NFL Halfway: Players On The Rise / Players On The Decline

This season, there has been a lot of drama. A lot. Breakout performances, career ending slumps, and all of the stuff in between. I have spent the last 8 mondays covering the rookie side of things, but havent really focused on the veterans. Here is my take on the midway point of the NFL season.

Players On The Rise:
Aaron Rodgers – He lives in the shadow of greybeard, but he has had an absolutely phenomenal season. He has been sacked 31 times due to a banged up O-Line and his lack of quick release, but he still has one of the best QB ratings in the league. He also has more rushing yards than any of the others at the top, and has led Green Bay through their injury bugs to a second place record. His cards should be going nuts right now, but they arent. If you have the chance, this guy could be at the top soon, buy now.
Chris Johnson – Two games over 200 yards, and a multitude of TDs on a shitty team. The guy will be great for years to come, despite what may be happening with his Titans. I see this year as more of a fluke in their record, but his stats have been solid since the beginning. When you play on a team like the Titans, to put up these stats is uncanny.
Drew Brees – The Saints are undefeated so far, and he is mostly the reason. I say that he is probably the best QB to have on your team right now, especially due to his ability to rally a locker room. The guy has amazing accuracy, can throw the deep ball, and is in contention again to measure up to Dan Marino. Pretty amazing. The funny thing is, he doesnt bring in the big bucks like Manning or Brady, and his rookie autos are still at pretty affordable prices considering what he has and will accomplish.
Andre Johnson – I cant say enough good things about Johnson, as he is just a freak of nature whenever he plays. There are maybe one or two corners in the league that could come close to covering him 1 on 1, but even then, he still has a huge advantage with size and speed. He doesnt sign much, so many of the card companies havent been able to get him in their sets. If you can find a rookie auto of his, drop the hammer on any reasonable price.
Reggie Wayne – Wayne plays his game a little differently than Johnson, but is still one of the most ridiculous players around. Every game he gets 12 catches, and could probably manage 5 catches playing one handed. Of course, it helps to have Manning throw you the ball, but still. Like most WRs, his cards are relatively cheap, and thats more of the tragedy of the position in this hobby. Not sure why. He has a good number of cards out there, and most can be had for cheap.
Maurice Jones-Drew – The human bowling ball never disappoints, especially when I go up against him in fantasy. He has put up two 3 TD games already, and has a ginormous YPC avg. Again, the Jags arent too good, but he sure is. His Exquisites go for absolutely nothing compared to what they should, and I think it is one of the better buys out there.
Miles Austin – If you want a poster child for unknowns making it big, here he is. He was undrafted coming out of school, and has been a 3 guy on Dallas’ roster for the last few years. Now that TO is gone, he has had the chance to shine, even playing behind Roy Williams. I think his cards have come up considerably lately, but should settle down. Im not sold quite yet, but Im getting there.
DeAngelo Williams – When it was him and DeShaun Foster, he showed nothing more than potential. Now that he is focus, its all production, all the time. He runs with such brute force coupled with speed and finesse, that its not hard to see why he is doing as well as he is. His cards were overshadowed by Bush and company before, and still havent reached the top. He deserves to be worth more than is right now.
Players on the Decline
Larry Johnson – LJ is a fucking idiot in every single way. The guy just doesnt know what’s good for him, and I fault his attitude. He was sent home for the second consecutive season this year, and has yet to make anything worth while in terms of a contribution this year. If you are still collecting him, I feel sorry for you.
Ladanian Tomlinson – Tomlinson is definitely coming up on the end of his career, and its pretty disappointing to watch. For someone that used to be as dominating as he was, to watch him struggle for 50 yards is unfortunate. This seems to be the norm with backs as of late, maybe its 8 years and out for everyone now.
Terrell Owens – I hate Terrell Owens as much as I hate Derek Jeter, but for completely different reason. While I think Jeter is a pretty admirable guy who has been overhyped by every reporter for the last 15 years, Owens is a legitimate asshole. He deserves to be a piece of shit, and I laugh every time I see him struggle.
LenDale White – Backs like White and Barber have a tough role in the NFL. Because they are only good at pounding it in for scores, they have to stay good at it to be considered a viable option. Barber is still very good, White isnt. Plus when Chris Johnson is the other guy in front of you, its tough to look good.

Brady Quinn, Jamarcus Russell and the other 2007 QBs – there isnt a more sorry group of NFL players than these guys. Quinn started, was benched, and then started again, and is now playing behind Derek Anderson who should be retired due to lack of ability. I think its just as much the team as the guy, but damn, when you cant even perfom to a minimal standard, its sad. Russell is a little different, as he is just terrible as people have come to see. Supposed to be a better Daunte Culpepper with more accuracy and better legs, he has instead turned into a guy that looks worse than Culpepper is now. Interception after interception, fumble prone, and the reason for his team’s shitty play, Russell is proof as to why its risky to draft a QB with a top pick.
Eli Manning – Not only did he not deserve the money he got, but he has never put up numbers to be considered among the elite QBs in the league. His SB win was definitely a team effort, and his last 3 losses in a row have shown how little he can do without a supporting cast. I have disliked him ever since he refused to play on the Chargers during the 2004 draft, forcing a trade for Phillip Rivers, but now he is more than that. He represents everything I hate about New York football. Overpaid players who cant do shit. He has a career passer rating of 77, and this year he has 8 interceptions, 3 lost fumbles and 13 TDs. Thats almost as many turnovers as scores for him. He isnt at the same place as some of the other guys on this list, but being paid what he is, he deserves to be here.
Kurt Warner – Im surprised he was able to do what he did last year, as most people thought he was done. This year he just looks old and out of place, and has thrown as many interceptions as TDs. Of course, his team is still doing okay, but his age is starting to be more than just a number. I dont think the Cardinals have many more options, but he is on his way out, again.
Reggie Bush – Im not sure how long before you can call someone a bust, but Bush is right on the cusp. He has had production, but not at the level he should have. Its obviously a size issue as well as a vision issue, as he has never shown that he has the presence of mind to be a top back in the league. Im sure there are a lot of people out there who are smacking themselves for investing as much as they had in
Surprise of the First Half:
Five letters: F-A-V-R-E.
Rookie of the First Half:
I think Harvin has meant a ton to his team, but Sanchez probably still takes it.
Offensive MVP(s) of the first half:
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees (tie) – ridiculous numbers and undefeated records.
Defensive MVP of the first half:
Jared Allen – and thats not even a homer pick. Elvis Dumervil takes second.
Super Bowl Prediction time:
Eagles vs Colts, I can see the Eagles being the team to beat if they continue to play as well as they have, but the Colts are just too good. The Saints or Vikings could easily sneak in if they get lucky.
Its going to be a whirlwind second half, lets hope the second eight games are as good as the first eight.

NFL Rookie Battle Royale: Week 3

All of you know how awesome of a week this has been, especially with the Bungals beating the Steelers, Manning destroying the Cardinals on Sunday night, and the crazy ending to the Vikings game. The rookies decided to show up too, with a few of them having some great games.

Matt Stafford

How could I not lead with the Lions winning? Im still in shock that they were able to put it together for a full 60 minutes. Stafford played pretty well too, as he showed he is starting to gain that confidence he needs to grow in such a horrible offense. Stafford threw a TD that started everything off for the Lions, thus bringing his total to two in three games, but he didn’t throw an interception, so that is like icing on the cake for a rookie QB. I still say its not a good idea to hold his cards, but at least it’s a LITTLE more promising now that the streak is over.

Mark Sanchez

Sanchez played another great game and came away with another win. It was another great defense, the best arguably, but he was calm and collected even during a bad second half. He had a great TD pass to Cotchery in double coverage and ran one in from 14 out. He ended with with 3 total TDs and is making a few people wonder why they may have passed on him at picks 2-4 in the draft. Sanchez cards are at the peak of their value right now, so if you have them, it may be good to sell and rebuy later, if there is a later. Looks like he will be the Matt Ryan value of his class this year.

Percy Harvin

Harvin was great in the Vikings win, scoring his third TD in as many games. He played great during the second half especially, running back a kick 101 yards and catching some key passed on the final drive that led to the score. He ended up with his best game in terms of yardage, but the return was the spike the Vikings needed to stay in the game after being shut down time after time by the Niners’ Defense. Like Sanchez, Harvin’s cards are at the peak of their value, so it’s a great time to sell if you arent a fan.

LeSean McCoy

Im thinking that Brian Westbrook doesn’t feel so bad he missed that game anymore as McCoy sure picked up the slack with ease. The Eagles routed the Chiefs and McCoy got his first TD of the year. He also racked up 80+ yards and a YPC avg over four yards in the effort. McCoy should be pretty good in the long run, though he will always be overshadowed by Westbrook. Keep his cards for right now, as his value has a lot of potential to go up from here.

Knowshon Moreno

Welcome to the NFL Mr. Moreno. Nice to see you. Glad you put up 90 yards and a TD, bout time a running back in Denver does well, right? Knowshon looked pretty good in his first game with a focus over Buckhalter, and I would expect by week 8 he will have 70-80% of the carries. He is a great back, and should continue to put up numbers week after week. As with all the first round running backs, his value is high due to the Peterson effect, but as it starts to come down, it should be a good idea to pick some of his stuff up.

Donald Brown

That 72 yard scamper was pretty impressive wasn’t it? Well, it helped him put up the first 100 total yard game for a non-QB rookie this year, and jumped his value pretty high as a result. Brown doesn’t have the luxury of a huge college following like Wells, but he showed why he needs a pro following. Wells managed -2 yards on 2 carries, while Brown did great. This guy is a keeper.

Johnny Knox

Another game, another TD for Knox, despite the fact that it was his only catch of the game. He sure has been a pleasant surprise for the Bears, as the rest of their receiving corps is almost as inexperienced as he is. Because of the fact that he has done as well as he has, sell as fast as you can. Its not going to go much higher than it is unless he goes for 150 and three TDs somewhere later in the season. That’s a risk I would be willing to take.
The Rookie Graveyard

Here is where I want to talk about some rookies that Im sure are making a few of you guys pretty angry with their lack of contributions to their teams.

Jeremy Maclin – Where the hell have you been? Having 6 receptions for 46 yards on the season is a crap start for a guy I thought would be the star receiver of his class. Wow.

Darrius Heyward-Bey – Im sure having a QB like Jamarcus Russell is a contributing factor, but 1 reception for 18 yards on the whole year is poop. We all know he shouldn’t have been drafted so high, but hot damn, get moving!

Beanie Wells – I think a lot of people are pretty happy that Beanie isnt doing great so far. They say he was a beneficiary of playing at OSU, and it may be starting to show.

Hakeem Nicks – 2 receptions for 19? Doing worse than Hey Bey, but his team doesn’t need him as much. EDIT: Looks like he was injured week 1, my page on didnt show that, my fault on this one…

Next week is looking pretty good, especially with Harvin going up against the Packers on Monday night. Now that the rookies are pretty secure in their roles, it could be interesting to see how values respond. Glen Coffee will have his first game against a defense that he can take advantage of, and may have a great game in Gore’s absence, Sanchez looks like he may be in for his first test as he faces the Saints, and with the Bears going up against Detroit, who knows.

Also, be sure to check out my rookie of the week write up on the Upper Deck Blog as soon as the player is announced. You can also enter your cards to track the performances of a few of the guys I talk about here and possibly win some prizes if you have the ROW in your portfolio. Pretty cool.

Even if the rookies didn’t come to play, this season has still been a great ride so far. I hope it will continue to be as exciting as it has been, as there have already been some great stories. Next week is when things start to get interesting, so don’t miss it under any circumstances. Trust me, it only gets better from here.

Sometimes You Need More Than Rarity For Value

Earlier last week I posted that Demitrius Byrd’s chrome auto may end up being the most valuable scrub auto of the year. For those of you who are curious, Byrd was injured pre-draft in an accident, thus making his auto pretty hard to obtain for the companies. Byrd had obviously signed some of his stickers, but not enough to put him in the number usually reserved for a scrub auto. Topps put him on the checklist, though his auto is listed currently at 1:7000 packs. At that rate, his autograph exceeds the odds of pulling a superfractor, but it isnt enough to drive value for a player that may not have a career.

There have been a few that have surfaced on eBay, with a recent one selling at $41.00. All things considered, thats still a huge amount for a player in his position, though not the numbers one would typically expect for a ridiculously rare pull in high print run product.
Interesting, none-the-less.

Its Going To Be A Long Couple Of Months…

Over the next few months, there will be 10-15 products that will have post premiere stuff, but are still before the start of the NFL season. If you consider that august is the preseason start and september is when things get going, there are quite a few chances for you to pick up NFL uni stuff from your draft target (if you have one), or new stuff from last year’s target. With 10-15 products coming out, which one is the first one to be worth your time?

Elite looks to be next on the calendar for Donini products, and I guarantee you that this is not the first product to be worth your time. Although you get 4 hits per box and one auto usually, the cards are usually just Prestige Chrome. The only redeeming part of Elite is the Passing the Torch Autos, which are astronomical pulls for a good one. Add in that the checklist is as bad as Prestige for the RC autos, and you have a really bad situation for box breaks. See, before the premiere, there is not as many seeding schemes that favor the guys who were there. Most of the time, you will end up with a second day pick or free agent as your box hit, rather than a premiere guy as your box hit. For 100 bucks, you can bet your ass that you would be better served to wait.

Then you move onto Heroes and Philadelphia for UD, which in my opinion are good sets, but not necessarily the top of the pile for RC auto collectors. The difference between Heroes and Philadelphia and the other products from Donini, is that both the UD products will have on card elements, with Philadelphia being the best of the three based on the info we got from the premiere. Philadelphia is the product featuring the players’ crazy inscriptions that really have not been present before on a card. Instead of just a plain sticker on a rookie card, these will feature more than I have ever thought could be possible. That alone puts UD head and shoulders above Donini. Now, most of you know I am partial to UD in terms of design, creativity, and pretty much everything, and this is why. They take things like a normal autograph, and make it better than one would expect. I used to think that stickers were okay as long as they were done well, but this puts things in a different light. Stickers are still fine, but they will never compete with stuff like inscribed nicknames on card.

Yet, Im not sure that Philadelphia is that one product you should hold your breath for, as I am not a fan of retro sets. It will be the best of the few that have come out pre-premiere, but SPA and Exquisite will still be king. Of course, who wants to wait six months before buying anything? In that vein, you may want to wait for Topps Chrome to come out, as long as it doesn’t have those awful stickers all over the curved auto space. That would suck. At around 60 bucks a box for base RC cards that are actually worth a little bit, you really cant go wrong with buying a couple. Since I started collecting, Chrome and Finest RCs have been my cards each year to get, and that has continued. One of my favorite Peterson cards is still the Chrome auto I have, despite the fact that my Exquisite is a clearly better card. Its just my personal and nostalgic connection to chrome, and that looks to be continuing this year.

I think as collectors, we need to start coming to terms with the fact that 100 bucks for a box with 3 hits and an auto isnt worth it any more in this economy. I know that I can no longer justify buying boxes when I can buy the singles I WANT for less than the price of a break. Much like millions of people in America, my disposable income has been cut, and I no longer have the means to bust and bust. Add in the fact that there are really only 5 products each year that I look forward to, on a calendar of 25+, and you should see the problem. Right now, my products are SPA, Exquisite, NT, Topps Chrome, and Leaf Limited, yet last year many of the Donini products let me down. For the first year in 3, I did not buy any Limited, it just wasn’t as good in huge base box form. I don’t have the money to buy a box of Exquisite or NT, but we have busted a few of each on the site. Chrome I bought about 5 boxes over the course of the year, and SPA I bought 2. This year could be drastically different, though group breaks on the site could change that.

Even though Beckett seems to think that the blogs are cesspools of misinformation and are only good for connecting with other collectors, I think that the commentary is necessary for people looking to plan out their year. I read what they said about early SAGE offerings, and I definitely don’t agree with any of their coverage on products so far. They tend to set a horrible expectation that these products will hold through the year, though every single fucking person knows they wont. Don’t waste your time on Prestige or Elite, and watch yourself on Classics. Absolute is usually pretty fun to bust, so you may want to wait for that. As for UD, Philadelphia will be great as a popular retro set, however it may not hold its value on the rookie side of things. Early sets rarely do, hopefully this will be an exception. If last year’s calendar is any indication of the longevity of sets, SPA will be the first bang of the year, and it wont come until December. Ultimate, NT and Exquisite will come at the end as well, and those are the only ones to REALLY hold the year in the minds of collectors. Keep that in mind.

A Comment On Extreme Price Jumps

Over the last few weeks, Joe Mauer has been the best hitter on the Twins and possibly in the league, after returning from his injured back. I never really expected to see Joe have a good season, but when you are batting over .400, you have ECLIPSED your homerun total from last year, and have played brilliantly behind the plate, it requires some sort of attaboy from me and others around the league. What’s even better is that Morneau is having just as great of a season so far as well, more than I ever expected to see from him. Hitting behind Mauer helps quite a bit, but I will give credit when credit is due, these guys are having cloverfield sized seasons this early.

That’s not the issue I have, however. My biggest thing is now Mauer’s cards are so fucking expensive that I cant afford them anymore. As recent as two months ago, you could get his cards for close to nothing, and I did. Now, the cards are triple what I was used to paying for them, and I am quickly being priced out of the market. So, what do I do now? I have so much Mauer stuff that I could easily sell for a small fortune, but as a die-hard fan, I don’t think I could do it! My bat I got last year is going for over 300 in regular auctions, and my Bowman RC Auto is back over $100 for the first time in a while. For the first time since Peterson’s 296 yard record game, I am in a prospector’s dream position – I bought low and can sell high, but should I?

If it were any other player but my favorite, the stuff would be on eBay as we speak. My two baseballs, my bat, my mini helmet, my 40 auto cards, everything. However, I did not buy this stuff to sell it. I bought it for my own enjoyment, so that’s where it will stay. My advice to the rest of you who may find yourself in this position one day is to really determine what the stuff means to you. If you have something you could live without, sell it. If you cant, then don’t, pretty simple stuff. That’s the rules I live by, and I encourage you to take advantage of good prices when you can/want to.

There is still another pressing question, one that I may not have the answer to. When, during an epic price run, should you sell? You don’t want to hold it for too long until the player cools off and you miss your chance, but you also don’t want to sell too early and miss out on higher prices still. I have always had a rule in gambling, and I think it should factor in here as well, because prospecting a price of a card is like gambling in this industry. If I ever sit down at a Black Jack table or something similar, I will never risk anything past doubling my money, the odds are never in your favor that you will do much better than that. So why not just take the money and run? Sure, you could win more, but its more likely that you will lose everything back. With cards, I would never hold something longer than a 75% rise in value (100 rising to 175 dollars and such) unless there is an extenuating circumstance like I have with Mauer and Peterson. In football, do it as soon as possible, maybe even at 50% or less because the season is shorter and injuries are more likely.

Listen, when you have a bird in hand, don’t wait for it to become the two birds in the bush. Just take it, risk is never good in a hobby like this one, especially with the economy where it is. Why even take the chance if its something you are willing to dump? 99% of the time, you will be able to rebuy what you sell at a lower price. Then again, with a hobby also full of wax breakers who risk hundreds weekly, its not surprising to see someone try to hold something for value. Remember, and I have said this a million times, cards are not and never will be a good investment.

With Mauer, I am going to stay put, the stuff I have is too important to me, and most of it is personally obtained. I would say the same stuff about my AD collection, though the rest I would sell in a second if the price jumped. There is no reason for me to think any other way as Tom Brady and Albert Pujols were once in a lifetime opportunities, and I am not disturbed by the fact that I missed out on both.