Breaking Down the Best Players of 2014

This is a big year for many of the game’s top guys, and we have seen that many of them already have started to set some records along the way. Although not all of them have been hobby superstars to this point, many of their cards are getting some major bumps as a result of performances. Here are my awards to this point.

MVP – DeMarco Murray, Cowboys

There is no doubt that his play has made Dallas into a contender this year. With Romo banged up, Murray has avoided injury to this point to put up mammoth numbers in the rushing attack. With his injuries at bay for now, he could come very close to a shot at breaking the all time record, or at least put up 2000 yards. Not a bad way to reinvigorate the RB position.

2014 Flawless DeMarco Murray Jumbo Patch Auto

2011 Topps Platinum DeMarco Murray Auto NFL Logo 1/1

2011 Topps Chrome DeMarco Murray Auto Black Refractor BGS 9.5

Offensive Player of the Year – Peyton Manning, Broncos

Sure, the Broncos laid an egg aginst New England, but Manning has put up some incredible numbers along the way. In true NFL fashion, he has shown that the QB is one of the most important parts of a winning formula and should have no problem skating to the playoffs. Manning remains a great signer, which makes his cards a bit undervalued, but his breaking the all time record has helped.

2014 Flawless Peyton Manning Auto Patch Emerald /5

2013 National Treasures Peyton Manning Dual Patch Auto

1998 Bowman Peyton Manning Auto RC

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Sammy Watkins, Bills

The Bills found gold in Kyle Orton reclaiming his former glory since benching EJ Manuel early in the season, but Orton has found his muse in Watkins who has lit up the field with his talent for making dramatic plays. I think Watkins has a great shot at being a top WR, and though Buffalo gave up a ton to get him, so far it has played out well for them.

2014 Inception Sammy Watkins Inscription Auto /10

2014 Valor Sammy Watkins Auto Patch RC

Defensive Rookie of the Year – CJ Mosley, Ravens

Look at the top Linebackers so far, and you will be surprised that Moseley is near the top of the league in many of the categories that are valued among the players like him. Additionally, the Ravens are playing pretty well, which helps his case even more. In the hobby, he will go for nothing because he isnt on the Offensive side of the ball, but he is looking like a pro.

2014 Limited CJ Mosley Auto RC

2014 Bowman Chrome CJ Mosley Gold Refractor Auto /75

Defensive Player of the Year – JJ Watt, Texans

Houston is struggling because of a number of issues, including going to start an unproven backup in Ryan Mallett to hopefully save an offense that hasnt managed much. Watt, on the other hand is showing hands down why he is the guy you have to plan for every down, and has made his presence felt all year.

2014 Flawless JJ Watt Inscription Auto

2011 National Treasures JJ Watt Auto RC Gold

Biggest Surprise – Arizona Cardinals

Who in their right mind picked Arizona to start the year 8-1, and have the top spot in the league? To think they did it with Drew Stanton at the helm is even crazier. Though Palmer has played well, it looks like he will be out for the rest of the year. Not good, but still a huge surprise none-the-less. Andre Ellington has shaken off a slower 2013 to come on as a great player, and Larry Fitzgerald has turned back the clock to play lights out.

2003 Bowman Chrome Carson Palmer Auto Red Refractor

2013 Playbook Andre Ellington Drawn Play Inscription Auto

2004 SP Authentic Larry Fitzgerald Auto Patch Gold

Biggest Disappointment – Johnny Manziel

Although its not his fault that Brian Hoyer is playing as well as he has, no one expected him to spend the year holding a clip board. Not only has this affected the hobby in the way products are selling, but he is getting frustrated as well. We know he isnt the most stable personality in the game, which may be a ticking time bomb for the Browns.

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Auto Logo Superfractor 1/1

2014 Limited Johnny Manziel Logo Tag Auto 1/1

Im definitely interested to see how the season plays out, especially if some of the rookies can turn it on and make the playoffs.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Limited Football

Back when I first got into football cards, Limited was a set that everyone looked forward to. Over the last few years, it has gone up and down, settling into a spot where collectors really dont even care about it any longer. Many of the things that made limited worth chasing have become commonplace, yet Panini always fails to adjust the product appropriately.

Here are the cards posted so far:

2014 Limited Peyton Manning / Wes Welker Dual Patch Auto

2014 Limited Derek Carr Threads Auto Relic RC

2014 Limited Mike Evans Jumbo Patch Auto RC Phenoms

2014 Limited Jimmy Garoppolo Jumbo Patch Auto RC Phenoms

For the most part, this year's set is an upgrade from a disasterous 2013, which paired a horrid design, with a class that no one liked, but that isnt saying much. I like that they have moved away from the foil and into cards that look more higher quality with a black and white focused motif on many of the designs.

I think that for the main attractions for the set, the improvements are apparent and welcome, but there are just as many train wrecks to send this product straight into the back of our minds. Releasing this set a week after Flawless is like putting a brand new sitcom up against Seinfeld. Its not going to work out, because everyone will still be focused on the bigger draw.

This might be a makeup set for those individuals who were priced completely out of the Flawless market, but in the end it just seems like a consolation prize that no one is excited to get. The amount of posted cards shows that in the amount of people opening the boxes, and it might get worse.

Limited isnt bad looking compared to lot of other Panini products they have put out, and that serves it well. However, there are also ones like the jumbo patch cards, which look so bad there arent words for it. I have actually run out of adjectives that are a synonym for “shitty.” That being said, the base and base autos look really good, and the other memorabilia cards are an improvement all around.

Bottom line, I am going to say that this product lost a lot with a switch back to stickers since 2012, and I would implore Panini to reconsider the way it is formatted if they decide they need to keep it on the calendar. So many people would rather wait for Chrome later this month, instead of wasting money on a set whose value will tank in a day or two.

Exquisite Signature Kicks Drop the Brand to a New Low

Earlier this year, Panini released Immaculate basketball with game used shoe relics of popular players in a few different formats. Even though I am not a fan of the design, its clear that collectors were drooling over the cards, paying a ton of money to get the best ones. Today, 13-14 Exquisite Basketball was released, containing their own version of these cards – with one major difference.

Check out the auctions and see if you can spot it. Here are Panini’s shoe cards:

2013-14 Panini Immaculate Kobe Bryant Jumbo Sneak Peak 1/1

2013-14 Panini Immaculate LeBron James Jumbo Sneak Peak 1/1

Here are Upper Deck’s:

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James Signature Kicks Auto

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite Michael Jordan Signature Kicks Auto

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite Grant Hill Signature Kicks Auto

In case you missed it, Upper Deck’s language on the back makes it very clear that no player has ever touched these shoes. In fact, I wouldnt be shocked if someone trucked it over to the local Foot Locker and picked up a few pairs to make the cards.

The back of the card says “From a shoe brand typically worn by” as the defining statement. This is accompanied by an official disclaimer language at the bottoms stating that the relics are not player worn, event worn, or game worn. Im sorry, but this kind of takes manufactured relic cards to a new level. Upper Deck is not hiding what these cards are.

Previously we have seen that there are embroidered patches and relics that are used to make cards, but just cutting up and inserting shoes without purpose is something I am questioning big time. I have never liked the manu-patch format to begin with, but to take it to the level of manu-relics is a odd and comical. I mean Exquisite planning is done a year in advance and no one thought to get the players to slip on the shoes for a second or two during a signing? Cmon.

Yes, I realize I just advocated for more event used material, but that is the nature of my thought process these days. Gotta love when our standards are that fucking low. I love what Upper Deck has managed to do in terms of design for many of their products, continuing to surprise me with what they put out. However, not only do these cards look like they are straight out of Panini Design School 101, but the relics have zero meaning. None. Exquisite has always been about the best of the best, but these are just horrible.

Im sorry, but this just takes the cake. In next year’s Exquisite, I hear they are planning relics from “Lids store purchased hats typically worn by XXXXXXXX.”

Where is Adrian Peterson’s Place if He is Reinstated This Year?

Im going to try to avoid the obvious shit storm that could start if we start talking about whether or not Peterson got off easy for what he did to his son. I dont support his actions, and I definitely think he has done irreparable damage to his career. His hobby value has taken a hit too, but now that he has avoided jail time, what does that mean? Can he regain hobby value if he plays again this year?

Here is where his cards currently are:

2007 Exquisite Adrian Peterson Rookie Auto Patch /99

2007 SP Authentic Adrian Peterson Rookie Auto Patch

2010 Topps Five Star Adrian Peterson Auto Inscription

2009 Exquisite Adrian Peterson Retro Rookie Auto Patch

2013 Topps Five Star Adrian Peterson Auto Patch

Peterson has been the focus of my personal collection since he was drafted back in 2007. To this day he is one of the best, if not THE best, Viking to ever put on the uniform. There is no denying he should have some value in the hobby for what he has accomplished. Up until this point, his continued value was in jeopardy if he was going to spend up to 2 years in prison.

With his plea agreement today, he may have a shot to play again in 2014, regardless of any PR disaster the Vikings would endure to put him back on the field. The jury is still out if they are just going end speculation and cut him. He could be picked up, and he could make an impact, which all speaks to how the hobby would react to him getting another shot.

Other players in the hobby remain valuable despite their actions, including Ray Lewis, Michael Vick and others. If Peterson returns to his former production, can the hobby forgive?

Here is my take, and it is only what I think WILL happen, not what SHOULD happen.

If Peterson returns to glory, his actions will be forgiven. There is no doubt in my mind, especially when you consider how many people dont think what he did is any of their business. Peterson's value hasnt taken a nose dive because of how much of America understands the practices he used, and that will contribute to his eventual return to success in this hobby.

Were the Vikings to release him, I doubt it would make much of a difference either way. If he plays and does well, he will be popular again.

Not only does the hobby have a short attention span, but it also loves redemption stories. Think about what might happen if the Vikings make the playoffs with Peterson as their starting back? Hell, im sure Teddy would love a running game behind him.

We are always taught to give people a second chance, and its up to them to prove that they deserve the results. If he has truly put this behind him, it will be better for everyone if his hobby value also returns. You never know. You. Never. Know.

Panini Adds to Their Stable of College Exclusives

It should be clear to everyone that Panini is moving ahead full steam without a CLC license to produce NCAA cards. By signing exclusive deals with universities who opt out of CLC, they are circumventing the exclusive license currently owned by Upper Deck. Although no major dominoes have fallen YET, I think we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Today they announced that after signing deals with 3 major schools in October, they have reached a deal with LRG who owns 200 more. Although most of the schools are worthless in terms of trading cards, the message is sent. Panini is coming, and there is nothing UD can do to stop them.

I posted a long piece on why this is bad for cards, and I stand by my earlier sentiments. If Panini were to secure deals with schools like Alabama, UNC and Duke, that would be the relative end of Upper Deck’s hold on the NCAA market. Now, there is still opportunity under the group licensing agreements for UD to continue producing unlicensed cards similar to Leaf, Press Pass and Sage, but it wont be the same.

With rumors circulating that Upper Deck is already too far in debt to climb out, it might be time to wonder what the plan looks like. The situation remains, if Panini is able to secure exclusive deals with the schools that represent most of players on the upcoming checklists, UD will have to abandon plans to do a CLC set. The current license with CLC does not allow airbrushed cards to be in the same set as a licensed card, so a choice will have to be made.

Its clear that Upper Deck can make successful products. Its also clear that unlicensed products CAN be successful under the right circumstances. There is no guarantee that the choice to move away from CLC will kill UD, but a sky is falling mentality among collectors might add to the issues they already face.

As I mentioned before, Panini is currently the only trading card company that has the money to spend to acquire and support licenses of this sort. When Topps’ baseball license expires, Panini is certain to make a play to take away exclusivity and/or get the exclusive for themselves. If that happens, they may be the only company with an ability to create any licensed trading card for the 3 major sports. If UD cant stay afloat, it may be all four.

I dont like the cards Panini makes, and I dont think this strategy is a healthy one. It might solidify Panini, but I refuse to believe it will breed health into the industry either. When you also consider how much money is involved in many of these deals, it could present a further challenge surrounding what happens when new products are needed. So far, their track record has been dismal at best.

Panini likes to show that they have the money to do these things, but I truly wonder if they can find a way to make it profitable. So far, the exclusive in Basketball has been anything but, and yet acquiring a few companies might change some of that.

I see very small amounts of silver lining that could be available, and to be honest, this type of news only cements things further. Its rare that something like this gets me to the point of no return, but we are slowly approaching that area of the plan.

Get ready, because more is coming. Mark my words.

Here is the release:

http://paniniamerica.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/panini-america-lands-exclusive-agreements-with-mississippi-state-baylor-more-than-200-additional-universities/