn Greene (2 color max) – 70 dollars
Lesean McCoy (4 color max) – 60 dollars
Donald Brown (2 color max) – 60 dollars
Jeremy Maclin (4 color max)- 60 dollars
Mike Wallace (3 color max)- 50 dollars

I wouldn’t necessarily use this as a guide to buying on eBay, but with the multitude of auctions that are popping up, this could be a good map for setting snipes and bidding. Of course, there are always factors that will lower or bump value, but I think these are pretty good averages. Let me know if you see something I missed.